So, I went to Leeds. And I survived, but dear GOD am I glad it was only a day and that I am not 16 any more. WHY ARE YOU ALL TAKING SO MUCH KETAMINE, FESTIVALGOING CHILDREN OF THE UK? WHY DO YOU ALL SHOUT 'WHOOMP THERE IT IS' EVERY TIME THE DJ DOES SOMETHING GOOD? WHY AM I SO OLD AND CONFUSED?
Anyway, I felt old and baffled and basically like I was practically dead, and I never, ever want to see any more 16 year old bottoms ever again (Jesus, kids, PUT SOME CLOTHES ON YOU'LL CATCH YOUR DEATHS) but my mate's kid seemed to have fun so it was ALL worthwhile. And I STILL managed to find time to dredge the web (small, topical scallop-related gag there for you) and present my findings here - Christ but I'm good.
Sit back, then, relax and let my words and other people's links ease you gently towards the weekend and a 48 hour period in which you won't have to pretend to care about your stupid, pointless job. HEAR THAT, THE MAN?? NOONE CARES! Then again, noone cares about this either and at least The Man is rich. Still, for the vanishingly small proportion of the English speaking world who are reading, this, as ever, is Web Curios and I fashion it every week just for YOU. The least you could do is at least feign gratitude FFS.
By Ryker Allen
A Bunch Of Facebook Updates Including Watch!: It does feel ever so slightly like the person responsible for product rollout at Facebook is about to go off on a three-week holiday and just sort of shuttled this stuff out in a somewhat hurried burst this week; this announcement lumps together a whole bunch of things which you feel ordinarily would have been presented with somewhat more fanfare than this gives them, including the rollout of Facebook Watch and the Creators’ Studio to EVERYONE (huzzah!); this is the overview post which explains how all the EXCITING NEW FEATURES work in slightly hurried fashion, and which introduces Watch (Facebook’s original content programme), the Creators’ Studio (a slightly streamlined interface for ad creative which lets you share mockups, edit images and video and generally do all your promo creative within the app if you’re on your phone), and Ad Breaks (the revolutionary concept of being able to buy video ads in the middle of content on Facebook, JUST LIKE TELLY) in one fell swoop. None of it’s that exciting, and yet I’m still writing it up slavishly because, well, what else could I be doing at 713am on a Friday morning? Sleeping? HA.
Facebook Watch Rolls Out Globally: This is the dedicated announcement by FB. Exciting, isn’t it? Good luck finding anything on there that isn’t appalling tripe.
FB Creators’ Studio: Turns out most people have had access to this for AGES, meaning that even Facebook thinks I’m a pathetic charlatan\, but, in case you haven’t, this is a useful set of tools for managing ads, getting sign-off and...oh, look, I already wrote about this three sentences ago, you know what this is, save me the hassle.
You Can Now Add Links To Facebook Stories: A piece of news which would potentially turn FB Stories into a decent traffic driver, were it not for the fact that noone actually uses Facebook Stories.
Insta Updates!: I really wish they wouldn’t do this whole ‘several reasonably disparate updates lumped into one announcement’ thing; it makes it really irritating to write up, and frankly I’m tired and disinclined enough this week as it is. Hmph. Anyway. This is a bunch of Insta updates which include the BIG NEWS that you can apply for a verified account directly within the app (NB - you almost certainly won’t get verified - there’s a particular assessment criteria around ‘noteworthiness’ which, with the best will in the world, you probably don’t score that highly on, regardless of how many well-filtered action selfies you post), as well as the significantly more interesting (to my mind at least) extension of the Facebook ad transparency stuff to Insta too, meaning you can (or will soon be able to) see all the ads that any Insta account is currently running and as such get a quick overview of exactly how lazy 99% of agencies are when thinking up Insta ad creative (come on, you know it’s true).
Twitter Multilogout: You can now check your Twitter account and see what devices you’re currently logged in on, and logout of any of said devices from your account settings menu. Which is obviously not interesting AT ALL, but which is personally relevant to me given that I realised the other week that I’d been logged into Twitter on my mum’s laptop in Rome since Christmas and as such she was reading all my direct messages, which, let’s be clear, is not a situation I’d wish on ANY of you (but, Mum, if you’re reading this, thanks SO much for not really talking too much about anything you saw in there, I promise it was mainly all LOLs, honest).
YouTube Opens Unskippable Ads For All Partners: Any channel that can monetize its videos will soon be able to implement non-skippable ads. That’s literally it. It’s dull, isn’t it?
YouTube Cares About You, Honest: YouTube is the latest social media platform to implement a set of features designed to make you think it gives a fcuk about your wellbeing by showing you exactly how much of this wonderful, amazing, ineffable GIFT OF LIFE you are wasting by watching slime vids on your phone when you could be, I don’t know, attempting to unfcuk the world. Users will now be able to see how much time they’ve spent over the past couple of days, and whole week, watching YT videos; interestingly they’re not telling you your TOTAL view time because, well, they don’t want you to feel TOO bad about it (they also don’t tell you what SORT of videos you’ve spent your time on, which imho is the thing which would really shift the needle here - “Matt, you’ve spent the equivalent of 19 weeks of your no-longer-young-life watching seemingly mundane videos of soft-voiced women pretending to give you haircuts; how do you feel?”). You can also set soft limits on your consumption by setting ‘consumption alarms’ on your account, which will flash warnings once you’ve watched a certain designated amount of content on the platform (but, crucially, won’t actually block you from the service because, well, come on, let’s not go crazy here); basically it’s as meaninglessly disingenuous as all the other ‘come on lads, don’t spend all your lives staring into the social media oubliette, there’s a whole world out there to explore (please like and subscribe tho)’ initiatives from Insta, FB et al.
The Squarespace Timeline: I’m including this solely because it’s the most hubristic corporate thing I think I have ever seen. Erm, look, you’re a company that helps people make slightly crap template websites, literally NOONE CARES about your corporate journey. Still, it’s nicely put together if tooth-grindingly backslappy.
Puma Infinite Runner: It’s not technically called this - it’s named after some identikit white foam monstrosity masquerading as footwear - but it’s basically Canabalt (God, do you remember Canabalt? SO GOOD!) but with the aesthetic switched out to be slightly cartoonish and with the central protagonist replaced with a pair of trainers, running forever into the future. It’s a LOT of fun, and reminded me of a time 7 years ago when I attempted to persuade Duracell that this sort of game would be a perfect promo vehicle for the fcuking bunny and they ignored me and I spent about 6 months subsequently buying off-brand batteries in a fit of slightly self-flagellatory pique (unrelated, but I once saw an internal document which described the Duracell Bunny’s ‘character’ - apparently he’s a cool guy, but not intrusively, the sort of person who would proffer helpful advice to those who need it but in a really chill, unselfconscious way without expecting thanks; the coolest person in the room without knowing he’s the coolest person in the room. This, amongst others, is the reason you must never, ever buy Duracell ever again.
Airbnbhosts: If I’m not mistaken this was created by a couple of kids to demonstrate some sort of vulnerability in Airbnb’s code which made it easier than it ought to to find out information about hosts on the platform - but I don’t care about that, I’m only here for the PREPOSTEROUSLY entertaining pastime that this site introduces, namely that of attempting to match an airbnb property to the photo of the person who’s renting it out. This is basically middle-class catnip - you get to snoop through a bunch of Airbnb listings and see whether or not your stereotypes as to the sort of person who’d own it are correct or not (Spoilers: they probably are - you’d be AMAZED quite how much the decor of a place appears to map onto the owners’ haircut). Honestly, this is a wonderfully brainless timesink and you will love it (and fair play to Airbnb for leaving it up for at least three days at the time of writing).
Pix2Pix UPDATE!: I don’t ordinarily bother to cover small updates on previously featured sites because, well, Web Curios is a largely futurist endeavour and I try not to look back lest I crash full throttle into the NOW, but I’ll make an exception here - you doubtless recall the Pix2Pix toy I featured the other week which let you draw rough faces on a canvas and which then attempted to create an actual face, based on your scrawl, from a neural net? Of course you do! Well it’s been updated to allow you to isolate each individual element of said face - hair, eyes, mouth, skin - and draw them as individual units, making the resulting fizzog that the software imagines even MORE hellishly realistic. This, I promise you, is the best thing you will fiddle with all afternoon; try using it to draw a few people sitting around you at work! Print the resulting images! Tell your colleagues that that is how you really see them! Enjoy the seemingly infinite procession of nervously-delivered cups of tea which will inevitably result!
Twitter Like It Was Meant To Be: Well, not quite, but this is the series of settings on Twitter.com which lets you have a timeline filled only with the tweets of those you’ve chosen to follow, in chronological order, with no replies, which absolutely reduces the ‘wow, this is awful isn’t it?’ feeling otherwise so prevalent on the platform. Unrelated, but Wil Wheaton’s post about why he’s quitting social media was honestly affecting and did make me wonder whether we’re coming to the end of a particular period in time and moving towards a position where social stuff becomes the preserve of the double-figure-IQ crowd alone.
What Is This Thing?: Regardless of the above, the web is obviously still a BRILLIANT place as evidenced by this subReddit which involves nothing more than people posting photos of slightly puzzling stuff and asking the community for help in working out what it is. You will learn SO MUCH - in the three minutes just now in which I got re-distracted by it, I learned what the fittings that diplomats use to attach flags to their cars look like, and that chickens with bronchitis lay distressingly veiny eggs, and, frankly, that’s more than school ever taught me. This is ACE.
Aibo!: A few months ago I made some flippant reference in here to the fact that Sony’s Aibo had been discontinued and how sad it was, and my friend Ged pointed out that it was in fact being resurrected - AND HERE IS THE NEW AIBO! IS SUCH CUTE ROBOT DOG! HARRO! Ahem. For those of you not afflicted with the same early-00s nostalgia as I, the Aibo was Sony’s foray into experimental home robotics - a mechanical dog, which would play and learn and be all cute at you and, to the best of my knowledge, never sh1t in the corner or attempt to rip a toddler’s face off. The original line of Aibos was shuttered a couple of years back, but this is the ALL NEW 2018 version and OH MY GOD how much do I want one. LOOK AT HIS BEAUTIFUL SLIGHTLY MONGY EYES!!! Look, if you’ve ever felt slightly guilty at consuming 7-8,000 words of TOP QUALITY analysis of the web and its culture every week for free then the very least you could all do is to crowdfund me a robot dog, is all I’m saying.
DAU: This is genuinely mental, and I don’t quite know how to describe it, and as such am going to defer almost entirely to the Wikipedia entry: “Dau is a Russian film directed by Ilya Khrzhanovsky. The film deals with the life of the Nobel Prize winning Soviet scientist Lev Landau. The movie is one of Russia's largest and most controversial cinematic projects. The preparation for the shooting for the film began in 2006, whereas the actual shooting started in 2008 and went on for three years. The world premiere of the movie was intended to take place at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival...the production company is quoted as saying, “Our project consists of over 700 hours of material all shot on 35mm out of which the company is making feature films, TV series and a slate of science and art documentaries, as well as a trans-media project”. Most of the film was shot on a specially constructed set called "The Institute" inKharkiv in northeastern Ukraine. The Institute was the largest film set in Europe, the area totalling 12,000 sq. meters. The set was a dynamic creative reconstruction of a Soviet restricted-access Institute in 1938-1968, located in Moscow. Some actors lived in The Institute in character 24 hours a day.” This is the official website, featuring the trailer which is exactly as scarily baffling as you might expect - I am honestly fascinated to see what sort of self-indulgent, artworld carcrash results from this.
The Crowbox: This sounds significantly more sinister than it in fact is - rather than being some sort of feathery Pandora analogue, the Crowbox is instead a series of blueprints and instructions for the creation of devices with which you can attempt to train crows - corvids, as you are doubtless all aware, are famously intelligent avians with an ability to learn how to use tools and remember things, and the Crowbox is designed to help you explore and hone this intelligence until you too can command a murderous army of death-black airborn killers to seek and pluck out the eyes of those who have wronged you (not really, but it’s sort of what I like to imagine in my darker moments).
Old UK Catalogues: The first in the series of links this week you’ll probably have already seen on B3ta - this Twitter account shares photos of pages from old UK catalogues, which is a boon if you’ve ever wanted to spend an afternoon wistfully recalling all the things that your parents were never well off enough to buy you in the 1970s/80s.
Paul Danan: This is not, it’s important to state at the top, a real Instagram account - or, if it is, it’s masquerading as a fake one. There are those amongst you who I would imagine aren’t familiar with the work of Paul Danan, an ‘actor’ who appeared in Hollyoaks back in the day but whose personal career apogee came when he appeared on an early series of (‘Celebrity’) Love Island and, thanks to his mad eyes and somewhat, er, ‘aggressive’ sexuality came to be colloquially known on Pobitch as ‘rapey Paul Danan’ (the sort of LOLsome attitude towards sexual assault that you feel wouldn’t really fly in 2018. This Instagram account purports to be a selection of his disposable camera shots from the late 90s/early 00s, with accompanying ‘earthy’ commentary about the old school celebrities featured in them - if you can remember who Gary Lucey is then a) FFS do something better with your brain; and b) WOW are you going to enjoy this.
Fishcam: Not all the links on Curios are brand new - sometimes we like to mine the past for nostalgia, such as with this venerable piece of web history, the first and longest-running aquarium webcam IN THE WORLD. This has been running since 1994 (one imagines that the fish have been replaced in the intervening years) and is, literally, a chunk of web history (one could question whether or not the PC or the camera or the cabling is the same, and as a result whether it can in any meaningful sense be called the same webcam, but one could equally join an undergraduate philosophy debating society). Fine, all you’ll see is a low-res photo of a fishtank updating every 10 seconds but, well, HISTORY!
Tom Gran’s Amazing Cartoon Thread: On January 1 this year, cartoonist Tom Gran wrote the following on Twitter: “Hey so through 2018 I'm gonna do a drawing challenge where every day I add another character to a giant fight scene until it gets so giant I probably won't even be able to upload it to Twitter anymore. Here goes:” He’s kept it up, and the thread here linked shows the daily progress of this increasingly complicated and utterly brilliant evolving fight scene; regardless of your interest in comics or cartoons or similar, you can’t help but be charmed by the skill here and the care and thought put into the overall composition.
Todd Alcott Graphics: Todd Alcott is an artist and designer who creates imaginary pulp novel covers based on song titles - so, for example, you can see what ‘She’s Lost Control’ by Joy Division would have looked like had it been a slightly trashy 50s paperback rather than a post-punk dance single. These are great, and, even better, are all available to buy for frankly ridiculously low prices - GOOD PRESENT MATERIAL should you be in the market for gifts.
YouBionic Arm: Prostheses are something which have benefited massively from the internet - the collective interest in them from an engineering perspective which has blossomed amongst amateur makers, connected online, has delivered huge progress in their design and manufacture, to the point whereby there’s a host of manufacturers and enthusiasts exploring the possibility of developing artificial limb technology for use by the technically able-bodied as an augmentation rather than biological replacement. The YouBionic Arm is one such prototype - check this out and take a moment to imagine how incredible it would be to spend a day wandering round with AN EXTRA ROBOT ARM which you can clamp onto your existing one as if it were a totally normal thing. The simple fact of being able to have your hands in your pockets as you stroll down the street whilst STILL sipping from your Flat White is so exciting to me that were I not sitting down I would have to sit down right now (and yes, I know this displays a distressing paucity of imagination but, well, I’m realistic about what I would most likely use this stuff for).
The SF Encyclopedia: Do you want an encyclopedia of all things science fiction? OF COURSE YOU DO! This is vast and scholarly and, based on my brief wander through a handful of entries, is likely to infuriate you with its slightly high-handed pronouncements, but as a bank of knowledge about this particular corner of genre fiction it’s hard to beat. An excellent way to find thematically-related titles to stuff you already enjoy, if nothing else.
KnitYak: It’s basically winter, which means you really ought to be considering buying some nice warm clothes, KnitYak, a name so awful I considered not featuring it purely to teach them a lesson, flogs scarves based on old computer graphics and glitch art, and their current selection, featuring a whole load of old school Mac graphics from the days when Apple was a company whose products were bought and used solely by graphic designers and professional contrarians, is rather lovely.
Your Pal James: This came to me via someone’s newsletter but I can’t for the life of me recall whose - apologies, should you be reciprocally reading this, for the lack of a credit here, but, you know, THERE IS SO MUCH WEB EVERY WEEK that it’s hard to keep track of what comes from where sometimes. Anyway, this is a Twitter account, the owner of which recently acquired a James Bond Action Man-type figurine and is taking photos of it in nicely-stylised poses, occasionally featuring Chewbacca too because WHY NOT? This is totally pointless, but lovely nonetheless. Oh, and if you;re in the market for more surprisingly high-quality photography featuring action toys, here’s an Insta account doing much the same thing with a bunch of MCU toys. TOYS. You’re in your 30s FFS what’s WRONG with you?
Minecraft Global Warming: I rather wish this had come out 5 years ago when Minecraft was still very much a THING and before all the kids had jacked in the reasonably wholesome virtual LEGO playground in favour of shooting each other in the face via Fortnite. Still, if your kid’s still happily spelunking away in a cuboid virtual world, then why not install this mod and help them learn that we are all doomed thanks to our species-wide, centuries-old insistence on fcuking the planet. This Minecraft mod will do all sorts of cool stuff, like introducing CO2 emissions from furnaces and fires, the ability to reduce these via the planting of trees, rising sea levels, the whole apocalyptic shebang. Fine, it might ruin your kids’ playing experience but they will be learning a VALUABLE LESSON so it’s almost certainly worthwhile.
Monumentalism: “Monumentalism is a visual study of socialist architecture and design. Every photograph on this site was taken by Darmon Richter, a British researcher who has spent the last 10 years exploring Eastern Europe with his camera.” You want a bunch of photos of massive, monolithic tributes to the glory of international socialism? YOU GOT THEM!
Guy Meets Cake: It’s been MONTHS since I’ve featured an Insta feed portraying ridiculously elaborate baking, cakes which look absolutely amazing but which you also sort of know would taste mainly of tears and fondant icing. This is Andrew Fuller, a man who is VERY GOOD at making cakes and pies that look like...well, not cakes and pies. The bananas are MENTAL, for example, but I think my favourite is this fox.
2001 A Tweet Odyssey: This is...odd. Someone created this Twitter account this week and spent the whole of 29 August Tweeting the entire plot and dialogue of the film “2001: A Space Odyssey”, complete with stills from the movie. You want to read a film in Tweets? No, you probably don’t, but now you can! I quite like the idea of doing this for ALL films, so that you can experience low-bandwidth textual versions of all the classics - can someone do Mahabaratha next, please? Thanks!
Trending Topics: Wikipedia entries which are recieving traffic bumps at the moment - a window into what people are doing a bit of cursory sofa-based research about, effectively. This is honestly fascinating - it calculates its trending topics based on traffic over a certain time period compared to the traffic in the preceding equivalent time period, and you can see what’s trending on this basis over the past hour, day, week, month or year; as a barometer of what the world (or at least the English-speaking bits of it) care about, it’s a wonderful tool.
Retro Kanban: A website dedicated to the obscure beauty of Japanese enamel signs, which you won’t have realised before now are ace. There may be more to it than this, but the whole site’s in Japanese meaning it could well be advertising rough cock and ball torture for all I know (but I don’t think it is).
Coverr: A stock video site specifically for moving header images. Which is dull, fine, but also sort of useful so wind your collective necks in.
AS Footballers: A genuinely odd Twitter account, this, which started this week and seemingly exists solely to show its followers what the world’s elite male football squads would look like if they were, er, women. Using some shonky face editing app, this takes the official squad photos of each team and feminises them, meaning you can now experience the hitherto unimagined (I mean, I presume you’ve never imagined this, but who am I to presume what you do in the privacy of that meaty space between your ears?) beauty of Kevin De Bruyne as a girl.
Bookmark YouTube Videos: If you have to watch a lot of YouTube, this is potentially a godsend - this is a plugin which lets you quickly and easily bookmark and annotate YT vids; simple, but honestly hugely helpful.
Hara Kiri Covers: “In 1960, Georges Bernier and François Cavanna created the monthly satirical magazine Hara Kiri. The magazine, specifically the covers, are insane. Art directed by Fred Aristidès, it’s perverse, bizarre and still shocking fifty years on.” These are wonderfully horrible - the mag’s tagline (“A Cruel and Horrible Magazine”) is very much born out by the art direction here. Ad creatives, please add these to your lookbook in an attempt to move beyond the stultifyingly bland aesthetic currently dominating the print landscape thankyouverymuch.
Small Town Planet: The latest in Web Curios’ occasional series of Christmas gift suggestions, this is an Etsy store which sells a variety of phallically-themed pottery items (it’s not just cockpottery but it’s mostly cockpottery). Have you ever wanted to drop nearly £60 on an HR Giger-esque ceramic gun with a penile barrel? No, you probably haven’t, but I’d also wager you hadn’t even attempted to conceive of such a thing and now you’re oddly curious and not a little tempted. Go on. It’ll make a lovely addition to your grandmother’s sideboard and will go beautifully with the pottery balloon seller.
The 30 Best Web Games EVER: Fine, slightly hyperbolic, but I saw this list this week and was almost immediately transported back to my first ever real, proper, full-time, not-short-term-contract job, at Citigate Public Affairs where my boss was a man called Simon Nayyar who used to say things like “new money’s not old money, but it’s better than no money” with no apparent trace of irony, and who had his hand-made umbrellas professionally refurled by ‘a little man in Jermyn Street’, and where for over a year I did literally no work whatsoever as a result of having a desk which noone could overlook meaning I was able to spend my whole working life playing about 10 of the games on this list. MAN THOSE WERE GOOD TIMES. Although, on reflection, it’s somewhat depressing that that work ethic appears to have followed me around ever since. Still, these are all solid god timewasters and this is worth a click for the iconic ‘Helicopter’ game alone.
I Wanna Be With You: Finally this week, play this very short pseudo-game, feel warm and fuzzy, and then send it to someone you love. This is BEAUTIFUL and made me do a right emo - it may do the same to you, in the nicest possible way.
Irena Gajic: Ms Gajic is an architect and designer, and she is available for freelance work - her style is GORGEOUS, reminiscent of a certain style of 70s Central/Eastern European illustration which I’m sure has a name but which I can’t quite put my finger on. Regardless, this is some beautiful work.
Daily Yuru Karya: A Tumblr collecting examples of odd Japanese corporate mascots. My personal favourite is the anthropomorphised chili that is the mascot of the ‘Kyoto Spicy Shopping District’ (WHAT IS SPICY SHOPPING?!), but you will doubtless have your own.
Weird Mario Enemies: A collection of all the weird, obscure enemies in the Mario canon. Enjoyable not least because this has been going for a while now and you get the feeling the curator/author is struggling slightly to keep the game up.
100+ Fantastic Articles: The Atlantic’s annual collection of some of the best nonfiction writing of the past year - there are some GREAT reads in here, some of which you will have seen in this section already but most of which were totally new to me. SO MUCH great writing my personal pick of these (fine, I haven’t read alll of them, but still) is The Meth Lunches, which combines food writing with an unflinching portrayal of addiction and decay, but you’ll comfortably find at least a dozen or so pieces in here worth your time.
The Internet Of Garbage 1.5: Sarah Jeong wrote this a few years back; in the wake of her recent dragging by certain sections of the scum internet, she’s made the manuscript freely available online, along with a slightly adapted preface for 2018; what’s notable about this (I read it back on initial publication, but it bore a reskim) is the extent to which Jeong identifies and to an extent predicts the manner in which web discourse has been flattened and toxicified (is that a word? It’s a word, I’ve decided), and how that identification and prediction did absolutely nothing to protect her from the past month’s online hatemob. This is long (novella length) but a very good read indeed on the how of why we are where we are, webwise.
The Men Who Think Justice Takes As Long As They Want It To: A shortish piece reflecting on the Louis CK comeback gig this week - this doesn’t say anything that one would hope you haven’t already concluded yourself, namely that just going away for a bit and then coming back and pretending nothing happened isn’t really the best response to having been outed as a powerful man who, simply put, aggressively w4nks at women (can we just take a moment, again, to think about what sort of person does that?).
IGTV: Only of interest to those of you who have the musfortune to do s*c**l m*d** stuff professionally, or those who want to forge a career as a star of IGTV, this is a rather good breakdown of the platform’s first few months of existence, what’s working and what isn’t, and whether or not anyone cares that it exists (they don’t, really, but there’s no way in hell that Facebook is going to let this fail is the basic upshot, should you be feeling a little tl;dr about this one (but if you are then, really, you’re readin the wrong blognewsletterthingy)).
Logan Paul vs KSI: So, to the surprise of absolutely noone, the FIGHT OF THE CENTURY ended in a draw and a doubtless-even-more-lucrative rematch is on the cards! Huzzah! This piece looks at the circus surrounding the fight and what it tells us about how the web, and YouTube in particular, has affected society - it’s...not the most cheering of reads, it’s fair to say, but whilst it’s not the best-written thing you’ll read this week (sorry, but it really isn’t) it has one or two reasonably interesting things to say about the glorification of assholery that YouTube seems to promote.
The Madness Of The YouTuber: Sticking with the theme, this article looks at the little-examined oddity of the life of the professional YouTuber making the sort of content that your kids can’t get enough of - the unboxing vids, the slime, the escape rooms and the cardboard forts - and what it must be like to be locked into this very peculiar existence by The Algorithm, condemned to forever mug to camera for an invisible audience of 4 year olds. This sounds, I’m not going to lie, so incredibly, miserably bleak - I don’t care if you’re pulling down £300k in ad revenue, there is no way that it’s worth the very evident soultax these people are paying.
The Problem With ‘Hey Guys’: This very much sounds like the sort of hypermillennial snowflakey article designed to get the backs of the Mail and Telegraph readership up, but in actual fact is a sensible examination of how language can be exclusionary and normative in ways we don’t even think of, and why as part of that we really ought to retire ‘guys’ as a collective noun for groups of people. Except, and this is an important point, if you’re English there is literally NO other option - the article suggest’s ‘y’all’ as a viable alternative but that only works if you’re American and even then, frankly, unless you’re actually from the South sounds like you’re auditioning for some sort of weird antebellum TV show. Personally speaking, I have a lot of time for “you cnuts”, but it tends to be frowned upon in polite company.
Discovering You’re Autistic: I loved this piece, in which the author discusses her realisation that she might be on the autistic spectrum, arrived at as an adult after her own daughter was classified as being on the spectrum. The picture she paints, of being a child painfully out of sync with her peers and the world, is honestly heartbreaking; if you’re anything like me, you’ll read this and go straight to the Autistic Spectrum Test and screen yourself.
How Facebook Content Moderation Works: An odd piece, this - Motherboard got excellent and to my knowledge unprecedented access to the Facebook content moderation machine, which is great but leads to this piece reading ever so slightly like it had a whole lot of copy approval on the part of Zuckerberg and his Big Blue Misery Factory pals. It’s interesting to get the detail on how moderation works, and the discussions which inform policy, but it doesn’t give you any sense of the ethos underpinning many of the decisions made (in part, perhaps, because there isn’t such a thing as an ethos much beyond ‘let’s minimise our liability and maximise profit’).
The Women of Rolling Stone: Wonderful portrait of how Rolling Stone Magazine was transformed by a bunch of smart, ambitious and incredibly ballsy women in the mid-70s, disrupting the boys’ club mentality that had persisted prior to that point and opening the door for women into music journalism more widely. Full of great (and jaw-dropping, not for good reasons), anecdotes, not least the (entirely unsurprising) revelation that Hunter S Thompson was effectively propped up by a VERY forgiving editorial staff for much of his storied writing career - turns out noone can write properly after 4 grammes, a couple of blotters of acid and a litre of Maker’s Mark.
Village Food Factory: A profile of the people behind my absolute favourite (well, favourite non-ASMR) YouTube channel, Village Food Factory, where you can watch an old bloke in Tamil Nadu, India, cooking INSANE quantities of food (yes, I know that sounds like an incredibly crap watch, but I promise you that you are wrong and an idiot and that I am right and a connoisseur). This is short but utterly heartwarming, and I urge you to take a quick break from Curios to enjoy this 13 minute video of someone preparing a frankly massive prawn curry.
Meet The Hyperpolyglots: I occasionally feel a bit smug about being slightly multilingual, until I read stuff like this and realise that a) my mum’s foreign so basically I’m cheating; and b) I am a fcuking retard compared to people who are REALLY good at languages. This is a piece about the odd, slightly insular and mildly obsessive world of the hyperpolyglots, people who think nothing of switching between Aramaic and Sanskrit mid-sentence, and who decline irregular verbs in Attic Greek before breakfast. As with many profiles of the incredibly smart, this does rather paint its subjects as pointy-headed linguistowonks but, well, that’s exactly what they are. If you are yourself multilingual in any way this will both fascinate you and make you feel horribly, hugely inadequate.
Ridiculously Complex Algorithms: I didn’t expect to read this in the Times Literary Supplement, but the fact that it’s not in a tech or science journal probably contributes to its readability - this is a great, clear piece about something that’s really not very clear at all, namely how the algorithms that govern much of our life work. Except it’s not really about that at all, because, as the interview which runs through the piece shows, we don’t really know any more - it’s the best explanation I’ve yet read about how a concatenated series of discrete elements can, when strung together, rapdily attain a degree of complexity which makes them utterly inscrutable. Read it in conjunction with this equally good piece in which David Auerbach looks at his child through the prism of algorithmic, incremental ‘learning’; they’re both excellent, and complement each other rather well.
How Taiwan Crowdsources Its Laws: Or, rather, how Taiwan is trying to crowdsource its laws. This is a really interesting idea, and the piece does a decent job of explaining both the potential pros and the very considerable cons to such a system, along with the Taiwanese government’s uncertainty as to whether full rollout of such a system (effectively a moderated ‘discussion’ portal with upvotes and downvotes and threading, a bit like Reddit but with less hentai, where Taiwanese citizens can propose legislative solutions to specific questions) would in fact be a good idea.
Needles and the Damage Done: An examination of the coming New York trend for incredibly tall, incredibly thin buildings, and the broader meaning of said trend for the increased stratification of life in the metropolis - leaving aside certain location-specific indications in the piece, this could easily be all about London, and the idea of a degree of ‘vertical apartheid’ as espoused here is an interesting one. There’s a trope in cyberpunky scifi around the rich leading elevated lives in every sense of the word, enjoying clean air in their stratosphere-scraping glass (ivory) towers, and this very much speaks to that.
Memes As A Force For Good: On how memes are increasingly used as shorthand for emotional discourse, and how they are a surprisingly helpful means of communicating stuff that is traditionally quite hard to talk about - the rise of sincere memes speaking to anxiety and depression is a prime example of the memetic discourse evolving to encompass serious stuff.
Shower Business: A brilliant piece of writing about visiting an old school bath house in Beijing. Feels wonderfully, brilliantly foreign, and you can almost smell the damp fag smoke in the air as your tentatively tiptoe through the stoically sweating bodies.
How British Political Discourse Turned Toxic: This is a great article by Helen Lewis in the New Statesman, examining how and why we’ve reached a point whereby the seeming totality of political conversation in the UK involves people standing on either side of an imaginary divide shouting epithets at each other on Twitter, and whether or not there’s anything we can do about it. Lewis does an excellent job of rationally laying out the arguments, and is clear and convincing about why certain things in the media work as they do (the BBC’s platforming of Farage, for example). This doesn’t, sadly-but-predictably, offer any sort of solution whatsoever, but at least it does a reasonable job of explaining how and why everything is so fcuking shouty and awful.
The Presidential Letters: Charming portrait of Kolbie Bloom, who at 22 years old was the written voice of Barack Obama’s presidential letters and who had the not inconsiderable burden of transmitting the President’s voice to the 10 people a day whose letters were chosen to be answered by him. IMAGINE doing that at 22. Christ, I have achieved NOTHING.
Riz Ahmed: Regular readers will know I’ve been a fan of Ahmed’s for time - the video for his track ‘Flush’ was a favourite of Curios’ early days, and I’ve featured Swet Shop Boys here more than once - and this profile of him in the NYT is brilliant, as thoughtful and nuanced as he is. Hugely recommended, even if you normally have little truck with the celebrity profile.
Stephen Curry on Women’s Equality: I wouldn’t ordinarily include a piece by a sportsperson, but this essay by Steph Curry on equality and gender rights and all associated issues is one of the best articulations I’ve ever read by a man of why this stuff matters.
DFW on John McCain: Finally this week, the classic Foster Wallace essay about his experience on the campaign trail in 2000 with John McCain. Regardless of your opinion of McCain and his legacy, this is an astonishingly good piece of writing which will make you angry that more political journalism doesn’t read like this, and which is worth reading for his nickname for G W Bush alone. Stellar prose all the way through - this is honestly superb, and worth the 15 minutes of your time it takes.
By Tina Berning
3) I do rather love King Krule and his slightly monged-out vibe (he can put that on his next record and I won’t even charge for the endorsement). This track is called ‘Biscuit Town’ and the video fits the woozy noirish vibe of the song quite perfectly:
4) HIPHOP CORNER! This is by Reese LaFlare, and the video is genuinely woozy and unsettling in a manner which made me need a bit of a lie-down after watching it, which, though it may not sound like it, is an endorsement I promise:
5) Last up, UK HIPHOP CORNER! This kid is 13. 13! Mental. Enjoy, be impressed, and HAVE FUN AND TAKE CARE OF EACH OTHER AND YOURSELVES IT’S GOING TO BE A LOVELY WEEKEND AND YOU WILL HAVE A SPLENDID TIME, I PROMISE, AND EVERYTHING WILL BE LOVELY AND THE WEATHER WILL BE GOOD AND YOU WILL EMERGE ON THE OTHER SIDE REFRESHED AND WITH A STRONG CONVICTION THAT YOU ARE THE MASTER OF YOUR OWN DESTINY BECAUSE, WELL, YOU ARE, SO TAKE CARE i LOVE YOU I LOVE YOU BYE BYE BYE MWAH!: