Downtime


April 11, 2019  3:08 PM

Black holes and ejaculations

Ryan Priest Ryan Priest Profile: Ryan Priest

There’s a bookshop located in Old Street Station near our office where we can sometimes be found nonchalantly perusing the blurbs of various works of literature during our lunch break.

The other day, we gave the back of Steven Pinker’s Enlightenment Now the once-over, but quickly put it back down. In a nutshell, the book argues that we humans don’t give ourselves enough of a pat on the back. And something about prioritising that over all the books reminding us of the things we still need to get right felt a bit brazen. Let’s face it, we’re mostly feckless, destructive, infantile clowns. We don’t need a lecture on how to rest on our laurels.

But something happened on 10 April that made us think of that book again. The sublime work of the likes of computer scientist Katie Bouman while the rest of us continued to dick around was rewarded with our first ever photo of a black hole, and it felt like a moment to reflect on just how clever us silly little sods can be when we turn away from lewd memes and take something seriously.

Seeing these passionate researchers’ dedication to learning more about our universe and their tearful pride in this beautiful, groundbreaking achievement nourishes us with tangible hope for all of our souls, does it not? Oh, forget it, then. Look how much the black hole resembles this Chinese sperm extraction robot.

April 4, 2019  9:57 AM

Remembering Google+

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We remember Google not letting us comment on a YouTube video until we signed up to its barren and now extinct social media platform like it was yesterday, if only in the sense that it’s one of the last memories we have of it.

It meaning nothing to almost everyone is a hallmark that makes laying Google+ to rest quite uniquely painless. If it were a person, you’d only see a sprinkling of relatives at its funeral. You’d stare down blankly at the order of service as the vicar routinely summarised its life, which would in this case involve a lament that 90% of people’s interactions with it lasted less than five seconds.

It actually takes some doing for something to make such a small impact out of the traditionally radical act of ceasing to exist. Even the recent loss of data on MySpace caused some disturbance – but, then again, that’s where many of us cut our social media teeth. Our first love. Maybe we had it in our heads we’d go back to it one day, and now it’s thrown out all our old Kate Nash singles.

But very few will miss Google+. You could feel its lonely presence even if you never went there. A cyber equivalent of latter-day Blockbuster branches; echoing spaces of tiled carpets and tiled ceilings that played host to an energy borrowed from purgatory. URL or IRL, four seconds is all some places need to send you into total existential collapse.


March 28, 2019  11:53 AM

Leave memes leave

Ryan Priest Ryan Priest Profile: Ryan Priest

Everyone knows about the European Union’s famous Article 50 by now, but what do all the other ones do? It’s like being invited into the cockpit of a Boeing 747 and only pressing one random button. Let’s have a go on another button. What happens if we press, say, Article 13? No more memes. Oh dear.

The European Parliament has now voted in several internet copyright laws that throw the future of some of our most cherished online content into the wilderness, but before you look for a yellow vest and start retweeting Julia Hartley-Brewer, those twinkly-eyed Brussels babes have given memes and GIFs a last-minute reprieve.

So don’t worry yourself too much about all this legislative nonsense. We know you like your memes and GIFs, and sometimes even mutter to yourself you don’t know where you’d be without them, because everything’s been getting a bit on top of you lately, hasn’t it? And the memes and the GIFs, they somehow make it all go away, if only for that split second, eh? We know.

It just means a headache for the likes of YouTube, which has fought these laws so it can keep making money out of users uploading copyrighted content. Actually, that probably does affect you quite drastically, doesn’t it… Unless all you want left on YouTube is Zoella showing you her pantry. Do you own a yellow vest?


March 20, 2019  5:59 PM

Vote Leave’s early bath

Ryan Priest Ryan Priest Profile: Ryan Priest

Vote Leave’s band of zip-wiring cowboy builders has been handed another fine: this time for sending out nearly 200,000 unsolicited texts to the poor sods who entered their contest to win £50m if they could correctly guess every single result of Euro 2016.

At this point, the Vote Leave campaign has a long record of really quite wild treachery, but it’s still frowned upon – seen as patronising, even – to say some voters were duped by the proven electoral lawbreaking that took place ahead of the EU referendum.

Makes you think, though. What sort of absolute dafty gives their contact details to a contest where the odds of winning the top prize are one in five sextillions? That sounds less like a number than it does a Rees-Mogg family pet lizard.

Surely therein lies a demographic vulnerable to spam from Vote Leave’s data agency AggregateIQ, a Cambridge Analytica-linked firm it spent 40% of its budget on to distribute Facebook adverts targeting our own flesh and blood with these digital church-fête-sweet-jar games.

Nobody can call us patronising for telling them they’ve been had. Not when Mum orders phoney diet pills; not when Dad thinks Martin Lewis is reaching out to him personally about PPI; and not when Uncle Knobhead votes to sack off the world’s largest trading bloc because he trusts a BeLeave ghoul in bookie’s clothing.


March 14, 2019  11:35 AM

Predicting Senturion’s magnificent seven

Ryan Priest Ryan Priest Profile: Ryan Priest

Luxury wrist-worn supercar key manufacturer Senturion has revealed it will release seven limited edition £211,550 pieces, fashioned from some asteroid, later this year. But who’ll get them?

They remind us a bit of a Power Rangers watch – not aesthetically dissimilar – we pestered our parents to buy us back in the ‘90s. The overbearing mechanical design was kind of cool and gadgety, but the novelty wore off after about a week of feeling tediously lopsided and it was discarded as impractical tat. These Senturion keys are for those of us who, in the face of all taste and logic, never stopped thinking their Power Rangers watch was fantastic.

The strange thing is these simple sorts often manage to assume a wealth to afford these gizmos, hosting, say, a high-paid TV show about cars before smacking a producer in the face and in turn being given a higher-paid TV show about cars, and so on.

They hang out in the White House together, sharing their Power Rangers watch-type ideas. They gormlessly berate agreeable things like vegan sausage rolls and progressive Gillette adverts for a fee. Some just crow about flame throwers on very long podcasts.

So that’s Jeremy Clarkson, Donald Trump, Kanye West, Piers Morgan, Joe Rogan and Elon Musk down for these. Daniel Sturridge probably has the last one pre-ordered. Case closed.


March 6, 2019  4:59 PM

Never mind the bullocks, here’s the 5G cows

Ryan Priest Ryan Priest Profile: Ryan Priest

Government-funded agricultural project 5G RuralFirst has made an app that allows you to track the daily activities of a cow of your choice, live from its home on a connected farm.

Opportunities to enjoy 24-hour access to the movements of a po-faced mammal tolerating a confined space have been sparse since David Blaine vacated his plexiglass box above the Thames in 2003, and this is just the kind of PR gimmick cows have craved – especially after Knickers the giant steer swept the internet and won international adulation for their male counterparts last year, like some massive, hay-eating Jeremy Meeks.

Most of us go all daft for a bit of cow anthropomorphism. Not enough to stop stunning, slaughtering and consuming millions of them at industrial scale each year, but maybe enough to buy the occasional disc of Laughing Cow forgetting the profits don’t go to them, and certainly enough to download this app.

We wish we could say we arbitrarily connected with Augusta because her name was near the top of the list, but in truth we took great care finding the one that looked most in need of some love. Her profile reads, “It’s just a generalisation that us cows spend all day mooing. If anything, I’m better known around the farm for my snoring,” which is funnier than most Tinder bios, to be fair.


February 27, 2019  2:45 PM

HyperTikTokisation

Ryan Priest Ryan Priest Profile: Ryan Priest

Try as we might to steer clear of the nutty content made on short-form video app TikTok, it seems to be seeping further into public consciousness by the day, and it’s now becoming a valuable influencer in India’s upcoming general election.

Reports have emerged that two of the main Indian parties are keeping an eye on the flurry of local political videos being shared on the platform, ranging from the sincere to the unsettlingly absurd. We found a subdued, Hindi-dubbed clip of Angela Merkel declaring her intention to marry Indian prime minister Narendra Modi in just one dark corner of the app, and, to be honest, it’s spooked us.

How to best describe the TikTok community’s output? Maybe it’s just silly. But it’s less quantifiable than the Vine silliness of yore. It has a knack for merging impotent, Disney Channel anti-humour with this menacingly intense, Gen Z manifestation of Dadaism. We just don’t get it. And that makes us feel very uneasy.

Maybe the planet’s just so screwed that everyone’s given up on things making sense. Jacob Rees-Mogg recently endorsed a viral left-wing deepfake intended to deride him, and he was right to. It accurately described his sinister world view, but it also had him singing and dancing, so it didn’t matter. That’s all people want. A bit of fun. Group pics in Nando’s. Meerkat jokes. TikToks. Simples.


February 21, 2019  9:49 AM

Richard Madeley vs the internet

Ryan Priest Ryan Priest Profile: Ryan Priest

Nothing even vaguely amusing has happened in the world of technology this week, cutting off the lifeblood of this blog at its source.

We watched on as MPs announced their newfound independence and hoped in vain for Chuka Umunna to sling us a bone with at least some mad throwaway accusation that Jeremy Corbyn builds computers out of marrows and jam – something, anything – but that sort of charisma remained in predictably short supply.

Our saviour turned out to be a bewilderingly facile take on the country’s current Isis bride debate put forward by none other than Richard Madeley, who, in conversation with Danny Dyer on opinion circus Good Morning Britain, hypothesised: “One thing’s for sure, she wouldn’t have gone if it wasn’t for the internet.”

What a contribution. It works for almost everything, too. For example: one thing’s for sure, we wouldn’t have all this mindless clickbait trash if it wasn’t for the internet.

These inventions cause more hassle than they’re worth, don’t you find? Why don’t we smash the lights in, cut off our broadband connection and chant up at the sky for lightening to strike that Wikipedia volunteer’s keyboard into smithereens. Maybe Richard can recommend us some rib-tickling murder mystery paperbacks to read while our armed forces locate Tim Berners-Lee, tie a label round his neck and sail him off to Bangladesh.


February 13, 2019  5:07 PM

The package no one ordered

Ryan Priest Ryan Priest Profile: Ryan Priest

Tech gossip doesn’t get steamier than the richest person in the world, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, being blackmailed with his own dick pics by The National Enquirer.

But why would he mind who has to look at his Prime member? It seems like a natural next step on this steaming rock of dystopian inequality for the billionaires to start windmilling in everyone else’s faces, laughing hysterically as we wince and turn away.

It’s hardly going to be plastered everywhere even if it did get out, is it? Far hotter celebrities have been exposed in this way before, and even those photos feel pretty niche and tucked away.

Save for some excitable pub chat between the sorts who are into googling that kind of thing for a laugh, even the most compromising images of Bezos will fail to pique the curiosity of most. And the jokers in the pub will only be looking once – it’s not as if they’ll be returning to it every Friday as some new weekly item.

Is Bezos, then, really that brave to be standing up to these extortionists? Maybe it’s different in the US, but the last time someone appeared stark naked on daytime telly in the UK was just yesterday, and it was met with a collective eye roll. So show us the lot, Jeff. We’ll only judge you if you hold back on those sweet Valentine’s Day deals – and that one’s not a threat, it’s a promise.


February 7, 2019  2:02 PM

Baddiel and Jones unedited

Ryan Priest Ryan Priest Profile: Ryan Priest

For years now, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey has been hounded to add a feature that allows users to amend their typo-laden tweets, but do we really need more ways to take the platform so seriously?

Take the latest instalment of liberal folk (the good guys) tearing each other apart online: David Baddiel versus Owen Jones. Never in our lifetime did we expect to be siding against a national treasure like Baddiel, a man who has embodied our pain throughout decades of footballing heartache. But here we saw a comedian being got at by a quite socially awkward and, when pushed, snarky political commentator because he couldn’t back up his argument.

He finished the useless exchange by saying he had a killer comeback for Jones, but refused to use it. We’ve all had moments like that before. You’re in over your head with someone who actually knows what they’re talking about, so you tell them you have the tools to absolutely destroy them but have chosen to take the zen route and walk away. Later on, you come up with a combination of words that would’ve allowed you to sleep easy, but it’s too late.

With the option to edit tweets, this could all be rewritten. Second and third editions of this pointless guff between public figures who usually seem lovely would be released like books, with semantic tweaks on both sides. No thanks. Just delete all of it.


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