36 minutes reading time (7247 words)

Web Curios 31/05/19

Web Curios 31/05/19

OH HELLO! I finished a job yesterday and as a result feel GREAT - even better, I seemingly managed to leave without alienating or upsetting anyone, although that will probably change next week when they realise that I have a secret backdoor login to the website and fully intend to go and make subtle but significant alterations to all the staff biographies as soon as they have paid my final invoice (what's better, do you think? Misspelling everyone's name by one letter, or giving everyone a 2:2 in Human Anthropology from Sheffield Hallam?).

Anyway, I am on holiday next week and the week afterwards, so this will be the last Curios til 21 June - take this opportunity, then, to writhe luxuriantly in my webspaff, and I'll see you in a few short weeks, by which point I'm confident we'll have somehow managed to relieve ourselves of this nationwide politico-cultural paralysis and everything will all be sorted and FINE. Won't it? CAN SOMEONE PLEASE MAKE EVERYTHING FINE, PLEASE?

I am Matt, this is Web Curios, and I am fcuking off now. Bye. 

 

By Solve Sundsbo

FIRST UP IN THIS WEEK’S SELECTION OF MIXES, HAVE THIS FRANKLY AMAZING SELECTION OF ‘SONGS OF THE SUMMER’ FROM THE PAST 50 YEARS!

THE SECTION WHICH WONDERS AT WHICH POINT FACEBOOK IS GOING TO BECOME LIKE SMOKING, SOMETHING WHICH THE KIDS KNOW IS FUNDAMENTALLY BAD FOR YOU BUT WHICH HAS A STRANGE APPEAL REGARDLESS:

  • Whatsapp Is Getting Ads: Or at least it is IN THE FUTURE! Yes, that’s right, your messages may be encrypted and secure, but it doesn’t mean Facebook can’t still find a way to monetise them; Whatsapp is set to get a wonderful injection of advertiser cash next year when it starts to offer the ability to run ads in the ‘Status’ bit of the app - although it won’t be of any use or interest if you’re in the UK, seeing as no fcuker has ever used Whatsapp Status over here, ever (honestly, did you even know it was a thing? No, you didn’t, don’t lie). You don’t need to do anything about this now, obviously, but know that you can start to drop this particular nugget of information in meetings so as to look like some sort of crazy digital savant (you won’t look like a savant, fyi; you will instead look like a person who cares TOO MUCH about the minutiae of social media platform changes).
  • IGTV Now Supports Landscape Videos: You don’t use IGTV! Noone uses IGTV! Now, though, you can post landscape-format videos on there so you can chuck ALL of your YouTube content onto the Other Platform without even bothering to recut it as vertical! What a time to be alive.
  • YouTube Kills Live Subscriber Counts: I presume that you, like me, have spent the vast majority of 2019 glued to the respective subscriber numbers of Pewds and T-Series, slavering rabidly at the upticking counts and screaming with childlike excitement every time the lead changed hands. Weirdly, normal people neither know nor care about any of this stuff, which is probably why YouTube is set to remove the current granularity and realtime subscriber data from channels; this, obviously, is not in any way important news, but it does mean that your ability to run comparisons between your clients’ channels and their competitors will be slightly screwed. You still shouldn’t really care, though, as this is all stupid and pointless and none of it matters.
  • LinkedIn Adds Ad Transparency Stuff: This is moderately-interesting (look, it’s a slow news week, I am clutching at straws somewhat here) - LinkedIn has this week announced a Facebook-esque move whereby you’ll n ow be able to see what ads a Page has been running along with a bit of info on targeting and the like; if you’re consumed by the fear that someone else is being better at BUSINESS than you, then you’ll now be able to keep tabs on your competitors LinkedIn ad campaigns with this THRILLING new feature (moderately interesting? I take it all back). “To bring even greater transparency to ads on LinkedIn, we are introducing a new Ads tab on LinkedIn Pages. In this tab, members will be able to view all the Sponsored Content (native ads running in the LinkedIn feed) that advertisers have run on LinkedIn in the past six months. Members can click on the ads, but the advertisers will not be charged for these engagements and the clicks will not impact campaign reporting." SO MUCH EXCITEMENT! SO MUCH BUSINESS!
  • Ofcom’s Online Nation Report: Useful and interesting set of new data from Ofcom, which this week launched its inaugural ‘Online Nation’ report, looking at the digital habits of the UK’s citizens. This is all about attitudes and platforms, so if you want a snapshot of which sites people say they use most often (weirdly, Pr0nhub, Xhamster and Redtube don’t feature anywhere) and what they feel about them, this is GREAT. Interestingly, this suggests that, despite what they might say, kids ARE in fact still using Facebook; they also, according to the data, think that it’s responsible for all the bad things in the world. Anyone would think it’s a perniciously-addictive service which does noone any good at all!
  • MyWony: For a variety of reasons - not least my not quite having the figure for it - it is unlikely that I will ever be in the market for a wedding dress; if you, dear reader, are more inclined towards holy matrimony, though, may I present to you this OFFICIALLY WEBCURIOS-ENDORSED wedding dress manufacturer from the Ukraine? I have no idea whether the dresses they peddle are in fact nice, but the fact that they have chosen to create a beautifully-drawn and very stylised webcomicthingy, all about some sort of scifi love affair, to promote their wares makes me love them immoderately regardless of the aesthetic and sartorial quality of their output. GET MARRIED, WEBMONGS, AND INVITE ME TO YOUR WEDDINGS!

 

By Doug Kim

NEXT, HAVE A PLEASINGLY SUMMERY AND VAGUELY BALEARIC MIX OF LOUNGEY PIANO-HOUSE!

THE SECTION WHICH FEELS LIKE CURIOS IS A BIT THIN THIS WEEK AND AS SUCH WOULD LIKE TO APOLOGISE BUT WHICH WOULD ALSO LIKE TO POINT OUT THAT ANY PAUCITY OF CONTENT IS, FRANKLY, NOT MY FAULT AND IS SIMPLY A RESULT OF OTHER PEOPLE NOT MAKING ENOUGH INTERNET STUFF SO PLEASE PULL YOUR FCUKING FINGERS OUT YOU LAZY GITS, PT.1:

  • The Romanov’s Twilight: I must confess here to be something of a historical dunce, and to the fact that as far as I’m concerned the Romanov’s might well be a brand of fancy chocolates as a storied dynasty. Still, this rather nice website has enlightened me a bit, and I now know that the Romanov’s were Russia’s imperial family who were killed or exiled in the wake of the 1917 revolution. This site presents the history of the family following the survivors’ flight from Russia, with biographies of the major players and various different visualisations of the family’s history; it’s not super-fancy, but the stories here are fascinating. This is made by Tass, fwiw, which when I was doing pseudo-journalism many years ago was by far and away the most exotic of the wire agencies - seriously, you have no idea how exotic and exciting it was to see stuff come in labeled ITAR-TASS, like it was actually news from a foreign galaxy or something.
  • Astronaut: Thanks to Nathan Nelson on Twitter, who kindly pointed me at this earlier this week;Astronaut is a lovely site which presents YouTube videos uploaded to the site in the past week with specific filename types (DSC 11200, that sort of thing) and a very low viewcount. It’s not the first site of this ilk I’ve featured, but I don’t think I will ever get bored of the intensely odd and human spectacle of unwatched YouTube vids, uploaded for an unknown and uncaring audience by mystery individuals; honestly, this is SO ART and I could watch it pretty much forever. It is weird and creepy and surreal and just PERFECT and I love it unreservedly.
  • The Pudding Wikipedia Popularity Map: Dataviz masters The Pudding return with a lovely coneit - a map of the US, in which all the major towns and cities have been replaced with the name of the person from said town or city who is ‘most Wikipediad’ - that is, “Person/city associations were based on the thousands of “People from X city” pages on Wikipedia. The top person from each city was determined by using median pageviews (with a minimum of 1 year of traffic).” I am VERY KEEN on the idea of this naming convention being adopted more widely; on that basis, I would have grown up in Melinda Messenger, which is absolutely preferable as a concept to having done so in Swindon. Although possibly not to Melinda, on reflection.
  • The Labyrinth: Digital artist and Friend of Curios Shardcore has spent much of this week making really disturbing algobongo and sending it to me on Slack, causing me no end of workplace awkwardness (“No, look, it’s not real smut, it’s just what a computer imagines smut to be! What do you mean ‘that doesn’t matter and you’re still fired’?”), but he’s also found the time to put this on his website - a lovely little combination of the Tube map and a brainscan. “This map was generated from real human connectome data captured at CUBRIC. A minute sample of the 100,000 brain connections present in the average human mind was used to create the interconnected rail lines displayed across the representation of the brain here depicted. The London Tube Map is both a classic piece of design and a functional representation used by millions to negotiate the real geography of the city. With a nod to The Great Bear by Simon Patterson, I have assigned stations to locations along the lines = each of these stations representing sets of people and ideas which connect and intersect. This produces a juxtaposition of seemingly different concepts which at first may seem arbitrary, or perhaps even absurd, but which inevitably provoke the intellect to find a connection, perhaps revealing subconscious relationships and bringing them to the surface.” This is very cool, and there are prints available should you fancy buying an ACTUAL ART (I am not taking commission, FYI, but perhaps I ought).
  • The New York Public Library Digital Collections: This is WONDERFUL - prints, videos, audio, documents, maps, manuscripts…it feels like this contains everything in the world ever, frankly. This contains over a million things and, to be honest, if you can’t find something you’re interested in here then you may well be dead.
  • PokeGAN: What would Pokemon look like if they were imagined by a machine? THEY WOULD LOOK LIKE THIS! These are great, and Pokemon are, it turns out, the perfect dataset to train a GAN on - the weirdly amorphous nature of the pixellated buggers, when seen up-close, means that these imagined variants look pretty much perfectly plausible. The only negative here is that the creator didn’t map these creations to Janelle Shae’s neural net-generated Pokemon names, but you can’t have everything (WHY NOT FFS??).
  • RRRRRRRRRR: This is, fine, nothing more exciting than a Russian website featuring photos of people’s pets, but a) LOOK AT ALL THE CRITTERS!; and b) the magic of Google translate renders this into some sort of weird deadpan poetry. Honestly, the copy absolutely makes this - I mean, look: “The hero of this week is the Scottish Fold cat Seva. In life, he is extremely relaxed and, despite his young age, has already managed to change a few names, turn over dozens of glasses of water and become the hero of this police investigation.” Also, there is a cat on here called ‘Serotonin’, which is frankly the best name for a pet I have ever heard.
  • Buildbox: This is an interesting game-creation tool; it’s a commercial product, fine, but the feature set looks amazingly rich, and the potential for making rather interesting and involved games with relatively minimal effort seems vast. Check out the demo video on the homepage, which makes it look like you can basically make a BAFTA-winning mobile game in about three clicks; it’s probably marginally more complex than that, fine, but maybe this will be the moment when your untapped creative potential comes gushing out. Maybe.
  • Goodbrief: A nice idea for design students or anyone wanting some creative prompts to practice with - Goodbrief is a simple design brief generator, which lets you choose a sector and a type of work, and throws out an imagined brief for a designer to respond to; should you be desperate for a work prompt but not have access to any actual briefs, this is potentially really rather useful - oh, and if you need to come up with tasks for prospective interview candidates, this will basically automate the entire process so that you can go back to playing Minesweeper or browsing overpriced stationery or whatever it in fact is that designers do at work.
  • Nod To The Rhythm: Upload any photo you like, tell the website where the eyes and mouth are, and then watch in rapt amazement as it turns said photo into a lightly-animated image, nodding its head and opening its mouth and generally looking all slack-jawed and weird. If you, like me, tend to spend most of your time in an office thinking up ways to make your colleagues feel slightly upset or uncomfortable, you may well appreciate this - why not spend the rest of the day taking all the photos off the ‘staff’ section of your employer’s website and run them through this for the lols? Or alternatively just make one with your own face and spend the rest of the day replying to all emails with a gif of your idiot-looking face, nodding emptily? This is how everyone behaves at work, right?
  • Ship Your Enemies GDPR: Do you remember a few years ago when there was that brief craze for silly internet businesses which would send anyone you liked a box full of glitter or horse dung or whatever as an HILARIOUS PRANK? This is like that, except instead of sending someone a box of tiny plastic dust motes you are sending them a data-related legal shakedown! Copy and paste the legal text on the site and send it to whoever you like, to cause them (in theory, at least) a not-insignificant degree of hassle to comply with the request within 30 days; even better, if they fail to meet the deadline they are technically liable for a reasonably-sized fine! Whilst this is obviously an incredibly petty and annoying thing to do, it is also, potentially, very funny indeed, particularly if you know the person whose job it will be to deal with the horror and can picture their look of pained irritation.
  • Kite Plans: Many, many years ago I worked for an agency called Idea Generation, where staff were on average about 16 years old and there was always a gramme of coke in the breadbin (trufact!); we did the PR for Amazon, before they were the terrifying everything-peddler they are today, and used to do loads of stories identifying spurious consumer trends based on sales data. Back in the mid-00s, we literally created a publishing phenomenon when we put out a story about The Dangerous Book for Boys being THE hot book of the Summer as parents tried to get their kids to swap their Playstations for conkers - obviously it wasn’t, and obviously parents weren’t trying to do that at all, but in the early days of digital panic it made for a nice feature angle for every single mid-market and broadsheet in the country. Anyway, that’s a really digressive way of introducing this website, which contains literally hundreds of different designs for kites that you can make and which your children will look at dismissively before going back to playing Fortnite instead.
  • The Electricity Map: This is a really comprehensive resource showing how various nations get their electricity, where they source it from, and the environmental impact of their power consumption. Honestly more interesting than you’d think, I promise.
  • Batch Watermark: Add watermarks to images, in bulk, with a single click. Obviously there are all sorts of useful professional uses for this, but in the main I quite like the idea of adding a totally unnecessary watermark to every single photo I ever take in a massive display of creative hubris.
  • Thyself: If you’ve read Web Curios for a while, you may have realised that I have no time or patience for wellness, mindfulness, meditation or any such stuff - it’s not that I don’t think these things can be useful for others, to be clear, it’s more that I am incredibly superficial and shallow and I don’t have enough internal life to warrant that degree of introspection and analysis. If you’re a little less two-dimensional than me, though, you may like the idea of Thyself, a Chrome plugin which will periodically ask you how you’re feeling and asks you to respond with an emoji, letting you track your moods and feelings in simple, visual fashion. To be clear, this won’t make you happier, but it may allow you to define with greater precision the exact flavour of existential malaise you’re afflicted with.

By Andy Rementer

NEXT UP, TRY THIS VERY RELAXED AND LOW-KEY MIX BY ARON MCFAUL!

THE SECTION WHICH FEELS LIKE CURIOS IS A BIT THIN THIS WEEK AND AS SUCH WOULD LIKE TO APOLOGISE BUT WHICH WOULD ALSO LIKE TO POINT OUT THAT ANY PAUCITY OF CONTENT IS, FRANKLY, NOT MY FAULT AND IS SIMPLY A RESULT OF OTHER PEOPLE NOT MAKING ENOUGH INTERNET STUFF SO PLEASE PULL YOUR FCUKING FINGERS OUT YOU LAZY GITS, PT.2:

  • Chaos Burst Effects: For several years now there has been a general uptick in recognition and acceptance of Dungeons & Dragons as something that’s, you know, sort of ok. Whereas when I was growing up the mere suggestion that you might like to pretend to be a wizard in your spare time was a one-way ticket to a land of chinese burns and social ostracism, nowadays it’s COOL and socially acceptable to claim nerdery, and the weird escapism of sitting around a table with a bunch of people rolling dice and pretending that you are Tharg, Scion of Thargandia is vaguely aspirational. How the everliving fcuk has this happened? Anyway, this is a genuinely wonderful list of 1000 randomised status effects for roleplaying games, the idea being that Dungeon Masters can call on this sheet if they want to add a little bit of leftfield excitement to a play session - these are all things that can happen to magic users as a random consequence of casting spells. Regardless of whether or not you have ever played or have any interest in D&D, this is WONDERFUL - the imagination here is masterful, and there’s something lovely about imaging the odd directions that some of these could take a story - honestly, “Caster appears 50% fatter than they are in reality” would be a JOY to play with.
  • BFF: A project by artist Shaun Feeney, which is best explained by the artist themselves: “The BFF project consists of 127 drawings combining the faces of friends. Inspired by my two-year experience working as a forensic artist, I drew the faces of 64 pairs of combined friends. I then drew a series of composites of the composites, until finally arriving at one drawing emergent from all 128 faces.” This is eerie and uncanny and sort of wonderful, and the resulting images are very, very strange and utterly compelling.
  • Dirty Car Art: Artwork drawn into the filth of long-parked vehicles by Scott Wade, who is apparently very famous - he’s been on telly in over 20 countries, the website excitedly exclaims! - but has previously escaped my attention. It’s fair to say that nothing on this site matches the genuine brilliance of “I wish my girl/boyfriend was as dirty as this!”, but credit to Scott for trying (I jest, obviously ,this is all quite amazing and the sort of thing you can probably steal for a pitch if you’re feeling lazy and unimaginative).
  • Muzli: A truly horrible name for an otherwise excellent little site - Muzli is a sort of visual inspiration search engine thingy, which throws out solely visual responses to any prompt you care to give it, and which is excellent from the point of view of creating mood boards and the like. The really clever thing is that it works with all sorts of quite niche terms - so you can input a pantone code, for example, and it will pull images containing that tone, or a school of design if you want a certain stylistic layer over all the results. I mean, this probably still isn’t as good as Google Images, but it’s good to have competition.
  • Some Excellent Deepfakes: You might have seen the cliip of comedian Bill Hader ‘doing’ Arnold Schwarzenegger on late night TV in the US, rendered as a realtime deepfake - this is the YouTube channel of the tech crew who did the stunt, and there are half a dozen vids on there at the time of writing demonstrating quite how good the current state-of-the-art deepfake landscape is. It’s still not totally convincing, but it’s also significantly less horrifying and weird than it was a year ago, meaning at the present rate of improvement I’ll be able to bring you a totally convincing representation of me lifting the Europa League trophy by approximately Christmas.
  • Bitlisten: This is the sound of all the world’s Bitcoin transactions as they happen; you can change the tones being used, and with the right combination of settings and a few tweaks of the volume you can basically ASMR yourself thanks to a bunch of idiots gambling on made-up non-money.
  • Swit: There’s an interesting mini-ecosystem in terms of websites and apps at the moment, featuring products and services that exist solely to help people make better Stories - this is another of that ilk, an app which you can use to create small animations detailing your travels so as, presumably, to offer you bookend-type content with which to frame your EXCITING TRAVEL STORIES featuring you in a pool with some inflatable flamingos (FFS SUSAN THAT IS SO 2018). Nothing about this is particularly interesting per se, but if you’re after something which will temporarily make your Story stand out from that of every other plastic-lipped nonentity out there, this might be of use.
  • Variable Fonts: Literally that! Discover and download variable fonts! “This site’s goal is to help designers and developers become more familiar with OpenType variable fonts in a way that isn’t overwhelming, while also providing straightforward info upfront about the font projects, who made them, and where to find more info or get the fonts to use.” Fine, it’s not exactly exciting but it might be useful to some of you. SEE, I DO CARE.
  • Update Faker: This is VERY basic and won’t fool anyone with an IQ in treble-figures; however, you probably work in an office, meaning that there will be multiple people in your current field of vision who don’t reach that low bar and who will be RIPE for pranking. This site presents a variety of fake system update options which you can set running to baffle and confuse your idiot colleagues - actually, now I think of it, this is too good to waste on other people; why not set it running on YOUR computer, tell someone that it’s doing system updates and then fcuk off to the pub while you ‘wait for the IT to sort itself out’? I am a genius. DO THIS.
  • Goat LARP: For those of you who have actually managed to achieve sexual congress with a consenting human partner and probably aren’t aware of these things, LARPing means Live Action Role-Playing - that is, doing role-playing in costume, with props. In the main, this seems to involve the sort of people who would have been Goths or Emos a few years ago twatting each other with blunt halberds before going on to bore each other to death over seven gallons of real ale, but occasionally the world of LARPing gets marginally more interesting - as it does here, with this event which is inviting people to come along to an event a fortnight on Saturday where they will be running a roleplay event specifically for some goats. No, I have no idea how that will work, or indeed what the goats are expected to get out of the experience, but should you be in the vicinity of Redding, Connecticut on June 15th then I would strongly advise that you pop down and check this out.
  • The Satellite Map: ALL OF THE SATELLITES IN SPACE, ON A MAP! It’s amazing quite how many there are circling the equator; can the satellites see each other, do you think, or does the vastness of space mean that they’re forever orbiting in practical isolation?
  • The Stick: If you’re a CREATOR (sorry) or just someone who quite likes making films on their phone, this could be a total godsend. The Stick is a very clever-looking peripheral for phones, consisting of a magnetic patch that you affix to the back of the device, and a massively versatile attachment that you can stick to the magnet and which can act as a stand or a fastener to attach your phone to your hand, your bike, or whatever else. As a means of securing the phone for filming in motion, this looks hugely useful, and in general the device looks like a genuinely good idea - it’s ‘coming soon’, apparently, and you can sign up for updates should you be so inclined.
  • Blot: This is an interesting idea. “Blot is a blogging platform with no interface. Blot turns a folder into a blog. Drag-and-drop files inside to publish them. Organize your files in a way that suits you.” Basically this is a super-simple no-code publishing system - while it might not be hugely sophisticated, there’s a lot of potential here and the templates you can use are surprisingly flexible. The aesthetic is always going to be a bit ‘white space lifestyle kinfolk’, fine, but this is squarely aimed at the digihipster demographic and so that’s probably what you’re after anyway.
  • Character Design References: The most incredible animation and cartooning resource I have ever seen. Honestly, this is the MOTHERLODE if you’re interested in cartoons, graphic novels, animation and the like.
  • 2D Doom: So as I said in the upfront, this is a slightly reduced Curios this week (I blame America being on a long weekend, the selfish, lazy fcuks) - by way of recompense, though, have this WONDERFUL side-scrolling shootyjumpyplatformer, effectively taking some of the elements of Doom - Doomguy, hell, cacodemons, the chainsaw - and transposing them into a Commander Keen-style 90s shareware clone. Honestly, this is ACE and will happily keep you going til hometime.

 

By Arduino Catanfora

FINALLY IN THIS WEEK’S SELECTION OF MIXES, WHY NOT CHECK OUT THIS EXCELLENT AND ECLECTIC SELECTION BY RAKALE?

THE CIRCUS OF TUMBLRS!:

  • Second Beat Songs: Only one Tumblr this week, but it’s a GOOD ONE - Second Beat Songs collects versions of popular tracks, tweaked so that every second beat is removed. This is HORRIBLE but also strangely compelling; listening to these is a little like the audio equivalent of being on a slightly unpleasant comedown, with everything feeling a little too twitchy and jagged - seriously, click the link and listen to the MC Hammer track near the top, you will TOTALLY get what I mean.

THE TROUGH OF (INSTA) FEEDS!:

  • Ochre Jelly: Excellent LEGO kits. No, really, these are amazing.
  • Lakin Ogunbanwo: A Nigerian photographer, whose work is SUPER stylised and FASHION; this is excellent, and the visual style here is wonderfully distinctive.
  • Duda Lozano: A tattoo artist who does THE most incredible work; their pieces look like embroidered badges, complete with hanging threads, and the general effect is utterly mindbending.
  • Cheap Old Houses: I imagine that quite a number of you spend your weeks living in your metropolitan rabbit hutches, dreaming of the possibility of a bucolic existence pursuing simple pleasures and maybe getting down to some good DIY to reconnect you with REAL VALUES and stuff; if so, this is basically pr0nography for you - Cheap Old Houses offers a seemingly endless stream of large, mainly quite fcuked rural properties across the US, all available for what appear to be preposterously low prices. Obviously what the account doesn’t tell you is how many people have been murdered in each property, or the skunk smell that haunts every single nook and cranny, but if you can ignore the practical realities then this is a whole load of morning commute dreamfodder.
  • Tower Block 1: Thanks Gill for sending me this - the Insta feed of KLF legend Jimmy Cauty’s latest project, which sees him building a concrete tower block because ART.
  • Nice Threads Mate: And thanks Dora for this, the Insta feed of an excellent-if-hipster embroidery shop; I would quite happily have their stitched representation of Pizza Hut ads on my wall, should anyone want to gift me such a thing.
  • Naturally Jo: Vegan food art by a 17 year old kid - this is, honestly, remarkably well-done, and their eye is quite superb.
  • Jonny Seven: I don’t really want to explain this too much. It’s...odd. Click and follow, and apologies in advance for the funny dreams.

LONG THINGS THAT ARE LONG!:

  • Facebook Vs Fox: Ordinarily I wouldn’t link to something as US-parochial as a screed about fake news in the US, but the overall point here is germane whichever side of the Atlantic you happen to be on. Taking as its prompt the slowed-down video of Nancy Pelosi that did the rounds last week, the piece addresses the odd dichotomy of our current moral panic around truth and misdirection in news, and makes the excellent, true point that, whilst we might get all frothy-mouthed about Facebook and the evils of fakery, the real problem here with the quality of discourse is the traditional media. It’s a US article, so Fox is the main target, but you could equally rewrite this from the UK perspective and insert the tabs or the Mail and come to the same conclusion. I don’t mean to defend Facebook - really, I don’t - but this keeps coming back to the fact that IT IS JUST A TOOL AND WE ARE IN FACT THE PROBLEM.
  • Inside MeWe: MeWe is one of the many alternanetworks, established a few years back but growing in popularity amongst fringe communities who are increasingly steering away from the mainstream networks as a result of what they perceive to be the bias they show against right-wing views; it’s not quite Gab, but it’s vaguely on the same sort of spectrum. This is an interesting look at what happens to a network when there isn’t any control or moderation, where (practically) anything goes, and where the self-declaredly disenfranchised congregate - it may not surprise you to learn that it’s not very nice.
  • Post-Mutti: A fascinating look at the end of Angela Merkel’s reign in Germany, and how history will assess her near-15 year stint in charge of the Reich. It’s possibly a result of quite how insular and self-absorbed the UK has been over the past three years that one of my favourite parts of this piece is that it doesn’t mention us at all - this is a picture of global politics that focuses on the big picture and the power players, and we don’t even merit a cursory nod in passing. The overriding theme of the piece is sadness; sadness at Merkel’s lack of an obvious positive legacy, at a world which is more fractured and confused than when she took office in the early 00s, and sadness at her status as perhaps the last Big Beast of global politics - aside, of course, from Vlad, who the article sniffily notes doesn’t really count because ‘noone trusts or believes him’.
  • The Pentagon’s Race Against Deep Fakes: This is an excellent explainer from CNN about what Deep Fakes are, how they are made, and what is being, and can be, done to find and identify them; if you want a simple, clear explanation of the technology and what it can be used for, this is an excellent starter.
  • There Is Too Much Stuff: On the strange choice-paralysis caused by the seemingly-infinite array of products available at the click of a mouse thanks to Amazon, Wish, and all the other peddlers of disposable tat sending shipping containers criss-crossing our seaways and making a mockery of the current trend towards environmentalism (you want to help the environment? Really help it? STOP CONSUMING SO MUCH STUFF, THEN. What’s that? It’s inconvenient and you really like all the stuff? Oh, ok, fine). This is an interesting look at a slightly surreal feature of modernity - to whit, the trend towards single-offering retailers as a reaction to the fact that there is no way of choosing between the seemingly-identical procession of 300 different variants on a single product you’ll find on Amazon. There’s quite a lot of intellectual meat in here if you can be bothered to dig for it, in terms of retail and consumption trends.
  • The Ukrainian President’s Inaugural Speech: You are probably aware that the Ukraine recently elected a comedian as their President - a man with no political experience whatsoever, other than his leading role in a long-running sitcom about an ordinary bloke who becomes President of the Ukraine. His appointment, weirdly, has generated less interested than I might have expected - are we now completely inured to the idea of hideously-unsuitable TV candidates attaining high office? How quickly we become jaded! - but this transcript of his inaugural speech is worth a read; I honestly thought this was a spoof or parody at first, but research suggests this really is the verbatim text and, well, CRIKEY. This is in many respects a very good speech - and I imagine delivered by a skilled performer it landed very well indeed - but crikey does it also feel exactly like a script from a TV show. This is going to be very, very interesting to watch.
  • I Lied On Twitter: Did you see that Twitter thread last week in which the author told a long, rip-roaring tale of a road trip he took as a young man which involved him inadvertently stealing a brick of heroin from the notorious MS-13 gang? If so, you might not have seen this follow-up in which the thread’s author admitted to making the whole thing up for the numbers, and in the vague hope that someone might give himn a screenwriting contract. On the one hand, it’s interesting to see someone try and roll back from a myth they’ve created; on the other, part of me does wonder whether the whole thing was planned to garner additional attention and highlight the man behind the story so as to better his hopes of getting that writer’s room gig.
  • The Brilliance of Da Vinci: A lovely biographical essay on Leonardo Da Vinci, which does a superb job of not only telling his life story, insofar as its possible to do so, but also contextualises the importance of his work in modernity; it’s fascinating to see how much of his theorising is directly relevant to today’s art and science; the interview with the heart surgeon, in which he speaks of the direct impact that studying Leonardo’s anatomical sketches has had on the manner he approaches his work in the theatre, is fascinating.
  • 94 Awesome Women: A selection of 94 profiles of awesome women, featured on the website of The Gentlewoman - these range from Phoebe Waller-Bridge to Adele to Sanda Oh to Tavi Gevinson, these are GREAT and, if you’ll excuse the term, not a little inspiring.
  • Bullet Comments: I think I’ve mentioned bullet comments on here before, but in case you’re not familiar with the term, it refers to a particular feature of the Asian web whereby videos will often have playback comments overlaid on them, in the manner of a track on Soundcloud - so anyone can leave a comment at any point in the video, which will then flash up on playback along with all the others that have been posted. Does that make sense? It’s quite hard to tell. Anyway, the article does a far better job of explaining the idea than I can - I think this sounds like a fascinating feature, and I wonder whether it would catch on in the West; perhaps there’s something in Asiatic characters that makes the experience less unpleasant than it would be with Western letters cluttering up the screen. Regardless, I would like someone to hack this together for YouTube, please, just because.
  • Trump’s Wikipedia Page: A look at what it’s like nehind the scenes on Trump’s Wikipedia page, talking to the editors who have made it their job to ensure that the entry for the most divisive President in US history (that feels like a true statement, even if I must confess that I’m not wholly confident in my knowledge of Andrew Jackson’s approval ratings) remains unsullied by trolls and partisanship. This isn’t really about Trump at all; instead it’s about the slightly odd and obsessional Wikipedian community, and how it self-regulates remarkably at scale.
  • First You Make Maps: This is BEAUTIFUL and fascinating, on the history of cartography - you may not think that you want to read several thousand words all about the different ways in which people have made maps over the past 1000 years, but I promise you that this is ace and you will love it.
  • I M Pei: The obituary of modernist architect I M Pei, the Chinese-American whose work defined much of large-scale corporate space worldwide, and whose buildings you have definitely seen even if you don’t know they’re by him. This is, to my mind at least, a quite startlingly brutal post-mortem takedown of the man’s work - I know that this style of architecture is far from fashionable at the moment, but I thought that this line in particularly was something of a low blow: “The only thing that kept Pei from becoming one of the immortals was his paucity of artistic talent.” - I mean, WOW.
  • This Is An Ad Targeted At Millennials: From McSweeney’s. If you work in advermarketingpr - ha, of COURSE you do! - then this will make you cringe in horrified recognition.
  • Meet Curvy Wife Guy: You may recall Robbie Tripp from his brief moment of internet notoriety a few years back, when he went viral based on an Insta photo of his wife in which he waxed lyrical about how much he loved her and her ‘ample curves’ (there’s no way of writing stuff like this without sounding like you’re writing something for the Sun, turns out); this is an interview with the pair of them, as Tripp launches his first single, a sort of internet-era Sir Mixalot, but VERY white and full of messages about body positivity and how it’s good to be thicc (sic). It’s more interesting than you’d expect, not least because the interviewer does a reasonable job of questioning the extent to which Tripp’s performative uxoriousness is genuine or simply a timely grift to exploit the recent trend towards fat acceptance. Regardless, the song is absolute garbage and you will be humming it for weeks.
  • U Ok Hun?: This is WONDERFUL - an analysis and appreciation of the word, and indeed the very concept of, ‘hun’. From Gemma Collins to Natalie Cassidy, this is an exhaustive investigation into what ‘hun’ means, how it straddles gay male and ‘basic’ culture, and how it’s basically the ur-expression of that very British feeling of being ruinously hungover, watching terrible Sunday television with The Fear and eating Dairylea Dunkers in your pants.
  • Incel Plastic Surgery: This piece did the rouns this week; the main thrust of commentary on it seems to have been that it’s an excellent and sensitive portrait of incel culture, and the strange form of mental illness that causes young men to contemplate significant surgery to up their value on the sexual marketplace. That’s certainly true, but there were a couple of other things that I found more interesting; the first, the reaction of the cosmetic surgeon to being told that he was effectively a God to all these sad, lonely, bitter young men; and the second, the slightly uncomfortable feeling that, whilst this is all obviously horrible and sad, it’s also not a million miles away from the way in which consumer culture has made women feel for much of the late 20th/early-21st Century.
  • The Invisible City Beneath Paris: Finally this week, a truly wonderful piece of writing about going on an explore in the subterranean tunnel network beneath Paris. This NEEDS to be a film or documentary - it’s supremely cinematic, the writing is sublime, and there are some beautiful lines throughout. “All cities are additions to a landscape that require subtraction from elsewhere” is one that particularly struck me but, honestly, almost every line here is a joy.
 

 

By Shawn Huckins

AND NOW, MOVING PICTURES AND SOUNDS!:

    1. This is an absolute BANGER of a tune - ‘Nails, Hair, Hips, Teeth’, by Todrick, by far and away the fiercest, queerest piece of pop you’ll hear all week:

    2) This is called ‘Mapping’, it’s by Shortly, and it is SO LOVELY; the video’s rather beautiful too:

    3) WHAT a voice this woman has. The song’s called ‘Keep The Change’, and the artist is called Mattiel and I think they ought to be more famous than they are. SUCH a good song:

    4) I suppose it was only a matter of time til someone did an ASMR pop song - and lo! It came to pass that that someone was Charlotte Adigery - this is actually a lot better than it has any right to be, the triggers work a treat, and it’s oddly reminiscent of ‘Underwater Love’ by Smoke City from back in the 90s. It’s called ‘Cursed and Cussed’ - give it a try:

    5) This is the new song from Why?, one of my favourite bands in the world. It’s called “I may come out a broken yolk, I may come out on saddle”, which is the exact sort of pretentious twaddle I adore them for:

    6) Last up this week, it’s Poppy! HELLO POPPY! This is called ‘Scary Mask’ and, frankly, it’s horrible and unsettling! ENJOY AND THAT’S IT FOR THIS WEEK AND FOR A FORTNIGHT IN FACT WHAT WITH ME GOING ON HOLIDAY NEXT WEEK FOR A LITTLE BIT SO BYE TAKE CARE OF YOURSELVES AND THE INTERNET WHILE I AM AWAY AND KNOW THAT I WILL BE THINKING OF YOU EVERY SINGLE DAY AND HOPING THAT YOU ARE WELL AND HAPPY PLEASE TRY NOT TO WORK TOO HARD AND I WILL BE BACK BEFORE YOU KONW IT I LOVE YOU I LOVE YOU I LOVE YOU BYE I LOVE YOU!:

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