Friday Reading Will Always Eat Big Dinners S10E13

Friday Reading is a weekly series of recommended reads from the Guardian’s Martin Belam, covering journalism, media and technology, and other interesting nerdy things. It is also available as an email newsletter and will always eat big dinners. Sign up here.

It’s the hope that kills you, they say. It gets under your skin, burrows right down into you and then enters into the bone marrow. It’s like a cancer of our own choosing: once we have allowed one cell to be infected, it will multiply and multiply, all while your body fails to recognise it as a foreign object and simply accepts it as one of its own. Once it’s in the system, that’s it; it’s as much a part of you as you are. Encoded into your RNA, nestled in your gut, running up and down your backbone.

The Tenacity of Hope – Nat Guest.

Brand after brand after brand leaves eerily similar comments on my Instagram feed, asking that I DM them to ‘collab.’

What did these spam brands actually want? Surely it wasn’t actually to collaborate. Why did they often comment and ask me to DM a second, bigger account? I wasn’t sure. And how on earth were they finding me and my content? What was their strategy?

I decided to look further into three brands that I received this mysterious DM from.

What happens when you actually DM a ‘DM to Collab’ Instagram scammer – Zulie Rane.

Why, yes, you can register an XSS attack as a UK company name. How do we know that? Someone actually did it.

In mid-October I asked two people I’d never met to give me their Facebook account passwords for three weeks leading up to and after Election Day. I wanted to immerse myself in the feeds of a type of person who has become a trope of sorts in our national discussion about politics and disinformation: baby boomers with an attachment to polarizing social media.

What Facebook fed the Baby Boomers – Charlie Warzel, New York Times

Heather Graham writes about covering the coronavirus pandemic as a science reporter and it is full of useful tips and advice for journalists and also quotes the Guardian’s Hannah Devlin:

The Department of Health, [for example], I find really difficult to get the most factual information out of. I do think the approach has been to not be transparent about things and to deliberately not respond to factual queries sometimes and just respond after a story has gone. We’ve seen that quite a lot and I don’t see that as a constructive way to work together.

This is grim:

“The only time his wishes were heard was when he was cradled in the fireman’s arms,” Ms Throssell said. “He said, ‘my daddy did this – he did it on purpose’. I can only now, six years on, imagine what that fireman felt and still feels now.

Mother’s fight for justice over boys who were murdered by their abusive father in tragic house fire


Yet, despite the internet’s undeniably central role in how people learn, talk about, and connect over suicidality, we’re still lacking basic information about the everyday influence of the internet on suicide vulnerability. We don’t know enough about what people look for online and why. We don’t know whether what they find—on purpose or accidentally—can impact their decision-making in meaningful ways, or if it simply reinforces decisions that were made beforehand. We know that having access to guns, or other lethal means by which to die, dramatically increases suicide risk. But we can’t yet quantify the exact risk of having access to information about methods online.

This is a really grim read. “People are dying after joining a ‘Pro-Choice’ suicide forum. How much is the site to blame?” – Shayla Love, Vice

ALSO THANKS TO THE INTERNET: This salon owner racking up fine after fine for insisting she doesn’t have to close her salon under Covid restrictions because of some claws in a magic carpet some clause in Magna Carta. She’s basically gonna run her business into the ground because she’s read too much ‘Freeman of the land common law’ bullshit in Facebook memes.

This is actually really interesting and all that, but of course you can’t help coming away thinking well OBVIOUSLY 1970s tech bros would have used a picture from Playboy as the reference image on which to base compression algorithms.

Finding Lena, the Patron Saint of JPEGs – Linda Kinstler

For someone who likes a quiet pint in an old man pub while noodling on my laptop or reading a magazine or book, opening pubs in Tier 2 but you have to be eating a substantial meal is bobbins. Me at 9:55pm: “Can I have three pints please. And … three more burgers I guess?”

As you know thanks to being immersed in all things US politics at the moment for work, I keep having to read lots of stuff about American history and these two things caught my eye this week. First of all: how it came to be that US presidents pardon a turkey. The quick answer is because they kept getting sent turkeys as gifts and then it became a PR opportunity for the poultry industry and then one day George H W Bush blurted out he was gonna give one a presidential pardon. Mad that the pardoning bit appears to have started within living memory. I figured it was some 180 year old tradition or whatnot.

This is a rather more serious look at Thanksgiving this year from Time magazine:

When Paula Peters was in second grade in Philadelphia in the mid-1960s, listening to a teacher talk about Plymouth colony and the Mayflower, a student asked what happened to the Native Americans who helped the Pilgrims settle, the Wampanoag. The teacher said they were all dead.

“When she mentioned we’re all dead, that was devastating,” Peters, 61, recalled to TIME. “I raised my hand, and I said no that’s not true, I’m a Wampanoag, and I’m still here. I didn’t know enough then as a second grader that I could challenge her, but I think that I’ve challenged that second-grade teacher ever since. Part of my everyday being is telling people that we’re still here.”

400 years after the ‘First Thanksgiving,’ the tribe that fed the pilgrims continues to fight for its land amid another epidemic

I do find it odd that we are seeing a higher number of daily Covid deaths in the UK than at any time since May, and so the government have decided now is the right time to open up football grounds for the first time since March… 🤔

An 82-year old tube roundel still in its original design has been restored outside Uxbridge tube station.

Never read the cow site.

I’ve got an article coming up in the next issues of InPublishing magazine which I believe you can sign up to get sent a copy here. It’s a B2B title about publishing in the UK, if you are into that sort of thing.

Someone has invented an online Sigil engine.

MATT ROUND SAYS: 🍩 Another call for WEIRD NONSENSE. If there’s some stupid creative thing you’d like to do, I will consider paying you a small budget to do it for the vole site. NO IDEA TOO DAFT

This lot did video game archaeology on the source code of Monkey Island and found loads of hidden gems.

These cryptid currencies are produced by a GAN trained on approximately 5000 banknotes from across the world. A cryptid is an animal that exists in folklore, but has yet to be scientifically proven to exist – think Bigfoot or the chupacabra. In this case, my cryptid currencies are mythical tokens of value, tied to the still-emerging system of cryptocurrencies.

Cryptid Currencies – Shardcore. AI generated bank note designs that look hauntingly real and completely fucked up.

The best Duran Duran album there never quite was: 35 today – The story of Arcadia’s So Red The Rose – In their own words.

What I find interesting about this story is that, from my research perspective, it really shows the power and influence that these music recommendation systems have. But it is also extremely difficult to know how these systems work, and I think the only people who can answer that would be the engineers working at these companies, like Spotify. We’re not even sure if these people could answer why or how a recommendation system works as well, because they’re usually pretty complex things we’re dealing with here.

Why Is The Obscure B-Side “Harness Your Hopes” Pavement’s Top Song On Spotify? It’s Complicated – Nate Rogers, Stereogum. Genuinely worth reading this one right through to the end.

Not sure I quite get the point of this but a huge group of musicians are trying to recreate the methodology of how Talk Talk made Laughing Stock: Coming from Laughing Stock – A Musigraphical Research

I can’t really describe this. It’s some sort of Bollywood routine loosely based on a re-write of Toni Basil’s “Hey Mickey!” (or maybe that happened the other way round, I don’t know the date this was made) but in any case, it is the psychedelic animal puppets taking part in the dance which catch the eyes. It’s full on.

You don’t have to be a Doctor Who fan for this because it is just interesting in and of itself in terms of preparing archive TV material for modern release. Paul Scoones talks about how he set about writing new supplementary information text for the Doctor Who story Battlefield for its recent Blu-Ray release.

It’s the first time for ages that I don’t have any specific m-orchestra thing to promote, but you can re-watch my Whoniversary show here, featuring loads of my tracks about ghosts and the paranormal, but each of them has some kind of Doctor Who reference hidden within them. Spooky in Time/Space!

One of my friends has made a video full of cursed witchy goodness: A Witch’s Curse by sliderulesyou