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Volume 312

On the fourth day of Christmas my coolsh*t gave to me: 4 Singing Blobs, 3 Robo-Taxis, 2 Rival Reindeer, and a goodbye to 2020. That’s another year of coolsh*ts in the books. But don’t miss us too much, we’ll be back rip-roaring with new year cheer in just a couple weeks. Over and out. See you all next year.

2020 Vision.

Do you have any idea how many Google searches there have been this year? Go on, have a guess. Over 2 trillion. To put that into context, that’s almost as many days as it’s been since Arsenal last won a game. Oh, come on, that’s some high-grade footy bants. Tough crowd. The point, though, is that we all spend a shit load of time asking our phones a whole lot of who, why, what, when and how. And no more so than this particular year. So now is as good a time as any to take stock and do a little end of year analysis of exactly what we’ve all been searching for most. And the results will not surprise you one bit. Funnily enough, there was a fair bit of pandemic in there. The US election proved pretty popular too. As did ‘WAP’ – you should be ashamed of yourselves you filthy heathens. ‘How to cut men’s hair at home’ is one that stood out to me as something my dad clearly didn’t consult before having at my cranium with some blunt kitchen scissors. I won’t go on, but it makes for pretty interesting reading if you want to look back and remember the year that most want to forget.

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Blob Opera.

Festive singing blobs. And I’m not talking about Big Barbara with the limp and the EpiPen from the Parish choir. Created by artist David Li in collaboration with Google Arts and Culture, Blob Opera allows you to play conductor to a quartet of blobs with some beautiful voices. Yes, yes, Barbara, you have a beautiful voice too – but for the love of God put down that bloody mayonnaise before someone gets hurt. The programme uses machine learning, as well as voices of four real opera singers: a tenor, bass, mezzo-soprano and soprano. You pull and stretch them about at your pleasure, and the results are simply breath-taking – at one point the pure beauty of the blobs brought a singular tear of fleeting festive joy to my eye. And it’s also bloody addictive. So addictive, in fact, that I’m not sure I should technically be paid for today. But anyway, I highly recommend you give it a go.

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Prime Taxis.

I’m not sure how others feel, but in my house, this has been a Christmas that belonged to Amazon. At least it would seem that way, based on the sheer volume of brown boxes that have been turning up. I dread to think just how many times I’ve heard Zaharai, the screaming Bulgarian delivery man yell ‘DELIVERY!!!’ at the top of his lungs over the last few weeks. And nothing says festive cheer like a screaming Bulgarian at your door. It’s becoming increasingly clear that this is Jeff Bezos’ world, and we’re just living in it. But not only does Amazon giveth, it soon will taketh (you) away. I’m talking about Zoox, Amazon’s new self-driving Robo-Taxi. You might remember, just last week, we mentioned that self-driving taxis are currently being rolled out in China – and I don’t want to be a dick, but they look a bit crap now by comparison. Which is pretty suspect timing, but I rate the pettiness if the two are indeed linked. Most self-driving designs to date feature a steering wheel and brake pedal, but Zoox deemed those components unnecessary when there’s no driver. Which, you have to say, kind of does seem a bit obvious now they mention it. All hail Great Overlord Bezos.

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Nicolas Uncaged.

Based on an actual, real article I saw on Vice yesterday entitled ‘How to Talk to a Family Member Who Doesn’t Believe in Vaccines or Lockdowns’, it would appear that this Christmas is a time for controversial opinions. Oh, and by the way, the answer to that above question is to try to avoid spending your Christmas incessantly talking about vaccines or lockdowns. It’s the time of giving; not the time of giving yourself and those around you a migraine. But while we’re on the topic of controversial opinions, I’ve got one that I’d like to share: Nicolas Cage is one of the finest actors to ever walk the Earth and I am not joking. If you need any evidence to attest to that, behold. Now try to tell me that wasn’t the most captivating 4 minutes and 20 seconds of your life. He’s a literal National Treasure, so put some respect on his name. And now he’s adding to his unrivalled oeuvre with a Netflix docuseries about the history of swearing. He’ll be dedicating his skills to taking us through the etymology of 6 of the most popular words in the English language: “fuck,” “shit,” “bitch,” “dick,” “pussy,” and “damn.” So if you do plan on cursing out your anti-vaxxer Grandmother this Christmas, check it out so you can know exactly what you’re calling her.

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Deepfake News.

For better or for worse (PHA!), Donald Trump will be leaving The White House in the new year. You might think that’s a good thing, you might think that’s a bad thing. Both are technically allowed. But there is one way in which it is truly catastrophic. And this is a way that supersedes trivial concerns such as geo-politics and morality.  I’m talking about the memes, man. Say what you like about the bloke, but he has provided some glorious material over the last 4 years. Granted, there has been some decidedly less funny stuff too – but we’ll ignore that here. The point is, political satire could be about to enter into its own Dark Ages. So let’s enjoy him while we still can. South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone have given us something of a parting gift, by deepfaking Trump’s lovely orange head onto Peter Serafinowiz and regaling us with the famous Christmas story of the ‘very special reindeer’, ‘the best reindeer out of all the reindeers’, who loses an election to a ‘grumpy old, sleepy-eyed reindeer.’ Call me crazy, but I have a sneaking suspicion that they’re not really talking about reindeer. So if you’re in need of a festive fable this holiday season: kick your feet up in front of the fire, grab a hot chocolate, and listen to the dulcet tones of the now lame-duck POTUS telling the tale of the little reindeer that couldn’t.

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ZAK 2020: Year In Review.

It’s been a weird year. One that feels like it’s dragged on forever, but has also passed by in the blink of an eye. One of pandemics, protests and presidents. It caught us, as it caught us all, pretty unawares way back in March when the great Zoom migration happened and ‘you’re on mute’ became an overnight WFH catchphrase. But it certainly hasn’t been all bad, and we’re pretty proud of some of the work we’ve produced in some, err, less-than-ideal circumstances. So proud, in fact, that we thought we’d whack a load of it into this 2-minute montage for your viewing pleasure.

Peace out. See yous in 2021.

ZAK on Vimeo