What’s been YOUR favourite stupid this week? SO MUCH TO CHOOSE FROM! It’s nice of the powers that be to ensure that the ‘Brexit’ box set we’ve all been enjoying for the past couple of years doesn’t peter out towards its denouement – though does anyone else get the feeling that, muchlike in Lost, the scriptwriters aren’t entirely sure of how to wrap it up?
Anyway, whilst in the real world everyone has once again been a CRUSHING DISAPPOINTMENT, the virtual world continues to deliver – exactly what it’s delivering is, fine, perhaps a matter of conjecture, but nonetheless it keeps on churning ‘it’ out and I keep collecting it, like an increasingly weary chef continually skimming the ever-gathering scum from the everbubbling pot of murky stew and then feeding it in ladlefuls to the starving masses clamouring for the faintest scraps of infonourishment, the ghostly taste of entertainments past long since boiled beyond recognition.
Wow, that was unusually bleak, nonsensical and convoluted, even by my standards. I must be tired. OF COURSE I AM TIRED IT IS 2019 AND THE WORLD KEEPS HAPPENING AT ME AND I HAVE BEEN UP SINCE 6 AND TYPING SINCE 645 AND HONESTLY I THINK MY FINGERS MIGHT FALL OFF.
Anyway, it’s another Friday, this is another Web Curios, that was another week. Maybe the next will be better! TRY AND ENJOY WHAT FOLLOWS.
(NB – gentle occasional reminder that Imperica (the publisher, NOT ME, to be clear, I promise this isn’t me trying to monetise this thing aahahahahahaha oh god chance would be a fine thing) has a Patreon that you can contribute to if you think Curios is ok and you would like to say a small thank you and cover some of the website costs – be like the lovely, callipygian Matthew Laws, who unaccountably decided to hitch his wagon to our truck and offer financial assistance, and who I imagine hasn’t regretted it AT ALL since! Hi Matt! How are you? Are you in fact callipygian? Is it weird that I’m speculating about your buttocks in public? Ought I stop? This…this isn’t going to help with the Patreon, is it? Sorry Paul).
By Claire Boscher
THE SECTION WHICH IS GLAD THAT THAT NICE MR ZUCKERBERG HAS LAID THIS PESKY ‘PRIVACY’ STUFF TO REST ONCE AND FOR ALL:
- A New Privacy Focused Vision for Social Networking: I’m sure you all read this yesterday morning with your coffee and cereal, but on the offchance that you’ve somehow forgotten its SEISMIC IMPORTANCE since then, let me refresh your memory. Facebook is CHANGING! It’s going to be all about MESSAGING and ENCRYPTION and EPHEMERALITY instead of the neverending cavalcade of horrors of the newsfeed and the cacophonously stupid racism and sexism and hatred and cruelty displayed by all the billions of great unwashed in the grand public square that sits at the heart of the Big Blue Misery Factory! Or, er, is it? This is a classic bit of Zuckerbergese, in that it makes vague philosophical burblings and talks at length about stuff that’s already actually been announced without actually saying anything new – the actual meat of the statement can be summarised as a) all Facebook’s different properties will eventually be linked on a back-end level to enable seamless interplatform interaction (which we knew); b) everything will be end-to-end encrypted (which we knew); c) people are in the future are going to use Messaging products more than s*c**l m*d** features (well, yes); and, eventually, if you read between the lines, d) Facebook basically wants to be a fundamental infrastructural layer across everyone’s interpersonal digital interactions, social and financial, in the same was as WeChat in China. Anyway, this stuff is all a bit of a while away so, you know, IT DOESN’T ACTUALLY MATTER (nothing matters). If you want even MORE of Mark’s thrilling utterances, he also did an interview with WIRED in which he elaborates on all this (very) slightly; the piece makes the WeChat slightly clearer (or at least it does to me), but overall this is another masterclass in ‘if we make this really boring then noone will notice that we’ve basically disguised a massive land-grab for the future as a gesture of concern for the well-being of humanity’-style comms.
- Events Can Now Be Shared on Facebook Stories: For all those of you living and working in those parts of the world in which people in fact use Facebook Stories. When you visit the Page for an Event, you’ll now be able to share that to your Facebook Story, or add links to said Event as stickers. Excited? No! Of course not!
- Facebook Adds ‘Tribute’ Feature to Memorialised Accounts: The slightly weird and yet hugely useful Facebook feature whereby the accounts of the dead can be ‘memorialised’, keeping them active but locking them from being hacked or edited, effectively preserving them in digital amber, has been slightly updated. Now you can add a ‘Tributes’ to a memorialised Page: “Depending on a memorialized account’s privacy settings, friends can currently still post on its timeline, including in the comments of posts the person made before they died. If a memorialized account has a Tributes section, however, posts made after the day it was memorialized (which prevents anyone else from logging in) will be placed there.” Death and Facebook (and digital legacy) is still weird and alternately sad and quite creepy, and the cynical part of me (such a small part, so miniscule, like a tiny black gland dripping poison deep within my throat) does wonder whether this is another cynical ploy to up engagement rates (they wouldn’t) (they would).
- YouTube Rolling out Fact Checks: This is interesting. Starting in India, but one would presume set to become a global feature, YouTube will start offering fact-checking information from third-party sources when users search for topics that are “prone to misinformation” – so if you search for ‘vaccinations’, say, you might be faced with an external link suggesting that perhaps this whole autism thing is unscientific rubbish (before proceeding merrily down the horrorrabbithole of idiot parents shouting that THEY KNOW THEIR KIDS BEST DON’T YOU TELL ME HOW TO RAISE MY CHILD I’VE READ ABOUT THIS IT’S A BIG PHARMA CONSPIRACY). I don’t mean to be a downer about this – after all, it’s early on in this week’s Curios and there’s plenty of time for the misery to kick in later on – but I do rather wonder whether the best response to the sorts of mad conspiracy theories which are explicitly based on the fundamental belief that THEY DON’T WANT YOU TO KNOW THE TRUTH is to place big, official-looking signs everywhere saying “OFFICIAL: THIS IS NOT TRUE”. We’ll see.
- LinkedIn Expands Trending Section: It’s now even easier than ever to see what people are talking about most on LinkedIn, as the platform has just updated its trending content section so you can better observe the themes that are DRIVING THE CONVERSATION and ADJUST YOUR CONTENT STRATEGY accordingly. Except obviously this is all pointless as we all know that all people on LinkedIn talk about is themselves, how much they are CRUSHING IT, and whether Oleg is performance art (niche joke for the LI crowd there).
- Excel Photo Import: I ordinarily don’t cover MS Office updates because, in the main, I care even less about them than I do about this stuff, but I’ll make an exception here because this is SO useful. The Excel mobile app now lets you take a photo of any tabulated data and will then MAGICALLY turn that into an editable spreadsheet – this is wizardry.
- Bobcat Agogo: Other things I don’t ordinarily feature include ‘kooky ads from yesteryear’, but I will make an exception for this ad for Bobcat – a company which makes diggers and the like, and which in 1967 felt its best advertising strategy was to produce a short film featuring the twin dancing talents of a Mary Quant-wearing female dancer, looking a touch on the rumpled and lascivious side, and a man doing, er, rudimentary dancing in a bulldozer. 52 years was a very long time ago.
- Free Dominos: Brands interacting with each other in ‘humorous’ fashion is one of the things that most grinds my teeth about modern digital marketing – I look forward to meeting the person who invented the term ‘brandter’ in hell at some point in the future and ‘enjoying’ a couple of eternities with them – but occasionally I have to concede that it can be done well. Kudos to (presumably tiny) US pizza chain &Pizza for this excellent bit of gentle trolling at the expense of Domino’s, which recently launched one of its semi-regular digital gimmicks whereby app users could get reward points if they uploaded a photo of ANY pizza. Yes, mad as that sounds (and really, how did this ever sound like a good idea?), that’s how it works – except it doesn’t, as the internet rapidly discovered. The app’s image-recognition software seemingly recognises ANY pizza – photos, screengrabs from the internet, slightly crap kids’ drawings…so &Pizza set up this site, explaining the loophole and inviting the web to cost Domino’s actual cashmoney by exploiting it at scale. Really cute, though this being American advermarketingpr it will probably escalate towards some sort of sickeningly self-congratulatory Twitter brand love-in, with Wendy’s quoting Foucault and the official Oreo’s account livetweeting its own Salvia trip.
- All You Can Jet: This is, I am grudgingly forced to concede, really clever and I wish I had thought of it. Simple and effective giveway gimmick by US airline Jet Blue, which is offering the chance to win unlimited free flights for a year – the catch being that to enter, participants have to delete all the pics from their Insta feed and replace them with a single one which promotes Jet Blue and the contest as a whole. Bingo – instant visibility and (ugh) talkability and virality and stuff. I am annoyed by how neat this is.
By Anna Karenina
THE SECTION WHICH WONDERS WHETHER THERE ARE ANY POLITICIANS LEFT WHO CAN’T BE DESCRIBED AS EITHER RACIST, STUPID, INCOMPETENT, INSENSITIVE OR A HEADY COMBINATION OF ALL FOUR. PT.1:
- Leave A Message for Europe: Three weeks ahahahahahahahahahahahahaohgod. Still, don’t think about what’s ahead (is it a brick wall? Is it a cliff edge? WHO KNOWS, THE BLINDFOLD’S ON!), think about what we’re leaving behind! This is a piece of BREXIT ART, ladies and gentlemen, and not (to my mind) a particularly good or clever or imaginative one, but, still, it’s probably all we deserve. Leave A Message for Europe invites participants to…oh, look, you can work it out, can’t you? Here: “the artist will install a sculpture, inspired by a 90s phone box, on Dungeness beach. Located at UK’s most south-easterly point, the inactive phone box acts as a beacon. It is a nostalgic call to action – a reminder of the way we once communicated – with the nuance of the voice. Exposed to the elements, the sculpture also represents the UK, facing new challenges and an uncertain future. Visit the sculpture in person or view it streamed live here, 24-7, as it is altered daily by its environment – and as we count down to B-day.” The site offers anyone the opportunity to record a message about their feelings on the subject – it’s unclear what will happen to said messages, but I imagine they’ll be compiled in some way at the end of the piece’s lifespan. What would be better, though, were if the piece comprised a third element – a massive, barn-sized woofer SPEEKING ARE BRANES at those Europeans from the cliffs of Dover, spitting out the messages of farewell to a largely uncaring continent. Someone make that instead.
- Pictures of Paintings: Many years ago I was personally convinced that virtual art galleries were set to be the future, and that we’d all spend time at our computers navigating through the digitised corridors of imaginary spaces, looking at works collected from throughout time and space. I was wrong, obviously – it’s simply not a particularly great way to experience art, overall, and, weirdly, it’s not been improved drastically by free-moving VR-type stuff either. Nonetheless, I rather like this slightly throwbackish site (I think it’s someone’s hobby project, but I can’t immediately see who – sorry, nameless creator) – it presents a few collections of classic artworks, thematically arranged, in a classic gallery setting with fixed-point navigation; there’s some accompanying explanatory text, but in the main it’s a simple recreation of walking slowly round a gallery, except as if you’re in Myst. I think this guided viewing experience weirdly works better than free movement for this stuff, but see what you think.
- Cryptovoxels: “Cryptovoxels is a virtual world built on the ethereum block chain. The world has streets, that are owned by The Corporation, and properties, that are owned by individual people. If you have an ethereum wallet, you can buy a property. Property owners can build on their property. They can add and remove blocks (voxels), signs, posters and in the future, add 3d models for people to interact with.” Why? NO IDEA! However, if you want the slightly odd experience of wandering around a mostly empty 3d world built through people spending crypto on virtual building blocks – Minecraft, for HODLers, as far as I can understand – then, well, enjoy! Of all the crypto stuff I’ve seen this might honestly be the most baffling. The main link takes you straight into the 3d, but if you want to learn a bit more about it first then click here – I promise you it still makes no real sense, though.
- Women & The American Story: A wonderfully-curated website presenting a women’s history of the United States, designed for educators to shine a light on the diverse range of women who throughout America’s history have made significant contributions to the country’s evolution. Writers, entrepreneurs, artists, spanning the spectrum of race and gender, this is really well put together.
- Twimmage: The main reason I tend to tell clients not to bother with Instagram (other than the perennial favourite “look ffs you’re an industrial insurance provide what the fcuk do you think you’re doing?”) is that not everyone has access to all the AMAZING AND INSPIRATIONAL AND BEAUTIFUL AND FUNNY IMAGE-LED CONTENT the platform is famed for (and, yes, I know that there are other ways you can use the platform, but work with me here). Twimmage goes some way towards resolving that by letting you take any Tweet and turn it BY MAGIC into a beatiful…er…photo of a Tweet, specially formatted to pop on the Gram (as the kids have NEVER said). This is obviously a very silly idea indeed, but the fact that you can use anyone’s tweets makes it almost sort-of useful; there’s definitely a certain mood/aesthetic you can convey through populating your Insta with the very worst of Twitter presented on a slightly twee inspirational background.
- This Waifu Does Not Exist: Another week, ANOTHER website which throws up an infinite array of GAN-imagined somethings to amaze and delight. This time it’s an infinity of GAN-imagined anime faces, accompanied by a similarly-autogenerated plot summary of a nonexistent comic/cartoon series – these are, as ever, really impressive (except if you’re an illustrator who specialises in doing anime facial portraits, in which case you’re yet another person miserably staring down the barrel of an automated future in which you’re no longer required!), but, honestly, I find the online practice of referring to anime women as ‘waifus’ so horribly, creepily neckbeardy that it makes me shudder.
- The Iditarod: I am AMAZED that I have never featured this before! The Iditarod bills itself as ‘The Greatest Race on Earth’ and while I’m not really in any sort of position to judge (racing not really being my thing) it seems to have a pretty good claim. The Iditarod is a 1,000 mile race for man and dog across Alaska, with participants competing to reach the town of Nome, commemorating a trade route that has stretched across the country for centuries. The photos are the draw here – LOOK AT ALL THOSE GOOD BOYS! O RUFF! Also, some excellent sunsets and, overall, some superb use of the word ‘MUSH’.
- Bab: Are you unfortunate enough to know one of those people, usually on Facebook, who’s become involved in some sort of crappy pyramid-selling scheme and now spends all their time spamming their wall about ‘exciting business opportunities’ and ‘quick cash easy wins’? Would you like to become like them, but marginally more socially acceptable? Well have I got the app for YOU! Bab is BRAND NEW and is basically a shopping app with the gimmick that, as you browse, you can fire off what are effectively affiliate links to your friends and family and followers with the tap of a finger; for each sale attributed to you, you receive a 5% of the sale which you can either bank or send to charity. Except noone’s going to do the charity thing, are they? They’re just going to spend all day spamming their mates with messages like “think these earrings would look really good on you hun 100 emoji winky face dancing lady” in the hope that they’ll bite. Welcome to the future in which we have rendered the concept of ‘influence’ entirely meaningless through reductive overuse!
- Mingering Mike: I’ve always had a small obsession with outsider musicians – I remain fascinated by Jandek, a man who really ought to have had a proper big old documentary about him made by now – and this guy really is an outsider. Mingering Mike…oh, look, here: “Between 1968 and 1977 Mingering Mike recorded over fifty albums, managed thirty-five of his own record labels, and produced, directed and starred in nine of his own motion pictures. In 1972 alone he released fifteen LPs and over twenty singles, and his traveling revue played for sold out crowds the world over. How is it that such a prolific musician has gone under the radar for more than forty years? The answer is that all took place in Mike’s imagination, and in the vast collection of fake cardboard records and acapella home recordings that he made for himself as a teenager in Washington, D.C. in the late 1960s.” This website collects EVERYTHING – the artwork, recordings, essays about the man…another film waiting to be made, this. Oh, and the music is scratchy and fuzzy and so lofi as to be morelike the skeletons of songs than songs themselves, but they’re also weirdly compelling; I’ve been listening to this stuff all morning and it’s good.
- Taliami E Te Fazzu Pietra: Photography by Salvatore di Gregorio of sexworkers in (I think) Catania in Sicily; GREAT faces.
- Slave Voyages: A huge database collecting information on the slave trade worldwide, and presenting maps, stories and data on the movement of enslaved Africans. Intended for students primarily, it’s not the most user-friendly site in terms of navigation, but you can get to maps and timelines from the homepage – the maps in particular do an excellent job of communicating the scale of the enterprise, though the real depth comes in the ‘essays’ section should you want to explore it fully.
- Puns.dev: This website does nothing other than serve up bad puns about web development – refresh for new ones. These are all horrible, but will give you something to annoy the people in IT with next time they take three weeks to update your laptop and manage to brick it in the process.
- Camelot: Because I am terrible at BUSINESS it haven’t even occurred to me that there might be a market in supplementary service layers sitting atop streaming platforms (at least in the short-term); it seems there might be, though, with stuff like this. Camelot is a platform which streamers can set up atop their YouTube or Twitch channel through which their viewers can set ‘bounties’ – that is, things that they want the streamer to do, in exchange for donations. Streamers can then accept these bounties and get paid once they perform the activity in question, with the app taking 5% of the cash. This is just systematising the sort of reward-led donations that lots of streamers are doing already, but it’s a smart idea – there are obvious safeguards in place to stop the more obviously unpleasant sort of ‘bounty’ requests, and overall this is a small step towards the seemingly-inevitable future in which we’re all working piecemeal for each other all the time, monetising every single tiny interaction as we struggle to stay above water, our incomes whittled wafer-thin by transaction fees as these peppercorn sums flit fleetingly from bank account to bank account via FaceBucks (oh God that is actually going to happen isn’t it oh god).
- Codecoven: Do you remember when we were all going to learn to make websites and that would save the economy? AHAHAHAHAHAHA! Accepting the fact that front-end development is perhaps less of an attractive career proposition than perhaps it was a decade or so ago, there’s still obviously GREAT careers in serious, non-website-based coding, not least the games industry – Code Coven is a new online course, in sort-of beta at the moment, designed for women to develop their skills for working in game development. At the moment they’re looking for people to join their initial courses – these are going to be paid-for sessions, but at discount initially – so if you’re an ‘intermediate’ female gamedev looking to upskill then, well, here!
- The Disneyfication Map: As a street in Paris becomes the latest place to rail against the Instagrammers – THERE’S A SIMPLE SOLUTION JUST STOP PAINTING YOUR HOUSES IN THOSE TWEE PASTEL SHADES FFS – it seems a timely moment to share this map, which shows those countries who have the most tourists per capita. Weirdly, on this basis Iceland seems more affected by tourism than Italy, which doesn’t seem intuitively right, but if you’re looking for holiday destinations where you’re more likely to be in the minority as a tourist then this might be of some vague sort of use.
- Modulate AI: This is interesting – a sort of realtime deepfake for your voice. Modulate AI is a service that provides what it calls ‘voice skins’, so that it provides a live reinterpretation of your speaking voice as you talk. Which on the one hand might be a genuinely useful – if depressing – tool for women playing games online, say, who might want to have an evening off having tedious gags made at them about sandwiches; on the other, of course, this feels like it could take prank calling to an exciting and unpleasant new level. Which is it to be? A nice tool for reducing prejudice, or the birth of a new wave of Steve Penks? What do YOU think?
- The Big Hedgehog Map: Please help map the UK’s hedgehogs! FIND THE HEDGEHOGS! If you have the sort of small children who are all enthusiastic and outdoorsy and who might like spending the day looking for hedgehogs then this will be GREAT, though if they’re normal kids then they will totally prefer Fortnite and will not thank you for making them search the undergrowth for spiky mammals.
- On Time Every Time: A nice kinetic visualisation of the Amsterdam train network; each dot on the map represents a station, with trains moving between them as the day passes; there’s a nice visual trick here whereby the stations sort of ‘vibrate’ as the trains move through them, meaning the busiest ones have this sort of crazy kinetic representation of how much traffic passes through them. Practically I can see no use for this at all, but aesthetically it’s GREAT.
- Coburg Villas: Nice Imperica editor Paul has a thing where he occasionally searches through property listings for WEIRD STUFF. He found this 3d tour of Coburg Villas in Ilfracombe – it seems…unlikely to be the sort of thing that’s going to persuade anyone to shell out money, but gustibus nil disputandum and all that jazz. It’s worth clicking the ‘dollhouse’ button in the bottom left so you can see the full extent of the property, by the way, it is QUITE the thing.
- Moviesyncs: You know those people at university who you met once or twice and who were ALWAYS men and who were obsessed with the fact that if you started Dark Side of the Moon and The Wizard of Oz at exactly the sa…OH FFS JUST GO AWAY AND LET ME MISERABLY SMOKE WEED AND FAIL MY FIRST YEAR IN PEACE, I DO NOT CARE ABOUT THIS OR ABOUT STAR WARS? Yes, them. Anyway, if you are one of them, or if you know one, or if you would like to briefly experiment with becoming one, then this site might be of use – it presents an exhaustive list of all those movie syncing theories with explanations of what they MEAN. Apparently Definitely Maybe works with This is Spinal Tap, which sounds weirdly apposite tbh.
- All of Trump’s Gifts: The ones from 2017, at least. This is the official published list of gifts presented to the White House by foreign dignitaries that year – SO MUCH STUFF. Could we maybe ditch the gift-giving protocol when the recipient is a self-described billionaire? Does Melania really need all those handbags? Fair play to whoever it was who gave her a portrait of herself on mother of pearl, though – I feel you really got to the heart of the First Lady’s brand, there, lads.
By Philotheus Nisch
THE SECTION WHICH WONDERS WHETHER THERE ARE ANY POLITICIANS LEFT WHO CAN’T BE DESCRIBED AS EITHER RACIST, STUPID, INCOMPETENT, INSENSITIVE OR A HEADY COMBINATION OF ALL FOUR. PT.2:
- Sea Creature Bot: It’s a bot, on Twitter, which posts pictures of sea creatures. They’re good sea creatures, in the main, if occasionally a bit toothy.
- Can You Pet The Dog?: Another Twitter account, this time with the sole purpose of looking at dogs in videogames and informing you, the reader, whether you can in fact pet said dog in the game. Red Dead Redemption 2? You can very much pet the dog (though not the cats, which did puzzle me rather). GTAV? Not so much. Essential reading if ‘dog petting y/n’ is one of the main question in your ‘shall I buy this game?’ checklist.
- Lines: This is a truly beautiful artwork by Finnish artist Pekka Niittyvirta – they have installed LED lights in the village of Lochmaddy in the Outer Hebrides which rise and fall along with the tides and provide a stark evocation of the projected sea levels should climate change continue at its current and predicted pace. The contrast between the space and the sky and the light here is just beautiful, and the pictures really are haunting (and yes, I know it’s an overused and slightly crap word, but I promise it fits here).
- Libby: Annoyingly it’s incredibly unclear whether this is US only or international – I think it works outside the US, but apologies if I have this totally wrong. Anyway, Libby is an app which allows you to borrow books from the library straight onto your ‘phone – sign up with your library card and instead of having to go and pick up a title from the building, get it sent digitally to your device. SUCH a clever idea and a boon for people who maybe can’t get to a physical library with such ease. If this does turn out to be a US only thing, can someone let me know if there is a UK equivalent that I’ve somehow missed? PLEASE? Ok, fine, please yourselves.
- Wavelength: This has SEVEN HOURS LEFT at the time of writing on Kickstarter, so if you’re reading this after about 5pm GMT on 8 March 2019 then you are TOO LATE (but hello nonetheless, I still value your eyeballs) – still, it’s funded 10x already so you’ll be able to get hold of it eventually regardless. Wavelength is a really interesting-sounding party game – it’s quite hard to explain, so I’d advise you to read the description, but it’s the sort of thing that sounds like it would end up being a lovely shouty messy evening and which doesn’t rely on the sort of cheap laughs that CAH does.
- Postmake: This is CRIMINALLY dull, sorry, but equally the sort of thing that might end up being really useful – you want a bunch of online project management tools and software all organised into one place, most of which are free? GREAT!
- Trestle: This is an interesting idea – Trestle is an online shopping app, but one whose gimmick is that all the sellers have been vetted for their ethical standards; so the theory is that you won’t feel morally compromised by the knowledge that your £3 all-in-one party outfit was stitched by a blind child on the 22nd hour of their shift in a sweatshop somewhere (at that price point, well, WHO COULD HAVE KNOWN??). Obviously a service like this stands and falls on the quality of the suppliers, as well as the price point, but if you’re rich enough not to have to worry about paying a premium for ‘ethical’ goods then you might want to take a look at this. Ah, the future – an age in which morality is the preserve of the wealthy!
and, actually, now I’ve written that down it does all sound VERY dodgy but I promise you that I know Rina in real life and I’m pretty sure she’s not a murderer and even if she is she’s only about 4’9″ tall and you can probably overpower her should she get stabby.
- Language Learning with Netflix: A Chrome extension which lets you watch anything on Netflix in the original language, with accompanying subtitles in your own language (and the original too) so as to help you learn while you watch. Simple, clever, and potentially hugely useful – the sort of thing that in a way means that you can actually justify leaving your child in front of a whole day’s worth of crap cartoons because ACTUALLY they are learning Mandarin and you are being a really good parent and you DESERVED that wine stop shouting Karen.
- The Smithsonian Photograph of the Year 2018: IT’S BEEN 2019 FOR THREE MONTHS FFS SMITHSONIAN PULL YOUR FINGERS OUT. Tardiness aside, though, these are typically beautiful and span a range of categories including examples of digital manipulation and images shot on mobile. My favourite’s the Italians at the funeral; what’s yours?
- Sold From Under You: In case the spectacle of our elected representatives spending yet another week demonstrating their fundamental dreadfulness wasn’t enough of a reason to be angry with politics this week, why not get stuck into this excellent piece of investigative work by The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, which maps some 12,000 pieces of land and property which have been sold off by councils across the UK as a result of the austerity measures which have crippled local government over the past decade but which can IN NO WAY be blamed for or indeed linked to the parallel rise in disenfranchisement and violent crime amongst the young in some of the most marginalised communities, OH NO SIREE! “The Bureau of Investigative Journalism has…used this data to map for the first time the community spaces that have been lost across the country, in a searchable resource that anyone can use. Our investigation also looked at what councils have done with the money made from selling assets. Some have used the proceeds to fund hundreds of redundancies.” This will make you furious, and not in an enjoyable or even particularly cathartic way, just fyi.
- City Icons of the World: Free vector icons representing a sizeable chunk of the world’s cities, should you find such a thing desirable or useful.
- The Past Is The Future: A wonderful selection of pictures of musicians of the now, drawn as though they were musicians of the 80s and being depicted in semi-cartoon fashion on a cassette-tape compilation you might have seen in Our Price after school one day. Featuring Rita Ora (a woman who I can honestly say I see in the free paper EVERY DAY and yet whose music I have never, ever knowingly heard), Drake, DJ Khaled, Bieber and, weirdly and creepily, Chris Brown, these are really very good indeed – Drake-as-Lioned-Richiealike is particularly great.
- Rambalac: You remember the Slow TV movement from a few years back, which championed such things as 9-hour long first person train journeys through the Swiss alsp? Well this is a bit like that, but Japanese and on YouTube – Rambalac is a channel which presents videos which show a first-person view of someone walking slowly and silently through Japanese streets, some urban, some rural, in different types of weather. Really rather lovely, though obviously NOTHING happens other than the occasional car.
- Spritestack: A 3d pixel art editor, in case you want to make voxel-style sprites for use in whatever game or digital art thingy you might be making. Or, you know, just to design a slightly blocky 3d penis instead of writing that email. You know you want to.
- Spotify Editor: This may well be very useful to those of you with a slavish devotion to compiling Spotify playlists – this site lets you easily categorise, sort, edit and prune them, in a manner far more intuitive than Spotify’s own (to my mind) slightly iffy UI.
- Leave Me Alone: I am wary of presenting stuff like this to you, gentle reader, lest you start GETTING IDEAS – still, in the spirit of utility and safe in the knowledge that you would NEVER leave me (would you?), here’s Leave Me Alone, a service that you plug into your inbox and which will find all the emails you’ve subscribed to over a given period, giving you the opportunity to quickly and easily unsub from them en masse; for a full 6-month scrape they’ll charge an $8 fee, which might sound steep but then means that they don’t have to sell your data back to the email bastards to keep going. DITCH ALL THE OTHER NEWSLETTERS AND KEEP ME!
- The Boat: The best storytelling site I’ve seen so far this year, hands-down – desktop only, I’m afraid (or at least significantly better on desktop) – The Boat is by SBS in Australia and is a brilliantly told story of immigration into the country after the Vietnam war. Honestly, this is SO GOOD – one of the best attempts at a digital comic book I’ve ever seen, with wonderful audio and really nicely done textual effects to give a degree of kinetic urgency to the narrative (/pseud). Really beautifully made – hats off to the team behind it, this is gorgeous.
- Speed Demon: This, though, is literally just a top-down scrolling shooter – switch between 4 lanes, shoot demons, avoid obstacles, try not to die. This is FUN and has a very real ‘one more go’ feel to it.
- Monocube: Finally this week, another game – this time a slow, methodical block-moving puzzler, which slowly builds to become very satisfying and very complex, and which involves attempting to navigate a small cube through a maze and which you can probably play in a really small window on one side of your monitor so that you can still pretend to be looking at Excel or whatever boring, pointless task you’re pretending to care about today in exchange for food tokens.
By Kelly Beeman
THE (ONCE AGAIN SADLY TUMBLEWEEDY) CIRCUS OF TUMBLRS!:
- Thicc Tech: Lovely chunky devices for you to drool over if that’s your thing.
THE TROUGH OF (INSTA) FEEDS!:
- Halston Blake: Halston Blake doesn’t exist yet, but they already have an Insta account and a logo, because Halston Blake is the foetal progeny of some INFLUENCER or another in the states and said INFLUENCER hasn’t been shy about exploring the early monetisation potential of their unborn child. Before you slag the parents, it’s worth noting that the account of this yet-to-be-spawned kid has garnered 150k followers in the week or so since it’s been live – THIS IS OUR FAULT. WE ARE FEEDING THIS. Special shout out to all those US lawyers currently working to ensure that they’re first in the queue for the inaugural ‘child sues parents for use of their image rights to accrue income from sponsored posts on Insta’ case coming down the line in about 2025!
- Dildos on Photos: It’s not sophisticated, fine, but it is quite funny.
- For Dark Skin Girls: “A positive platform for black women. Interviews, news, memes, reposts, conversations, vids and cute sht!”
- Tiny Little Dioramas: Miniature scenes of violent death in largely suburban settings. Like Jake and Dinos Chapman by way of Margate.
- Damselfrau: Amazing weird masks that for some reason remind me really strongly of the Greek Orthodox priesthood.
LONG THINGS WHICH ARE LONG!:
- Britain and Austerity Socialism: Really interesting look at the rise of the Momentum Left (sorry, appreciate that that’s probably a very un-nuanced way of referring to young socialists in the UK but, well, honestly the tedious ‘Judean People’s Front’-type nomenclature stuff is one of the main reasons I have always been massively put off engaging with party politics) in the UK in the New York Times, which is in part an interesting outsiders’ perspective and, equally, in part reads like the author’s been slightly taken for a ride by a few of the people involved. Not quite sure – what do YOU think? The description of Wetherspoons as a ‘British restaurant chain’ was quite special too.
- The Surveillance Economy: Or, “why Facebook and Google won’t change’ – this is particulary interesting in the light of Zuckerberg’s privacy Damascus yesterday, not least as it gives a reasonable explanation why on balance it won’t really mean very much at all. Surveillance capitalism, the now-accepted term for the data-based economy born out of the tracking of our wants and movements and dreams and contacts and EVERYTHING for commercial gain, isn’t going to stop – it might shift, fine, it might take different forms, but there’s no reason they are going to stop making money out of data because that is what they are for. It’s worth reading this and then going back to the Zuckerberg/WIRED interview right back up the top – all the stuff about encryption ‘not necessarily being a barrier to advertising’ makes more sense, eh?
- Status as a Service: This is VERY long, so be warned, but it’s hugely interesting and very engaging, and made me think quite a lot. This is by Eugene Wei, a very smart person who’s had a lot of quite big jobs, and has obviously thought a LOT about the web and how things on it work. This is about status and the idea of social capital, how social networks operate, and how they use social capital as both a hook and a retention mechanism. You don’t have to agree with it all to find it interesting – I was talking with Jay Owens about this who had some interesting counterarguments to a lot of Wei’s points (to whit (hope you don’t mind me quoting you here btw) “Any social network too strongly geared towards status-competition will fail, because 50% of people are always below average and people don’t like failing”) – but it will, I promise, make you think a bit more closely about why and how network models thrive or die (but, you know, more interestingly than that).
- Men Are Scum: Or, what it’s like to be a part of the team that determines what it is and isn’t OK to say on Facebook – or, if you want to position it another way, what it’s like to have a very real and significant role in shaping what is going to be considered to be the prevalent standard applied to online discourse for the majority of the world. Which, when you put it like that, is quite a big deal. This is a profile of Monika Bickert, and others, who head up Facebook’s attempts to codify and systematise what can and cannot be said on the platform, and of then ensuring it can be applied and enforced equitably across the site’s 2bn users. There are many reasons I would not be qualified to do this sort of job, but it’s one of the few I can think of where having two degrees in philosophy might be some sort of help rather than a massive hindrance as it appears to be in every other role I’ve ever had.
- Inside the Lives of the Child Insta Stars: A companion piece of sorts to that Kidfluencer insta account up there, this is less about the kids (who, let’s be clear, are FCUKING CHILDREN and therefore unlikely to have a particularly nuanced perspective on the fact that their parents are pimping out their image for those sweet, sweet brand dollars) and more about the parents who are facilitating (read: driving, hard) all this exciting stuff. This is less horrifying than these pieces tend to be, with no obviously dreadful parents on display, but looking at the photos here it’s impossible for me not to feel a bit uncomfortable about the fact that these people are basically making their kids dress up for the enjoyment of strangers around the world so as to earn (quite a lot of) money off the back of it. Perhaps it’s all the Jackson stuff about this week, but it doesn’t really feel hugely ok to me.
- American Socialists: Yes, it’s fair to say that ‘socialism’ is very much having its moment in the American media spotlight thanks to AOC – this NY Mag piece is deliciously catty, cocking a snook at the Brooklyn hipster socialists, a subspecies committed to activism but also really, really committed to a strong lumberjack aesthetic and some sooty needle tattoo work. Contains this reported quote from one featured kid which, fine, is mean and snarky but is too beautiful not to share: “Everybody looks fckin’ sexy as hell,” shouted Cunningham, NYC-DSA’s co-chair. “This is amazing to have everybody here looking beautiful in the same room, spreading the message of socialism. Give yourselves a round of applause.” Now, there’s no reason on earth why these people shouldn’t look sexy as hell – after all, nothing’s too good for the proletariat, Comrade – but, well, HA. Still, better this than Tories, eh?
- Top Songs: This is the third year that the NYT has done this now – its annual selection of 25 songs that define THE NOW, with accompanying essays on each. This is SUCH a good ‘state of the Western world’ piece as seen through the prism of music – not all the tracks they pick are brand new, but each of them speaks to a particular aspect of 2019 and the accompanying writing is REALLY good and covers a brilliant range of topics; worth clicking for the analysis of all the many, many people with a writing credit on ‘Sicko Mode’.
- The WWF Story: It never feels nice sharing links to reports about ostensibly good organisations doing bad things – the Buzzfeed story about WWF funding murder squads and militias, though, is astonishing and really worth reading in full as a reminder that investigative journalism is powerful and important and needs funding and is HARD. This is such impressive work, if a depressing reminder that massive organisations will often be really, really ropey when observed up close.
- How To Make Dope Sh1t: Thanks to Curios reader Soph (half of ad duo Rohit & Soph) for sending this in – perennial Curios favourites The Pudding have produced a series of guides on, er, how to make ‘dope sh1t’, of which this is the second part, on design. If you’ve any interest at all in visual design online, particularly as regards infoviz-type stuff, this is a must-read, particularly given it’s written by some of the best practitioners in the business right now.
- Why Straight Men Are Joining Masturbation Clubs: I mean, are we? Why…why has noone asked me yet? Are you all happily stroking your firmness in merry communal fashion and excluding me? CHRIST. I have to confess that I don’t think that this is really a thing – it does feel very much like a classic case of ‘two Craiglists posts equals A TREND!’ – but nonetheless it’s quite an interesting article touching on (sorry) why ostensibly straight men might now feel more comfortable and relaxed masturbating in front of other men (we are moving beyond an age of toxic masculinity, apparently, and we are detoxifying it by ejaculating together).
- Pokemon London: There was another trailer released recently for that weird and creepy lookink live-action Pokemon film starring Ryan Reynolds, and it turns out that loads of the film is set in London; this is a far-more-detailed-than-necessary look at all the shots of the city used in the video, analysis of how they’ve been manipulated, and a lot of idle speculation as to whether they’re going to turn the Tfl roundel into a Pokeball at some point (they are, obviously). Is it me, by the way, or does all the non-Pikachu CG work in this look desperately shonky? Did they spend all the money on his luxuriant golden hairs?
- Women Painters Overlooked by Art History: The Google Art Project presents profiles of 14 female artists who had previously gone unrecognised by the art establishment but who are now receiving their dues; my personal favourite is Suzanne Valadon, but pick your own.
- Leaving Neverland: You will, of course, have your own opinion about the Michael Jackson documentary and what it does to your memory of the artist and the legacy of his work; it’s quite hard to look at this stuff and not think ‘hm, yes, looks like you’re bang to rights there, Jacko, and wow doesn’t that make a lot of stuff from the early 90s look pretty bleak in retrospect’. This piece is by Wesley James, who had previously defended Jackson against allegations and who now says he has changed his mind – this line struck me and stayed with me, and gives you a sense of the style of the piece overall: “I’m staring at the coat rack looking for somewhere to suspend more disbelief, and there’s no more room. I have to hold this.”
- Face Tattoos, Soundcloud Rap and Bieber: An exploration of that most modern of phenomena, the face tattoo. I once went to Arsenal to see Chelsea lose to them in a cup a decade or so ago at Highbury; the man in front of me had “GOONER” in gothic script across the back of his (very thick, very pink) neck and, when he turned round to celebrate Arsenal’s second and I tried to pretend to be happy rather than miserable and terrified, an accompanying 2-inch picture of the Arsenal cannon across his left cheek, which I always thought was an incredibly brave commitment to staying within a very, very specific area of North London for the rest of your life.
- Fight the Ship: Thanks to Katie for sending me this – if you like thrillers or the sort of mid-90s action movie that might have starred Denzel Washington or Sean Connery then you will absolutely LOVE this, which feels like it might start a Wahlberg were it ever filmed. It’s all about a US Naval warship disaster and the struggle to save both the ships and the lives of those aboard, and whilst the writing’s not stellar it makes up for that with tension and pacing; this is properly cinematic.
- Pac Man – How We Played: An essay born out of a charming little detail – when you examine old Pac Man arcade cabinets, you’ll notice that they all exhibit the same pattern of wear made from players universally using their left hands to steady themselves against the cabinet’s architecture. I love these things, when small details tell you about how people used an object and how that in turn defines elements of the space within which said objects existed (again /pseud).
- Bate Bola: It’s carnival in Brazil! Another year, another procession of terrifyingly-full silicon extremities and extravagant headdresses! There is, though, another side to the Rio celebrations, in the shape of Bate Bola, a sort of people’s carnival which takes place in the suburbs of Rio and is the more gritty alternative to the mass-participation spectacle in the city’s centre. This tells you the history of the festival, shows you the costumes and gives you a feel for the way it intersects with the gangs which dominate much of Rio’s poor districts. Fascinating, and something I’d never heard of before.
- Nick Kyrgios: Tennis players are famously boring. Andy Murray’s ability to occasionally use sarcasm and irony, and the fact he’s Scottish, combine to make him DANGEROUSLY personable by the standards of the ATP tour, and Stefan Edberg was once described by other pros as a man so dull that they honestly believed one of his hobbies was ‘staring at walls’. Which makes Aussie enfant terrible Nick Kyrgios such a guilty pleasure – he’s been around for ages, being a prick, but he won a tournament the other day which prompted this piece about how he’s such an insufferable tool. This is HUGELY satisfying to read, and contained at least one sentence of which I was very, very jealous.
- Travels in Pornland: An essay in Granta in which Andrea Stewart remembers her experiences of pornography and her work in feminist publishing, and examines the idea of ‘feminist porn’ as a concept; this is really interesting on how and if porn can ever be said to be a feminist experiences (she doesn’t, unsurprisingly, solve that one) and whether it will always be an inherently male-owned domain. Really good writing.
- Unnameable Things: SO BEAUTIFUL. About butterflies and the Troubles, two subjects that oughtn’t work in tandem except here they really do. By Kerri ní Dochartaigh, who really is a very talented writer indeed. This really is very good, and I can’t recommend it highly enough.
- The Greeter: Finally this week, a short piece of fiction by T Kira Madden about a teenager, her mother, her mother’s addiction, adolescence, secrets and sex and all the rest. Even better than the last piece, and I don’t say that lightly. If you only read two things in the longreads this week, make it these last two.
By Chloe Wise
AND NOW, MOVING PICTURES AND SOUNDS!:
1) I..I don’t understand this AT ALL. Is this from someone’s Twitch stream? What is happening? IS THIS WHAT THE CHILDREN LIKE THESE DAYS?? I don’t expect any of you will watch all 20m of this, but it’s worth scrubbing through at random as it gets VERY weird indeed:
5) UK HIPHOP CORNER! Curios favourite Elro is back with another freestyle on JDZ – he’s got an EP out soon and he’s been off the booze a bit and this is GOOD; some of the wordplay on here is very sharp, and fair play to him for sticking at this through what I get the impression has been a bit of a tricky few years:
7) Last up this week, 17m of short film that I really would urge you to watch. Do it on your phone, and get a screen’s-eye view of a day in the life of an average white teenage boy. It’s not particularly comfortable viewing, and if you’ve got teen kids yourself then it’s liable to make you simultaneously really want to know lots more about their secret digital life and really not know – regardless, though, as a piece of mobile-first, vertically-shot storytelling (sorry) this really is excellent and it is an excellent way to round out this week’s MASSIVE selection of links and a great point for me to say BYE I LOVE YOU BYE BYE BYE HAVE FUN TAKE CARE AND STAY SAFE AND HAVE A GOOD REST OF THE DAY AND A NICE WEEKEND AND A GOOD WEEK AND IT WON’T BE LONG UNTIL IT’S FRIDAY AGAIN SO BASICALLY LET’S JUST THINK OF THE REST OF THE YEAR AS A LONG SUCCESSION OF WEEKENDS STRETCHING OUT AHEAD OF US AND MAYBE THAT WILL MAKE IT ALL EASIER TO BEAR ANYWAY I PROBABLY OUGHT TO GET ON SO BYE TAKE CARE BYE I LOVE YOU BYE!: