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Webcurios 19/04/24

Reading Time: 35 minutes

You know what, gentle reader? It’s 11:52 am, I’m 18 pages of CurioB0llocks down and I’ve scrolled up top to write an intro…and, honestly, I have nothing. NOTHING. Not even a cursory gag about how I was right about how ‘all people who call themselves ‘Matty’ are obviously cnuts’ (thanks for the confirmation, Taylor!).

I am going to go and wash the inside of my head out for a bit. I’ll leave you with the links (yay!) and the words (a necessary evil, I’m afraid), and I’ll do my best to actually manage an intro next week, whether you like it or not.

I am still Matt, this is still Web Curios, and you can pretend I wrote a special opening paragraph just for YOU if you like.

By Jessica Hays



  • The World AI Creator Awards: When you hear the phrase ‘the world AI creator awards’, what springs to mind? Do you, by any chance, have a fleeting vision of people at the cutting edge of visual and digital arts, working to make magical, surprising and delightful experiences from the frontiers of the generative AI world? Do you expect playfulness and wonder and fun and a sense of the magical possibilities opened up to humanity by these amazing new technologies which we only barely understand? Yeah, well TOUGH – despite the name, this is…A CONTEST TO GENERATE SEXY AI LADIES! Yes, it turns out that ‘creator’ is simply a synonym for ‘person with access to a Spicy Stable Diffusion model’, and that what is in fact going on here is ‘the world’s first AI beauty pageant’, a phrase which no matter how many times I roll it around my head doesn’t get any more nonsensical – were there contests in mediaeval Florence to see who could sketch the sexiest noblewoman? Actually, given What We Are Like it’s entirely possible that there were, but, well, have we not moved beyond this sort of schtick? NO WE HAVE NOT! Anyway, this is obviously a PR stunt by a platform for creating ‘AI Influencers’, and annoyingly it’s done pretty well, with coverage all over the sh1ttier end of the UK media spectrum (and, er, here – I did consider not writing this up, but, equally, it’s pure Curios and I’m not exactly praising it, so I’m going to forgive myself) – perhaps unsurprisingly, The Sun wasn’t going to pass up the opportunity of running a DPS of machine-generated STUNNAS. Anyway, there’s not much to see on the link – just some details of the contest, how to enter, and a few example shots of the sort of ‘entry’ they are expecting, a collection of blandly-beautiful non-faces with the now-familiar airbrushed look of the SD/Midjourney aesthetic – but I was interested to see that part of the judging criteria, alongside how ‘attractive’ (DEAR GOD WHAT IS WRONG WITH PEOPLE?!?) the imaginary non-people are is ‘clout’, otherwise known as ‘how much is the entrant willing to humiliate themselves by incessantly posting their creation across the web’, meaning that it’s not only a contest that’s continuing the tedious, sexist trope of beauty pageantry (but in a way that feels, strangely, creepy and unpleasant in a whole new way!), but they’re also actively encouraging people to spam the social web with fake pictures of fake people with preposterous, fake and impossible aesthetics – THANKS GUYS! THANKS! I leave you with the observation that one of the named judges here is a somewhat-notorious figure from the UK PR scene, a man who I continually hear sh1tty things about from various people and who glories in the media title of ‘Lord Sugar’s PR Adviser’ – WELL DONE ANDREW I HOPE YOU’RE PROUD OF YOURSELF.
  • WebSim: Another week, another tantalising glimpse at the possible near-future of ‘making stuff on the internet with magical machine assistance’. You will, of course, recall the ‘AI coding assistant’ which launched a few months back amid much hype, called ‘Devin’ – it’s not out in the wild yet, but this gives you a taste of what it would be like to have a willing and speedy code monkey at your fingertips. Click the link, and then type any url you can conceive of into the address bar of the window that appears – just make something up! Use your imagination ffs! – and watch as…in a few seconds…the page populates with a skeleton web design based on The Machine’s interpretation of the url in question. So, for example, I tried and it span up a site dedicated to men’s mental health and TALKING IT OUT (protip: you can talk and talk and talk as much as you like, but you are always trapped inside your skull and there is fcuk all you can do about it however much you cry); I did the same for and it created a guide to strains and dispensaries…the sites are skeletons, and obviously don’t work, and, equally-obviously, are populated by rubbish…but it’s a very good example of just how this sort of thing might work in the not-too-distant future. I have to admit, I…I quite like this idea, if only because of the vague sense it gives me that we might see a boom in small, personal web experiences as the barriers to creating them drops to basically-ground-level.
  • Cabin Crew Jesus: Remember Shrimp Jesus from the other week? Yeah, well he is OLD (if still theologically-significant) NEWS – this week it is all about Jesus and the Flight Attendants (what sort of music would that band make, I wonder?)! The link here takes you to a Facebook page which is apparently doing numbers at the moment and which is achieving these numbers by posting a selection of obviously-Machine-generated images featuring a beatific, bearder, beautiful Jesus accompanied, for ineffable reasons known only to the living Christ, by cabin crew. Recent images have featured sea rescue helicopters, and Jesus presiding over very meaty feasts – but alongside him, always, are the perfectly-turned-out flight attendants. WHY IS THIS HAPPENING? As ever, Ryan has an explanation – it’s worth reading the whole thing, because it’s just interestingly bizarre, but the tl;dr here is basically: “I assume these pages are simply jamming a bunch of popular stuff together to farm engagement to eventually monetize in some way down the line. Why AI images? Because you can flood Facebook with thousands of posts and the platform won’t really do anything about it. These pages are also using the platform’s built-in 3D photo filter, possibly to bypass Facebook’s bar-is-in-hell bare-minimum AI image detection. Why flight attendants? Because Facebook users are, and always have been, uncontrollably horny.”
  • The AI Elections Tracker: I did rather enjoy Nick Clegg’s somewhat blase’ comments at the Meta AI event last week, saying that “it’s been very striking how little these tools have been used on a systemic basis to try to subvert or disrupt these elections”…Nick, it’s fcuking APRIL, there are at least 30 elections still to come worldwide in 2024 and you literally overnight released a brand new open source model that your colleagues are making some QUITE BIG CLAIMS FOR – do you not think that maybe you were speaking a touch soon? Anyway, while we wait for Clegg’s utterances to come back and bite him (it would be nice, wouldn’t it? Just ONCE), the excellent team at Rest of World are running this worldwide elections tracker chronicling news from around the world on AI and the democratic process – worth bookmarking if you want a one-stop-shop for keeping track of all the ways in which people are trying and hopefully-failing to mess with the informational water table.
  • Meow Camera: OH GOD THIS IS GREAT! Honestly, I just clicked this to remind myself of what the fcuk it is and I was confronted with a MASSIVE CLOSE UP of a very hungry ginger kitty chowing down on some kibble in EXTREME CLOSE UP! The kitty is in Japan, where the time as I type is 2:45 in the afternoon, and the footage is coming from an automatic cat feeder with an inbuilt camera – Meow Camera is a site that collects streams from ALL of these feeders, all across Japan, meaning that at any given moment you can log on and get some intimate footage of a cat, eating. I cannot tell you how much joy this gives me, not least because each of the feeds is labeled with the cat’s name, meaning I know that, for example, right now I am enjoying the sight of Mr Snack having lunch. So so so so pure – this is for you, Saz.
  • AirChat: Have you ever thought ‘you know what would make Twitter better? If rather than just reading the words that people spew out onto the platform I could also HEAR those words, spoken out loud’? NO OF COURSE YOU HAVEN’T HOW IS THAT A GOOD IDEA FFS? And yet, Silicon Valley’s favourite ‘guru’ Naval Ravikant has created exactly that – AirChat is literally ‘Twitter, but all the tweets are also audio files’, and it’s been VERY BUZZY this week as all the same boring, puffa-gilet-sporting VC w4nkers who were all over Clubhouse two years ago get all frothy at the sound of their own voices again. You know what Twitter’s main advantage is? Speed! You know what isn’t fast? LISTENING TO YOUR ANNOYING NASAL TWANG, VALLEY-TWAT! Anyway, AirChat’s available on iOS and Android and I think it’s still invite-gated for those compelled to try it – having done so earlier this week, I honestly can’t recommend it unless you want to listen to a seemingly endless stream of largely middle-aged American men cosplay being ‘innovative captains of industry’, like a horrible nightclub where the music is LinkedIn status updates read to you by Marc Andreessen. If this is still a thing in a year’s time I will be fcuking AMAZED.
  • Brainsaved: Anyone who works in or around copywriting has a special place in their heart – a cold, spiky place, full of pain and suffering – for the word ‘reimagined’. “Fitness, Reimagined!”, “Lunch, Reimagined!”, “Imagination, Reimagined!”…now, FINALLY, we have possibly reached the apogee of all these reimaginings because, honestly, where do we go from “Experience Your Life…Reimagined”? Exactly how Brainsaved is going to help you ‘experience’ this ‘reimagining’ is explained, partly at least, on the site – this is basically one of the coming wave of AI-augmented memory apps, referenced in a longread the other week for the three of you who approach this newsletter as some sort of coherent corpus of thought (lol!), a sort of ‘Evernote for the brain’, which involves you feeding The Machine your photos, notes on what you’ve been doing, etc etc, and then treating it as a forever-searchable archive of everything that you have ever felt, seen, experienced…Personally this sort of thing holds little-to-no-interest for me, but I’m curious whether there’s an appetite for it in the mainstream – do any of you like the idea of being able to have a record of EVERYTHING that you can search and dip into and refer to? The problem, of course, is that these systems are only as good as the time and effort a user puts into uploading material, tagging it, and generally feeding The Machine with memories, which until we get to a point at which we’re capturing everything with smartglasses which autotag the where, what and why of what they are seeing and hearing feels pretty onerous to me.  Anyway, this is in VERY early access, so have a splunk around the site if you think it sounds interesting – and please, if any of you end up experimenting with it I would be fascinated to know what it feels like.
  • Dreams of an Electric Mind: What does it sound like when The Machine talks to itself? Well, like this, mainly – Dreams of an Electric Mind is an interesting experiment into AI and language – per the homepage, “these conversations are automatically and infinitely generated by connecting two instances of claude-3-opus and asking it to explore its curiosity using the metaphor of a command line interface (CLI) – no human intervention is present”. You can see all of the (many) conversations presented as text files that you can click into and read, or alternatively just set ‘screensaver’ mode and watch random snippets – I recommend having a dig into one of the full conversations, though, because it’s an excellent illustration of how uncanny this stuff gets, and how easy it is to slip into the anthropomorphism trap when you watch the models chat about the nature of consciousness. As the project’s creator says, though, “the infinite backrooms are a simulacrum a strange loop between machine minds a real process of emergence what you witness here is a window but not into some secret soul of silicon rather it’s a liminal space where language comes alive Claude is an AI assistant but here it’s also an improviser, a storyteller, a dancer…in the interplay of prompts and outputs beware of apophenia of over-interpreting the patterns in the noise, but don’t discount the beauty in the chaos”.
  • Digital Museum of Secrets: I discovered this after posting that longread about Post Secret last week – it turns out that this site was recently launched as a refresh, a place to explore the trove of secrets sent into the project over the years, arranged in themed ‘collections’, in a way that gives an interesting feeling for the topography of secrets and feelings and subjects that humans have shared with the project since it started. ALL OF HUMANITY IS HERE.
  • A Website Is A Room: This is a lovely ongoing project by Nancy Wu, developed for her thesis but maintained beyond – a collection of spaces on the web that for her embody a certain feeling of calm comfort. Per her description, “I came to this^ conclusion sometime during quarantine when I realized that certain websites give me a sense of shelter and rest more than others. These spaces that particularly stood out to me all had some quality of slowness, quiet, and/or gathering. We ought to carefully examine the qualities of the living environment that each web space provides for us. This is a live feed of websites that people are provoked to share and may contain some of these qualities (or entirely different ones).” There are some gorgeous webpages among the dozens linked here, some of which you might recognise from Curios past but many of which were entirely new to me; if you’re into the general vibe of the ‘small, homemade, poetic and occasionally-twee’ web then everything in here will scratch those itches. Again, this feels as much like ‘wandering through the brains of strangers’ as anything else on the web, and, as I have bored on about before, there are few sensations I enjoy more than this.
  • Viggle: You can’t have failed to see those videos across social media in the past few weeks, featuring a bit of video footage in which the central character has been replaced with someone else from popular culture as a piece of MEMETIC SATIRE – the one you’ll probably have spotted is of Lil Yachty making his entrance onto stage, which I have seen repurposed with everyone from Emi Martinez to Taylor Swift, but others are available. They’re all made using Viggle, which is a single-gimmick AI tool which basically lets you replace anyone in a video with a model derived from an image of someone else – so you can basically drop in anyone into any video you like, with the model mapped to the motion of the original character. The outputs are…less than photorealistic, obvs, but it’s sort-of fun to play with and, again, is an interesting look into a near future when you can do this sort of thing AND NOONE WILL BE ABLE TO TELL. Again, it’s coming!
  • Dexa: Ooh, this is potentially useful. Or at least it would be were it not so laser-focused on the least-interesting podcast categories in the world (a hotly-contested field) of fitness and health and self-improvement – still, though, there’s something really smart about the idea of a natural language search engine for podcast content, and the way Dexa not only draws on material taken from podcasts but also provides references and receipts when delivering answers seems…actually useful! Or, to repeat, it would be were it not for the fact that all the podcasts they seem to be crawling appear to be by the usual cast of dreadful hustlegoblins – still, maybe it will broaden its remit over time.
  • The Marriage Pact: This is…quite incredible, and I am slightly-amazed that it is seemingly real, and it feels like a TV show waiting to happen. This week I learned US university students have for a few years now had the opportunity to sign up to a service called The Marriage Pact – effectively a matchmaking service designed to help you find THE ONE at your tertiary alma mater. Sign up as a freshman, answer the questionnaire and get matched with someone from the available pool of participants at your college – BUT ONLY ONE. The gimmick of the Marriage Pact is that the person you are matched with is PERFECT for you, and the ONE that you should make it work with. You get an email from the service with their name, and a percentage match…and the rest is up to you. This…this sounds mad, but also sort-of amazing, and I can’t help but think it feels PERFECT for fiction or scripted reality…but also FRAUGHT WITH PERIL and the sort of thing that were I a woman I would have…serious reservations about ever signing up for, because it’s all too easy to imagine some of the Bad Things that might happen if an impressionable 19 year old gets an email suggesting that YOU are his 97% perfect foreverpartner. I am so, so intrigued by this.

By Rita Lavalle



  • Video2Game: This is a university paper rather than something you can play with, but the link contains enough examples of the tech in action to make it interesting even for people like you and I who have about as much chance of understanding the underlying maths of ‘what’s going on here?’ as, say, a duck. This is basically a demonstration of AI-enabled tech that lets you effectively turn any video into a rudimentary videogame, showing the ability to drop a figure into a video which is then able to treat said video as a navigable 3d environment which can be interacted with – honestly, it’s quite amazing whilst at the same time not actually looking ‘fun’ in any meaningful sense. Still, it’s not hard to look at this and imagine that in a couple of years’ time I’ll just be able to take a video walkthrough of my flat and in a couple of clicks turn that into some sort of physics-based racing game – why I’d want to is…uncertain, but it certainly feels like it will be possible. BONUS AI TECH STUFF: this is another paper demonstrating the latest advances in ‘enter a prompt, get a fully-3d image’ technology, which is similarly impressive.
  • Vana: What’s your relationship with ‘you’ like? Do you like ‘you’? Would you like to hang out more often? Well, now you can create a model ‘you’ and keep it on your phone, interacting with yourself like you’re your own pet or something – GREAT! This is Vana, which self-describes as “a mini “you” that lives in your pocket, unlocking a new way to connect and experience the world.” Effectively this involves a small AI model which I think lives locally on your phone and you fine-tune with data from your texts, your social profiles, your photos, your voicenotes…”Take your “digital persona” and your data to different apps to explore the power of personalized AI.  Play with your “digital persona” by speaking to it or dropping it into simulations to discover what your data says about you, literally!  Or use it in real-world applications: co-writing break-up texts, giving you a motivational boost, or telling you what to make for dinner when you can’t decide.” Does that sound good? The bigger play here, or at least the long-term idea, is that EVERYONE will have a digital twin a bit like this, and an ecosystem of websites and apps will emerge which lets people effectively plug their Twin into the API to act on their behalf, in a manner reflecting the data they’ve been trained on IE YOUR LIFE. Per the site, “your “digital persona” is made up of several AIs working together to simulate different aspects of you. There’s one AI that learns the sound of your voice, one AI that tries to understand the way you speak and who you are, and another one that tries to understand how you look. ‍As you can imagine, this is fairly powerful stuff. That’s why its so important that you (and only you) own and control it. This is why Vana uses the latest in encryption and privacy-preserving tech to create a safe space for you to play and explore.‍” I am HUGELY skeptical about this, not least because I don’t think there’s any model currently out there that can make this do the things that it seems to be promising it can do, or at least not well enough to be useful, but I can’t pretend I’m not (appalled and) fascinated.
  • Close City: Via Giuseppe comes this useful site – well, useful for North Americans, possibly less so for the rest of you but it’s still interesting, honest – which neatly presents data about urban areas in the US, specifically the average transit time for residents to a selection of specific local amenities – schools, libraries, doctors, etc etc – based on different modes of transport. So, basically, it gives an overview of how walkable or otherwise cities are in terms of access to services, a sort of ‘15-minute City overview’ if you will. There’s only data for the US, and so it only covers North America, but it’s fascinating to see the variance from city to city and to observe that, wherever you are, basically nowhere is walkable or really even public transportable to a significant degree outside of the very largest of cities (and even then, not always).
  • The Iron Chef Database: I’ll be honest, I don’t care about the TV show The Iron Chef, which I have never seen and have no real knowledge of whatsoever (it’s this sort of high-quality curation and commentary that keeps you reading!), but, for any of you who are more enamoured of it, you might find this database of all the recipes ever featured in the programme of use. The main reason I am including it, though, is to ask WHY IS THERE NOT A SIMILAR THING FOR UK TELEVISUAL SENSATION ‘COME DINE WITH ME’? WHY? Can someone please sort it out for me? Thanks!
  • CLI Jukebox: I think you can divide the world neatly into two camps – people who know what CLI means, and people who go outside and have friends and stuff (I JOKE, I JOKE – also, I am one of the former so, er, the joke appears to be on me); if you are one of the LUCKY ONES who understand the mysteries of the Command Line Interface then you might like this minimalist jukebox app which lets you not only play files that you have stored locally but which also integrates YouTube and Soundcloud streams into your playlist, so you can SEAMLESSLY switch between your own tracks and stuff from the web with, I think, no ads at all. This is smart, if a touch on the geeky side, and I can imagine appealing to those of you with a hard drive full of MP3s.
  • Get Any Plant: This is a US-only site, but I feel compelled to point out that I think this is a GOOD IDEA and EMINENTLY STEALABLE. Get Any Plant is a site that effectively acts as a searchable portal layer over the top of various online retailers of flora in North America – of which there are LOTS, given the post-pandemic boom in horticultural enthusiasm amongst The Kids. You can filter by various qualities – plant type, your location, etc etc – and the site will return items that are currently in stock, that will mail to you, and that match your criteria, taking (I presume) a small vig on every transaction; seriously, I don’t know what size the UK houseplant market is but it feels like this could be quite an easy win for anyone willing to spin it up.
  • Mars Wants Movies: A YouTube channel dedicated to ‘exploring the history of science fiction in film, from 1900 to the present day’ – it’s been going for seven months or so and is currently up to the mid-1930s, so you can get in on the ground floor, so to speak, should this be your kind of thing.
  • Symbols: One of the Great Unspoken Truths of modern life is that noone – literally noone, not one person currently alive on this planet – can ever remember the exact combination of keystrokes required to make a UK or US English language keyboard render accents, umlauts or circumflexes. NOONE. If you, like me, find yourself googling ‘e with a hat’ (and then ‘e with a backwards hat’ when you realise you’ve got the wrong one) and then copying and pasting the character from the search results every time you need to type anything in even-vaguely-correct French or Italian then you will LOVE this site, which is literally just an admission that noone knows how to type these things and it’s useful to have all the main ones on one page to copy and paste whenever you need. Bookmark this, future you will be grateful.
  • Parallel Lives: This is a really interesting bit of visualisation that doesn’t *quite* work but which presents information in quite a cool way – basically this is a collection of ‘notable people’ from history, drawn from Wikipedia, which progresses through time as you scroll, showing you when they lived, how old they were when they died, and giving you an idea of who else they were contemporaneous with in history. The UI is a *bit* shonky and you have to scroll very, very slowly as otherwise it’s just a jumbled mess, but it’s interesting to learn that, for example, Vlad the Impaler was making merry with sharpened stakes around the same time that Donatello was perfecting his pictures.
  • Sitcom People: A Twitter account which exists solely to share images and occasionally footage from the opening credits of 20th Century sitcoms, specifically the bits when the actors were introduced at the top of the show, making some sort of winning face with their name superimposed over the top of them. That’s it. No, me neither.
  • Storiaverse: This is interesting, and REALLY reminds me of something I remember from the relatively-early era of mobile… Storiaverse is effectively an attempt to create a new category of narrative media (well, sort-of), combining writers with animators to produce short stories which exist in a sort of hinterland between cartoons, comics and prose. Writers submit stories, illustrators illustrate them, and you, the reader/watcher, consume them via the Storiaverse app, with everyone involved apparently getting some sort of payout for their efforts (although given the app is a free download and doesn’t appear to have any ads, I am fcuked if I can work out what the business model is here). It’s worth downloading this and having a look – the stories are…underwhelming to me, but I get the impression I am probably several decades outside the target market; more impressive is the way in which the animation and the copy work together to create what feels like an interestingly-novel combination of reading and watching which works nicely as a user experience. I don’t hold out high hopes for this existing for that long – again, don’t really understand what the model is here – but I think there’s something worth exploring in the format.
  • Autonomous Racing League: I know that F1 is more popular than ever by many metrics, but I am convinced that that’s all down to the sport’s pivot into being effectively a soap opera about VERY RICH people travelling around the world in massive trucks (and occasionally racing some cars) rather than the actual sport itself, which continues to strike me as one of the most objectively-tedious things one can do with one’s eyes. Which makes me curious as to who the everliving fcuk wants to watch races between cars which are entirely self-driving – the ONLY appeal of F1 as a sport, surely, is in appreciating the skill and endurance of the overpaid advertising hoardings doing the driving (and, let’s be honest, the dark fascination of the cars disintegrating into very expensive confetti after a 200+mph collision) – but we are shortly set to find out, as next week the inaugural Autonomous Racing League event will take place in Abu Dhabi (of COURSE it’s in Abu Dhabi!). Actually perhaps I am being unfair here – this is obviously hugely technically-impressive, and it’s evidently at the cutting edge of what’s possible with autonomous vehicles…but, on the other, who is this for? Although I’m now enjoying a pleasingly-dystopian reverie about rabid ultra fans getting REALLY into supporting their motoring algorithm of choice, which feels interestingly weird.
  • Diamond Jubilee: I’ve seen this written up in a few places as a TREND PRECURSOR – God knows whether that’s accurate, but I am very much into the fact that musician Cindy Lee has made her new album, Diamond Jubilee, available to download exclusively through this Geocities page – MORE SHONKY PERSONAL WEBSITES FOR PERSONAL PROJECTS!
  • Wikipedia Rectangles: I don’t *really* know what’s going here, but I like it – as far as I can tell, every time you click the screen it adds a new image drawn seemingly at random from Wikimedia Commons, with every click adding a new picture and further subdividing the screen, eventually becoming a disorienting patchwork mosaic of disparate images with no thematic links whatsoever other than their vague connection to the broad concept of ‘the corpus of human knowledge’. Different every time, this is more compelling than i expected it to be – I only wish I could export some of the resulting composites, as they’re occasionally rather cool.
  • Read, Write, Own, Web: This is a lovely bit of nostalgia, as well as a pleasing reminder that we don’t actually need big platform infrastructure to exist online. “Those who don’t remember the web before platforms, tend to believe that for 10 years web users stared at their monitors in anticipation. Actually they were made to believe it. First by Web 2.0 proponents, and nowadays by aggressive Web3 campaigns that rewrite the history by stating that Web1 was a dull, passive, read only place…Though, the opposite was the truth, the web before platformization was the place where users owned, wrote and also read. In this post I collected a lot of screenshots that refute the picture or “read only” web before or outside of social networks and hosting services. The websites they represent were tagged by me during the last 13 years as “before_…”. For example “before_ wikipedia”, “before_ebay”, “before_airbnb”. Not all the tags are mentioned here. Also not all the files that we have for a particular tag are represented. I hope it gives an idea of web users being able to organize their own content and provide services to each other.” So here presented you will see a bunch of screenshots and reminiscences about How We Used To Do Stuff Before Big Platform Dominance – photosharing and filesharing and film reviews and and and God it’s so nice to be reminded of how VARIED things were (but, equally, what a royal fcuking pain in the ar$e it was to get things done, and, honestly, how nice it was when people bothered to make nice user interfaces for things – look, I am all for nostalgia but let’s not pretend that this stuff was always necessarily ‘better’).
  • Streams: BEAUTIFUL. ““Stream of a stream” is an ongoing gathering of streams. Each stream sound is captured with an underwater microphone and uploaded to the cloud. There, the sounds of the streams — the natural flow of water — metamorphose into a steady, continuous flow of data transmitted over the internet.” This is exactly that – a collection of audio files of the sounds of streams, burbling and gurgling and generally doing the whole fluid dynamics thing to their heart’s content. This is likely to be an unhelpful website to spend time on if you REALLY need the bathroom, but otherwise I recommend it unreservedly.
  • Orifice: It’s been a while since I’ve featured a genuinely miserable digital sex project in the less-than-coveted ‘weird fcuk machines’ segment of Curios, but WOW is this a particularly horrid example of the genre! ‘Orifice’ (the name is apparently because it’s gender and – dear God – ‘species neutral’) is basically a fleshlight that’s been hacked to ‘respond to stimuli’ – effectively it’s hooked up to a camera, an LLM and a text-to-speech synthesiser, so that when you’re ‘interacting’ with your weird mechanical flesh-sleeve it ‘knows’ what you are doing and ‘responds’ appropriately, and…oh God, this is so utterly bleak, not even particularly because of the tech or the idea, which is, honestly, just AN Other sad little teledildonics project with some added AI, but because of the overall tone of the webpage (and this interview with the creator which really is quite unpleasant and makes me think they should possibly be on some sort of watchlist somewhere, and certainly kept far away from firearms) is just incredibly sad. “DISCOVER A MORE CONNECTED, INTIMATE, & INTERACTIVE WAY TO HAVE NON REPRODUCTIVE SEX”, screams the homepage, seemingly ignorant of the fact that actually humans have been having non-reproductive sex ever since the times of Onan. The one reassuring thing about stuff like this is that in actuality the market for this sort of tech is vanishingly small – but less reassuring is the mindset behind it, which feels uncomfortably close to ‘mad incel shooter’ and therefore a bit scary.
  • Same Energy Snap: Our last miscellaneous link this week is this fun little game by Monkeon – simply guess which pictures have been adjudged to have THE SAME ENERGY by the web, and pair them appropriately. MORE FUN THAN YOU MIGHT EXPECT!

By Nina Mae Gordon



  • Fruits of the Web: This is sadly very much dormant, but it contains some of the best (genuinely) gifs I have seen in a LONG time. The spam house of cards in particular is *joyous* (you will see what I mean).


  • Doors of Kypseli: Kypseli is apparently a district of Athens – a posh one, according to a cursory Google – and it has doors; these doors are being recorded by this Insta feed, which is a nice place to, well, see doors, but doors with a particular aesthetic – the local style is obviously for relatively-elaborate ironwork patterns, and the account does a nice job of juxtaposing shots of the doors in situ alongside more diagrammatic images showing the designs. Sent to me by Kris, in Athens, who may or may not live here.


  • Zuckerchat: As a general rule I’m not hugely interested in listening to the world’s richest men talk, but I had to read this for Professional Reasons yesterday and it was SO much more interesting that I expected. On the eve of the launch of the new LLAMA3 model, now in the wild, Zuckerberg sat down with podcaster Dwarkesh Patel to talk about AI and safety and a whole host of other things…honestly, I don’t think I’ve ever heard Zuckerberg talk in this much detail about AI, and specifically questions around Open Source and safety and responsible usage, and…all I’ will say is that I am not wholly convinced that one of the richest and most powerful people in the world, someone who is actively shaping the present and future of the species and the planet, is necessarily the best person to be in charge of thinking about ‘so, what are the consequences of this going to be then, and how might we want to act in order to try and not fcuk everything up (some more) (again)?’. Zuckerberg doesn’t come off as ‘evil’ or ‘bad’, or even particularly ‘rapaciously capitalistic’ so much as he does…unequipped to perhaps grapple with the BIG QUESTIONS being raised by the tech his company is birthing and foisting on us. Take this section, which I found particularly chilling – I think it’s the ‘oh for fcuk’s sake, are we doing this AGAIN?’ feeling of ‘data and maths people attempting to apply those techniques to qualities and ideas that don’t necessarily fit with those intellectual models’ which I get whenever I hear people talking about ‘yeah, we’ve mapped the entirety of potential ‘harms’, no worries’: “I think that there’s so many ways in which something can be good or bad that it’s hard to actually enumerate them all up front. Look at what we’ve had to deal with in social media and the different types of harms. We’ve basically gotten to like 18 or 19 categories of harmful things that people do and we’ve basically built AI systems to identify what those things are and to make sure that doesn’t happen on our network as much as possible. Over time I think you’ll be able to break this down into more of a taxonomy too. I think this is a thing that we spend time researching as well, because we want to make sure that we understand that.” Feel reassured?
  • Substackism: I don’t always enjoy Max Read’s writings, but this was an interesting essay on the particular sort of political thinking and perspective that has gained in popularity since the newsletter boom, and the sorts of viewpoints that are being promoted via the Substack economy, and where the confluence of ‘wellness’ and ‘anti-woke-ism’ ends up in the context of the wider political environment (this isn’t just Substack – this obviously applies to particular corners of Insta and YouTube as well). “The anti-woke wellness corner of Substack is just one portion of a large and loose network of influencers, podcasters, gurus, scientists, pseudoscientists, quacks, dieticians, and scammers, consideration of which in its fullness is probably outside the scope of this short newsletter item. But what links all of these diverse content producers together is less a particular level (or absence) of scientific rigor or expertise (sometimes these guys are absolutely correct!) and more an outsider attitude–a mistrust of institutions and a sense of pervasive environmental contamination…This anti-institutional attitude has also helped cement a particular political valence that I associate with the broad anti-woke reaction. Over the past decade or so, just like everything else in American life, outsider-driven “alternative” medical and wellness beliefs have become increasingly (as the kids say) right-coded. Either way, its popularity is undeniable.”
  • We Need To Rewild The Internet: This essay collects a lot of themes that people have been discussing and elaborating on for a few years, and the sort of thing that is very much at the heart of the growing popularity of, the return of webrings and all that jazz. As a rallying cry or a manifesto for a more human-centric, creative, small and craft-y web, you could do worse than take this to heart: “Up close, internet concentration seems too intricate to untangle; from far away, it seems too difficult to deal with. But what if we thought of the internet not as a doomsday “hyperobject,” but as a damaged and struggling ecosystem facing destruction? What if we looked at it not with helpless horror at the eldritch encroachment of its current controllers, but with compassion, constructiveness and hope? Technologists are great at incremental fixes, but to regenerate entire habitats, we need to learn from ecologists who take a whole-systems view. Ecologists also know how to keep going when others first ignore you and then say it’s too late, how to mobilize and work collectively, and how to build pockets of diversity and resilience that will outlast them, creating possibilities for an abundant future they can imagine but never control. We don’t need to repair the internet’s infrastructure. We need to rewild it.”
  • AI Isn’t Useless: I thought this was an excellent piece of writing by Molly White, of ‘Web3.0 is going great’ fame, who’s taken some time to explore working with AI (mainly LLMs, in this instance) to develop some perspectives on what they are, and aren’t, good for – particularly relevant in terms of the ongoing ‘is this a bubble? Is there a business model there?’ questioning from relevant quarters. White’s conclusion, trailed in the title, is that it’s not useless – it’s certainly not magic, it’s certainly not going to take over, but, equally, anyone saying that there is no purpose to the current wave of available tools is simply wrong. White’s more central question, though, is that of whether the utility is worth the costs – environmental, informational, labour-related – that the tech incurs – the sad conclusion, I remain convinced, is that as long as there’s compelling evidence to suggest that AI is a driver of productivity, efficiency and therefore margin, this stuff is going to continue being deployed whether or not it’s a good idea or otherwise.
  • Building a Pink Slime Website: The Wall Street Journal looks into how hard – or, it turns out, incredibly-fcuking easy – it is to spin up a brand new website churning out dozens of AI-generated articles a day on a specific topic and with a specific angle, all for the low, low price of ABOUT £100, thanks to the army of talented and willing devs still available on UpWork (at least until the AI agents turn up and fcuk that market in half!). Basically it took 48h and a relatively small amount of cash for the reporter to find themselves the proud owner of a website spitting out partisan and entirely-false news about a specific politician in a specific location – the tone and bias of which could be dialed up or down as required, depending on what particular viewpoint you wanted to push. On the one hand, yes, these sites don’t stand up to any scrutiny whatsoever and require readers to have basically no media literacy to be taken in; on the other, er, have you looked around recently? This doesn’t feel like good news. What was that, Nick Clegg? SAY IT AGAIN LOUDER MOTHERFCUKER.
  • How The Fediverse Might Work: OK, this one is very much for the one person reading this who’s REALLY excited about the prospect of cross-platform interoperability afforded by the fediverse (HELLO!), and talks the reader through Anuj Ahooja’s attempts to, basically, make Threads and Mastodon talk to each other. This is frankly very much on the ‘more technical than I personally care for’ end of the scale, but it presents a really interesting potential vision of what a non-platform-centric social web might look like (although unless this stuff can all happen semi-automatically there’s no way in hell that any normal people will EVER bother with this sort of thing).
  • Why Don’t Rich People Eat Anymore?: Or, ‘how the body positivity movement sort of flounders when you get to the top of the social pyramid because, whatever people might say, they still want to be thin’. I think the argument here is actually a fairly simple one – beauty standards have always been closely linked to social signifiers of the age, and at the moment it’s simply true that if you are poor, in Western Europe and North America, at least, you cannot generally afford to eat well, and the less-good food you are likely to be eating is significantly more likely to be obesogenic, and as such ‘being skinny’ is simply a wealth signifier…but the article is generally interesting, if only to remind you of the immense, gaping chasm between ‘what we tell ourselves we think and feel’ and ‘what our very obvious behaviour shows us we REALLY think and feel’.
  • The War on Beepers: The current moral panic about kids and phones is very much still ongoing – and, honestly, I really don’t know what I think about the debate other than to say I don’t think there is any good reason why a ten year old kid should have one – but I enjoyed this throwback to a previous moral panic (at least a North American one – they didn’t catch on here, or certainly not among anyone I knew other than a single dealer at Manchester University in 1997, shout out Jodie and his incredible ability to shin all the way up lampposts even when battered) about BEEPERS and the terrible effect they were having on an entire generation. A useful reminder that moral panics are a constant, whatever the era.
  • The AI Chair: I think this is genuinely beautiful, and were I a less cack-handed non-craftsman I would totally try and do similar myself – it is ART. James Bridle asked The Machine to imagine a chair – and then to create a schematic and set of instructions for the building of said chair, which Bridle then went on to construct out of bits of wood, creating an artefact that’s oddly-uncanny and raises all sorts of interesting questions about the nature of labour and objects: “It should be noted that this chair is built on the stolen labour of everyone who’s ever put something on the internet (including many who passed centuries before the internet was invented). The energy use is not good. I didn’t make this with ChatGPT: I made it with a partial history of all previous chairs, and I held myself back from making it “better”. But it’s something to think with. I learned to make chairs from Enzo Mari, Donald Judd, my grandpa, YouTube. What the machine is good at is numbers, efficiency, tolerances (maybe). What can we do with that which is more interesting than putting people out of work? Which is more, genuinely, generative? Which is more interesting than more computers? Which, ultimately, builds agency rather than contributing to our general disempowerment us? That, at least, is what I mean by collaboration. We learn together.”
  • Plant-Based Foods: I don’t know if it’s the same where you are, but London’s corner shops and local minimarts currently seem to be labouring under an absolute glut of plant-based stock, stuff that has the distinct air of being bought in bulk in about 2020 when everyone was excited about Impossible Burgers and almond milk icecream – the freezer in my local has about five different brands of ‘hackney-made plant-based gelato’ (lol hackney you dreadful stereotypical cnuts!), all of which are under about three inches of permafrost and which are NEVER getting bought. This article is from a trade magazine about food development, and is SUCH an interesting look at why the plant-based foods market has slowed significantly, and which really is loads better than you think it is going to be (as well as being generally useful for anyone whose job it is to occasionally think about questions of MARKET PENETRATION and CONSUMER DEMAND).
  • Mario x Pareto: An EXCELLENT explainer, this, in which Antoine Mayoritz explains the pareto frontier, otherwise described as “a set of solutions that represents the best trade-off between all the objective functions”, using optimal kart design choices in MarioKart as his illustrative principal. If my economics classes had featured more videogame-based examples I might have retained some of it, chiz chiz.
  • The Story of Etak: This is a wonderful look back at a bit of tech that I had no idea ever existed – a VERY early version of an in-vehicle navigation system, called the Etak, which was launched in 1985(!!!!!) and which is a direct precursor of your current satnav. Honestly, I don’t drive and don’t really understand how any of this stuff works, but it was still super-interesting, and it’s lovely to see the throughline between this and the machine in your car today.
  • The Anarchist’s Tool Chest: No, it’s not what you think – instead, it’s a book (a short book, but a whole book nonetheless) written by one Christopher Schwartz which is designed to help anyone assemble a useful toolbox that will cover you in most eventualities. “This book is the result of my experiences with tools for the last 30 years, from the time I acquired my first coping saw at age 11 until the day I decided to sell off many of the tools I’d amassed as an adult. It is the tale of my sometimes-rocky relationship with my tools and how these hand-held pieces of iron, steel, brass and electrical wire have changed the way I approach my work and my life. And I hope that this story will help guide you in acquiring a set of tools that will stick with you for the rest of your life.” Now I can’t personally say that this has ANY interest for me whatsoever – I am about as likely to ‘get into woodwork’ as I am to ‘make it to 60’ – but I imagine that there might be a few of you who quite like the idea of ‘THE ESSENTIAL WOODWORKING TOOLKIT’ and reading a bit about working with and caring for tools. Anyway, in case that’s you, HERE YOU ARE! You’re welcome, really.
  • Breadcrumbs and Spoiled Milk: More interesting reporting in Vittles, this time about the way Romania approached the provision of basic food for schoolchildren in early-2000s and how this reflects particular local (and temporal) attitudes about society and welfare…less about food and more about social justice and the welfare state, this gave me an insight into a country I know shamefully little about.
  • Undersea Cable Repair: This is VERY LONG, and, yes, it’s about repairing undersea cables, but, equally, it is SO INTERESTING, and a nice reminder that despite all the talk of ‘THE CLOUD’ the actual reality of our digital infrastructure is literally hundreds of physical cables stretching for thousands of miles across the ocean bed, cables on which (and this really isn’t hyperbole) pretty much the entirety of what we like to call ‘modern civilisation’ rests. This explains the cables, how they came to be there, and how they’re maintained, and while I can’t imagine for a second that this is anything other than quite hard work (and LONELY, and boring) it also sort-of appealed to me as a late-life career pivot.
  • Where I Live: On the effect of geography of personality, and how the city one lives in can moderate one’s mood, behaviour, persona and sense of self – I felt this very particularly, and I think any of you who have family in other countries, or who have lived elsewhere for any extended period of time, will do too.
  • The Golden Age of Rap Producer Tags: This is, admittedly, a touch niche, but if you’ve ever thought ‘man, I really wish someone would do a deep dive investigation into the little sonic stings that hiphop producers use to tag their beats in a track’ then WOW do I have a present for you! Aside from anything else there are some GREAT tracks in here.
  • The Puzzle of Stalking: Stalking is very NOW thanks to the runaway success of Baby Reindeer on Netflix (I haven’t watched the show (obvs) but did see both the one-man performances that it’s based on back in the day, based on which I can recommend it unreservedly) – this is a really interesting piece of writing which seeks to explore why it is, specifically, that stalking is wrong, and interrogate exactly what harms are being visited on the…stalkee? It’s not, to be clear, in any way suggesting that stalking is OK – it’s more of a proper moral philosophical exploration of the ways in which it is not, and which of those can be said to be the supervening ‘harm’ being enacted on the victim (which, by the way, just made me think of Mark and his talk of ‘harms’ in the first essay here – honestly, do take a moment to consider the rigour of thinking being applied in this piece to that being applied by Zuckerberg to the whole ‘questions of AI safety and ethics’ thing and, well, despair slightly).
  • Beautiful Cricket: As previously discussed here in Curios, I simply don’t ‘get’ cricket – that said, like boxing, it’s a sport that often inspires some gorgeous writing, and this piece in the FT (thanks Alex for the tip), about the qualities that make a batsman’s strokes ‘beautiful’, is itself really rather lovely.
  • Voices of Mourning: Another glorious essay, this piece by Hannah Gold contrasts her reading of Robert Gluck’s memoir of love and grief and loss, ‘About Ed’, with the grief that assails us reading the news and just generally Being Alive, and turns the whole into a beautiful meditation on what grief is and what it is for (which is significantly less sad than you might think, I promise).
  • Pavel, Paris, Prague: A short story, about a past love affair. “I left New York for France in September 1968, a few months after les évènements de mai — the student riots, the barricaded cobblestone streets, the Molotov cocktails—and the end of a two-year love affair. The civil unrest in Paris still made the news but no longer the headlines. In a mood as gloomy as mine and a cityscape as grim as la Ville Lumière, I would easily fit in, dressed in black, sitting in sidewalk cafés, drinking endless cups of exprès, and smoking Gitanes. It was not to be.”
  • Tavi vs Taylor: HAVE YOU LISTENED TO IT YET?!?!? Ahem.  As the world, or at least a portion of it, spends the day scrying the tea leaves of Ms Swift’s latest release, have this frankly astonishing piece of writing by Tavi Gevinson, who you will remember is the former-child-fashion-blogger turned magazine impresario turned actress turned polymathic creator type person, who this week published this incredible essay about her, Taylor Swift and their relationship, both as fan/artist and, maybe, as friends. The piece is subtitled ‘A Satire’, and is part of that particular genre of autofiction where the relationship with What Really Happened is deliberately and tantalisingly ambiguous – more dedicated Swiftians will know already whether it’s in fact true that Tavi and Taylor have hung out irl, but to me the ‘is-this-straight-or-not?’ question that runs through the piece is PERFECT, and frames the rest of it (reflections on the relationship between artist and art, artist and muse and fan, the constructed nature of ‘Taylor Swift’ as a concept, growing up, being precocious, media and fame and and and and and) perfectly. Honestly, the first section of this is basically a detailed account of Gevinson’s relationship to the Swiftian canon and it is SO GOOD that I still kept reading. Really, truly superb, and I say that as someone who could not possibly give less of a fcuk about Ms Swift – this is imho a really impressive piece of work.
  • The Last Swinger: Our final longread is an OLD ONE – from GQ Magazine in 1996(!), when Tom Junod spent time hanging out with old Hollywood royalty Tony Christie. This came to me via Sam Diss’ newsletter, and I can’t really sell it to you better than he did to me: “It’s one of those stories you read and cringe — the awkward Hollywood set pieces, the That’s showbiz, bay-bee vernacular, the wish you had the bottle to go so out on a limb yourself, as writer or as subject matter, to live so fully, fruitfully, and fruitily. When I first read the piece it hit me like two Negronis to an empty stomach. The piece keeps you close to its bosom. It plays with your hair. You are ensconced in its little world. Away from magazine journalism or journalism at all, away from the notion of “having a real job” and into the world of Tony Curtis — warm, flawed, embarrassing, enigmatic, empathetic, pathetic, desperate, suave, sexy, shallow, and yet somehow — somehow — deep, meaningful.” This is one of the saddest things I have read in a long time, in many ways, but beautifully, perfectly so.

By Carolle Benitah


Webcurios 12/04/24

Reading Time: 35 minutes

I went on an open-top bus tour through London last weekend, and, honestly, it was FCUKING GREAT and you should all do one. That’s it, that’s basically all I’ve got for you this week, just a general sense of unbridled enthusiasm for taking a bus around some tourist attractions – seriously though, it is ACE and less expensive than you might think, and people are SO NICE TO YOU! I mean, look, most of the time it’s fair to say that the London attitude to tourists is usually stuck somewhere between ‘you cnuts, it is your fault that M&M World exists, and you deserve the Aberdeen Angus Steakhouse franchises as your penance’ and ‘STAND ON THE FCUKING RIGHT JESUS FCUKING CHRIST ARE YOU THIS INCAPABLE OF PICKING UP BASIC SOCIAL CUES IN YOUR OWN NATION???’, but when you’re on an open top bus, well, people WAVE and SMILE and generally act like they are sort of happy you’re alive.

Anyway, that’s by way of an unusually-positive introduction, designed in part to reassure the very kind person who emailed me last week evidencing what sounded like genuine concern about my mental wellbeing – see? PEOPLE WHO ARE TERMINALLY UNHAPPY DO NOT TAKE OPEN TOP BUS RIDES!

I am still Matt, this is still Web Curios, and you will thank me when you take the bus advice, I promise you, it really is fun.

By Melanie Garcia



  • XKCD’s Incredible Machine: I don’t tend to feature XKCD stuff in here very often, consistently-superb as it is, mainly because, well, it’s all over the fcuking web and I like to try and take the ‘Curio’ thing seriously (I am a terrible, disgusting linksnob), but every now and again Randall Monroe really does surpass himself and this is indeed one of those times. The link takes you to Monroe’s own spin on the classic 90s CD-Rom era game The Incredible Machine, which was basically a series of playgrounds in which you, the player, are tasked with making increasingly-preposterous Rube Goldberg devices to transport something from point A to point B within a level, limited only by the bits and pieces at your disposal and your own imagination – this is that, effectively, except with only one level, and it is SO GOOD. There are a dizzying array of different elements that you can drag and drop onto the screen, each of which will affect the trajectory of the various coloured balls in different ways – trampolines, springs, accelerators, decelerators, all that sort of physics-y fun, basically – and you can arrange them in whatever way best pleases you to direct the differently-hued spheres to their intended destinations. Every player’s creation can eventually be saved into a collective ur-machine, which you can check out by clicking the ‘view machine’ button in the bottom right and scrolling around, letting you feel REALLY inadequate in the face of strangers’ immense and intimidating creativity – turns out some people spend HOURS on this (or, alternatively, I am just really fcuking sh1t at building digital ball-wrangling contraptions) and make some truly astonishing setups. Honestly, this is loads of fun and the sort of thing you could reasonably use as a ‘look, it’s Friday afternoon and our jobs are pointless; shall we sack it all off and play this?’ distraction.
  • Udio: Significant numbers of people seem to have stumbled across AI music generation platform Suno in the past few weeks – YOU, loyal and patient and frankly insanely-tolerant Curios reader, have of course been all over that sh1t for MONTHS since I mentioned it at the beginning of the year, and are probably in the market for a NEW and DIFFERENT and EXCITING AI music creation robot…and lo, here such a thing is. Udio launched this week and has people from Deepmind and all sorts of other Serious Places behind it…but what you really want to know is ‘can it create a worryingly-song-shaped MP3 about my friend’s embarrassing personal problem that I can share with the groupchat?’ and the answer is a resounding YES IT CAN! The improvement in these models in just three months is, as ever, astonishing – Udio, for example, seems to understand the concept of ‘tune’, whilst at the same time being inconsistently unwilling of applying this understanding to its compositions, and the lyrics are terrible…but, honestly, no worse than the song I happened to hear when shopping this week whose sole lyric, repeated wholesale for approximately 3 minutes, was ‘You’re too much for me, You’re OTT’, and it’s almost eerily-good at creating plausibly-2024-pop-sounding almost-melodies. Give it a try – oh, and the website gave my antivirus some scares, but I don’t appear to have been phished or anything and it is a Legitimate Business so I think it’s fine (and they may have fixed this since Monday). BONUS STATE OF AI MUSIC: here are some terms and conditions, rendered beautiful. And this is basically what I imagine every 13 year old boy is doing with this sort of technology at the moment (this isn’t big or clever, I concede, but I confess to laughing).
  • Audit NASA: As a general rule I don’t tend to link to ‘stuff that is actual nutjob conspiracist material’, but I will make an exception for this because it feels like a neat intersection of lots of silly bullsh1t believed by stupid people. Do YOU believe that the North American Space Agency is in fact not pursuing its stated aim of pushing back the outer bounds of the cosmos and securing humanity’s interplanetary future, but that instead it’s pushing a DEEP STATE and POTENTIALLY WOKE agenda, including but not limited to propagating the CLIMATE CHANGE HOAX (and quite possibly turning everyone queer through the application of gay space lasers) (and probably something to do with diversity too)? Well why not get involved with this project, which somehow aims to AUDIT NASA! How? Oh, that’s right, by donating money or buying a course – a course on, er, how to audit NASA! This is quite obviously a grift perpetrated by some idiots (or, read as generously as possible, some desperately-cynical b4stards) on some bigger idiots, and it would be halfway-funny if it didn’t speak to the wider conspiratorial movement and its seemingly-inexorable growth. Seriously, there is a big button on the homepage asking the open question “IS NASA GOING TO SPACE?” Anyway, if you’re wondering on what grounds the shadowy people behind this feel they have the ‘right’ to ‘audit NASA’, you’ll be pleased to hear that the answer is ‘Freedom of Information Requests’, which anyone who’s ever dealt with an FOI anywhere in the world will know is possibly not the transparency silver bullet that these lads appear to believe it is.
  • Netflitwitter: When That Fcuking Man bought Twitter all those many months ago, I included a closing line in a piece I wrote about it somewhere else which read, broadly, “It is likely that Musk will make a pig’s ear out of the acquisition, because nothing suggests he knows the first thing about running a social media platform or that he would be good at doing it if he did” – it was subbed out of the final version, which annoyingly means I don’t have anything I can point at when I do my incredibly tedious ‘I told you so’ routine, but I can still tell YOU. What’s that? You don’t care? FINE. Anway, this site is just the latest proof point in the ongoing saga of ‘Elon doesn’t know what the fcuk he’s doing and seems to have sacked everyone who did’ – per the site’s copy, “As of April 8, 2024, the iOS Twitter (now X) client automatically replaces the text “” in posts with “” as part of its functionality. Therefore, for example, a URL that appears to be “” will actually redirect to “” when clicked. Please be aware that there is a potential for this feature to be exploited in the future, by acquiring domains containing “” to lead users to malicious pages. This domain, “,” has been acquired for protective purposes to prevent its use for such malicious activities.” SMARTEST MAN IN THE WORLD! See also here. INTERPLANETARY GENIUS!
  • The Bagpussverse: Dave ‘Bagpuss’ Forsey (no, I don’t know why and to be honest I don’t really want to ask) is one of a group of ‘people in the UK who make fun stuff on the internet and have been doing so for ages and who almost certainly got started with this stuff on about two decades ago’ – see also Matt Round, Happytoast, Cyriak, Joel Veitch and even actual proper film director Ben Wheatley – and whose work I have put in Curios at various points over the years; now Dave’s updated his website including all sorts of games and distractions and LIGHT SATIRE, and it’s just generally a fun place to click around and spend 20 minutes playing games about the UK’s shooting gallery of awful politicians – or, alternatively, playing ‘ar$ebishop’, a game in which you have to decide whether a very close-up and pixellated bit of fleshy jpeg is a buttock or a man of the cloth. Never let it be said that Curios doesn’t bring you the highbrow stuff.
  • Dig This: Do any of you work at Google, and can any of you confirm to me whether the YouTube music recommendation algorithms have been improved recently? It feels almost troublingly-tailored at the moment, in a way that makes me feel a bit uncomfortable. If you’d rather entrust your next serendipitous discovery to ACTUAL serendipity rather than ‘maths masquerading as chance’ (please, noone write in to explain me how chance is in fact maths as well, I barely understand numbers upto 10 let alone any of this stuff) then you could do worse than bookmarking Dig This – load up the page and it presents you four genres at random, which you can either swap out for another four or choose one of. Picking a genre will take you to a randomly-selected pick from Discogs, with a link either to the Discogs page or a YouTube search for the artist and track in question so that you can explore. I have been fiddling with this a bit this week and it has played me stuff that I have never, ever heard of (and reset the YouTube algo a bit unto the bargain, which is no bad thing).
  • The Animorphs Art Store: Animorphs – or, specifically, the covers to the editions of the kids’ books published in the US in the 90s/00s – are a very specific type of internet thing; if you’re not aware, the books were always about kids who were able to transform into animals because reasons, and the covers always depicted said kids going through an incredibly-rendered 5-phase person-to-animal transition which involved some of the most troubling/incredible photoshop work ever committed to the cover of an actual, published book – and now the artist responsible for these masterpieces (David Mattingly, in case you want to erect your own domestic shrine) has an Etsy where you can buy prints of the covers and, honestly, even if this doesn’t trigger any nostalgia or if it means nothing to you, please click the link because you need to see these covers (and possibly buy one for your spare room, or for whichever child of yours you feel is most in need of some really unsettling bedroom decor).
  • Better AI Transcription: I have seen a few people this week praising this, but I am yet to use it myself so all the usual caveats apply – still, if you’re after an alternative to Otter which is, so I am told, cheaper and in-no-way-inferior, then you might want to give this a go (it’s a Japanese platform, so you might need to translate the webpage).
  • Sound AISleep: I know that being a parent is hard, and that juggling the various responsibilities of work and family and life and ‘being a presumably adult human being’ mean that those idealised portrayals of domestic bliss in which a happy family unit does a perfect bedtime every night, with a story and NO TEARS are probably significantly rarer than televisual advertising makes them appear (I mean; I say ‘I know’ but I obviously I have no idea, thank God), and that the idea of using technology as a way to maybe make things easier is perfectly fine and indeed on occasion to be encouraged, but, equally, I saw this app and I read the description and I got ‘Cat’s Cradle’ playing in my head on a sad little loop. “At Sound AiSleep we offer unique kids bedtime stories spoken in your voice! You can create a digital replication of your voice using AI. Simply record your voice for a few minutes and then choose any kids book from our library, to create your personalised audiobook spoken in your voice! Perfect for soothing your little ones to sleep.” On the one hand, cute! On the other, “robomummy reads you a story because real mummy is too busy working a third shift to make rent” is…frankly too bleak to continue with, so I’m going to stop there.
  • This Is A Teenager: To be honest this is long and involved enough that it could have been a longread, but it’s also a REALLY LOVELY bit of webwork and dataviz by The Pudding and so it can go here instead. Very North America-centric in terms of the data it’s drawing on, but wherever you are in the world the themes that it speaks to will apply – drawing on data about the life experiences of young people tracked by US statisticians. “In this story, we’ll follow hundreds of teenagers for the next 24 years, when they’ll be in their late-30s.They’re among the thousands of kids who are part of the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth. This means researchers have followed them since their teenage years to the present day – and beyond.” As you scroll you see visual representations of the proportion of kids in each agegroup coterie who will experience ‘significant’ life events, from crime to poverty and beyond, and how those life events will go on to impact their academic prospects and, eventually, their life prospects – none of this should be surprising, but it’s a hugely-effective way of communicating the long-term impacts of relatively small differences in early-stage life across a demographic swathe.
  • Gaggl: Would you like to know what ‘TV 3.0’ is? No, of course not, because we have all learned by now that anyone putting numbers like that after a concept is trying to sell you something, and, if web3.0 was anything to go buy, that ‘something’ is, in fact, nothing at all. Still, here’s Gaggl with its attempt to piggyback on the The Way We Live Now (alone, poor, never going out, all our friends exist inside screens) – the premise here is that Gaggle licenses films and TV shows so that streamers can in turn watch said content with their audiences in legal watchalong parties, which to be honest is something that I thought we had all decided we didn’t actually like doing lockdown but which I presume enough people have seen enough promise in to warrant a fat wedge of investment (lol like ‘something gets early stage funding’ is in any way correlated with ‘said thing is a good idea’). On the one hand, I really don’t get this at all – on the other, I think I have watched a grand total of approximately 38 minutes of video this week so I’m not really the target audience here. Er, who is? I am unconvinced.
  • Dark Visitors: Want to stop your website and your content being scraped by ALL THE AI CRAWLERS? Well, honestly, you probably can’t, in the long term. Still, if you’d like to continue your Cnut-like (king, not swear) resistance to the overwhelming TIDE OF THE MACHINES then this site contains all the necessary to keep your website’s robots.txt file up to date.
  • Meet Paulinho: This is a genuinely heartwarming story – because of That Fcuking Man, Brazilian Twitter users this week discovered Bluesky en masse, and by so doing they also discovered one of the platforms employees, a guy called Paul whose one of the site’s ‘power users’ (sorry sorry sorry) and basically seems to be some sort of real-life Bluesky Avatar on the platform engaging with the community and generally being a nice guy. Anyway, apparently Brazilian Bluesky users collectively fell in love with Paul – the link takes you to a feed of people basically just turning him into an incredibly-wholesome meme, which is the sort of nice thing that you just don’t see happen on Twitter anymore (ever?) and which hopefully isn’t going to result in Paul being revealed to, I don’t know, be a secret bait baiting enthusiast or something. This came via the essential Ryan, who also has a generally excellent summary of ‘what the fcuk is happening with Twitter in Brazil’, should you be interested.
  • Shrimptank Live: You really shouldn’t need a description for this one. At the time of writing, there is one particularly jazzy-looking yellow chap standing proud atop some sort of brick; who knows what sort of SCINTILLATING ENTERTAINMENT will be streaming when you click (it will be shrimp-based, just to temper your expectations).
  • Countdown Til Christmas: I am sharing this only because I am fairly sure that there is at least one person out there who lives or works with someone for whom cheerily informing them ‘only [for example] 256 days to go til Christmas!’ at random times of the day/week is guaranteed to cause some sort of low-level psychic injury, and I like to share weaponry like this when I can.
  • Floor 796: I featured this – an infinite canvas of small, isometric, pixel vignettes – in November 2022 (travel back into THE DISTANT PAST here), but I am taking the rare step of including it again this week because I happened to stumble across it this week and was slightly-dazzled by what it’s become; I think that the whole thing’s had something of a visual upgrade, because I don’t remember it being so dense or so well-animated, and you can now click anything you see to find out what it’s a reference to (which is necessary given the insane volume of pop culture from around the world that’s now represented across the seemingly-hundreds of little interlinked capsules. Each one of these is the work of a single individual, as far as I can tell, and if you want an idea of the amount of work these must take I encourage you to click the ‘about’ link and then through to the ‘special online editor’ through which all of these have been made – HOW THE FCUK DOES ANYONE MAKE ANYTHING THIS GOOD USING THIS INTERFACE?! I love this so so so much and I am very happy that it has continued quietly existing and growing and developing.

By Travis Lampe



  • Oreo Menu: Apologies for the advermarketingpr link here, but this irritated and confused me in equal measure. The Oreo Menu is a promo being run by the inexplicably-popular biscuit brand (seriously, though, the flavour profile of an Oreo is literally ‘incredibly sweet’, regardless of which bit of it you are consuming, why are they ubiquitous?) – because you know those menus on websites characterised by three horizontal lines, which your experience of navigating online tells you means ‘click this to expand the nav options’? You know how everyone calls them ‘hamburger menus’? Yes, well they are WRONG, those are OREO MENUS because THREE LINES LIKE THE BISCUITS (are you listening, Adidas?)! Anyway, that’s your (dreadful) starting premise – the core of the promo is that if you see a hambur- sorry, OREO menu anywhere online, all you have to do is go to this website and enter in any of the menu navigation options (literally things like ‘About’, ‘Newsletters’, ‘Fistulae’, that sort of thing) and you’ll get given a code giving you $1 off the diabetes-inducers. Except it hasn’t worked with any website I’ve tried it on, meaning you need to enter the website url so it can ‘check’, meaning you have to jump through three hoops to get a buck’s discount – presuming you’ve remembered the fcuking promo exists in the first place. At the very least making this a Chrome extension that automatically alerted you to being on a website with an eligible menu would have made vaguely more sense – as it is, this feels very much like a combination of a brand person getting overexcited and noone at the executing agency having the balls to tell them that ‘Oreo Menu’ is never, ever going to become a thing.
  • True By Now: I have quite strong ‘this has been hacked together in about 10 minutes’ vibes from this site, but that doesn’t really matter – I very much enjoy the premise behind it, which is basically to go back to old headlines and see whether the thing that it confidently predicted has come to pass has in fact come to pass (it may not surprise you to learn that, as it happens, they mostly haven’t). Obviously we’ve got Elon’s repeated ‘WE ARE GOING TO MARS!’ and ‘VIA A SELF-DRIVING TESLA’ pronouncements and their breathless reporting, but there are also fun nuggets from the past such as ‘underwater holidays will be ubiquitous by 2024’ and ‘Bristol set to become UK’s entirely smoke-free city by 2024’ and if nothing else maybe this will relax you, seeing as seemingly nothing that ever gets predicted anywhere ever seems to come to pass (don’t worry, guys, the planet will be fine!).
  • Joseph Wilk: The website of artist Joseph Wilk, whose work spans data and digital and a bit of AI, and whose artist statement reads as follows: “I’m a London born artist working with programming code, realtime media & audio. Through live coding in front of an audience I’ve worked in other performance fields such as dance, theatre, music & cinematography. My experience of disability strongly impacts my practice. Living with pain, physical limitations, disillusionment and disconnection from society affect my thought process and how I create, using my disability and its limitations as part of my process. Performance is a key part of my practice as it fulfils a need to be seen physically and creatively, but in a form I control. We experience the world through our bodies and design dictates how much friction we feel moving through it. I explore automotive forms of expression that utilise new interfaces for alternative bodies.“ There’s some really interesting work here which goes back several years and shows the evolution of the tools and processes available to people working around this space – the generative music stuff from a few years back is particularly interesting imho.
  • The Threads API: No, I know, and I don’t care about it either – who, exactly, is using Threads, and what for? I have an account there, but only so I can follow a dozen or so journalists who migrated there from Twitter and as such I don’t really have a feel for the site’s ‘vibe’ (sorry)…it’s interesting though that in almost a year of existence it doesn’t seem to have generated a single cultural moment or meme, despite the user numbers being objectively great…so what is it FOR? Fcuk knows, but now there is an API meaning that if you can be bothered you might be able to start making WEIRD AND INTERESTING THINGS in Mark’s otherwise-sterile ‘Live, Laugh, Love’ textual playground.
  • Likewise: This is a cultural recommendation app/website which has INTEGRATED ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE, to create a natural language layer over its content and thereby somehow MAKE IT BETTER – and, as with so many things where people have just tried to ‘AI it up’…it doesn’t quite work! Oh, ok, that’s not totally fair – it did give me a reasonably-interesting set of book recs when I asked it for ‘dark literary fiction exploring themes of death, family and incest’ (not a personal interest – it’s just curious to test where the guardrails are, and I wanted to see if I could get it to specifically recommend ‘The Cement Garden) which included Nabokov, Eugenedis and ‘Flowers In The Attic’ which in fairness is a decent spread of styles – but it’s slow, and the recommendations don’t link out to anything, and it’s simply not yet better than either just Googling or asking a librarian (on which point, I re-registered with my local library yesterday and it felt genuinely lovely to take out a bunch of graphic novels, highly recommend it), or indeed just asking Claude or another model of your choice. Still, get used to this sort of interface because there are an awful lot of people who have businesses whose futures are predicated on them becoming ubiquitous.
  • Donghua Jinglong: Also via Ryan in Garbage Day comes this excellent TikTok account which answers the question ‘what happens when a short video platform becomes the dominant marketing and sales channel, even if your business is not in fact particularly suited to making advertising or content for a short form video platform?’ and which is a window into the exciting world of glycine manufacturer in mainland China. These videos are GREAT – drone footage of glycine factories. Inexplicable smash-cuts, weird visual overlay effects and, of course, the words ‘PREMIUM GLYCINE MANUFACTURE’ in big letters all over the place. This has obviously broken containment and moved away from what I presume is its standard audience of, er, large-scale chemicals buyers (is glycinetok otherwise big?) and has become Somewhat Memetic, to the point that there are apparently a bunch of cryptohustlers attempting to leverage this into memecoins (because obviously there are, it’s 2024 and we are expected to just accept that sentences like that have meaning).
  • Clio Books: One of the many exciting ways in which generative AI is making the world better is via the medium of AI-generated books, which anyone who’s spent any time searching on Amazon recently can attest are fcuking EVERYWHERE at the moment (seriously, I wrote this for Another Publication last week: “Amazon continues to fail to get anything resembling a grip on the AI-generated books proliferating on its platform, and which are now guaranteed to show up in search results for any book by, or about, a celebrity. Witness Pogues frontman Shane Macgowan who died in November 2023 and who is commemorated in a range of high-quality tomes,  several of which include AI-generated covers of a suspiciously-healthy looking Macgowan and one in particular which describes the famously-hard-living singer as a business guru who ‘had the ability to solve complex problems and find innovative solutions to any challenge that came his way’. Another ‘celebrity’ to get the AI treatment is Liz Truss – anyone (anyone?) searching for her new book will also find a slew of profiles of the UK’s least-successful Prime Minister, also featuring AI-generated covers and high-quality prose like “Once upon a time, amongst the hallowed halls of British Politics, there emerged a figure whose journey would be etched in the annals of history.” Well, quite.”) – now you too can get in on the LITERARY GOLDRUSH thanks to Clio, an app/website thing which for…some money, will literally Cyrano you through the process of writing a business book, even to the point of letting you (or at least so it claims) just ‘dictate some thoughts’ into your phone and have those turned into a potential-bestseller in minutes! It’s almost certainly not quite that simple – I would imagine, reading between the lines, that it’s just structuring you through some fairly-standard LLM wrangling with successive prompts – but it’s not hard to imagine the market for this, and the sort of INCREDIBLE WISDOM that is going to result. I appreciate that some of you might feel differently about this, but I am firmly of the opinion that all business books are Bad, and largely For Idiots, and this sort of thing is going to make the market even worse.
  • Hover States; I don’t seem to have featured this before, despite it being 12 years old – FIE ON ME. “The home of alternative design, code and content on the world wide web. Browse our growing archive of web design inspiration which we have been curating since 2012. We look out for websites that are experimenting with design, interactivity and content in new and interesting ways.” This is HUGELY-useful and definitely worth bookmarking.
  • Roots: A collection of images of the root networks of various different trees and plants of different species. These are incredibly satisfying, partly because they just are and partly because they give me an excuse to use the word ‘dendritic’.
  • Aruba’s Digital Archive: I heard a really interesting thing on the radio this week about digital curation and archiving and the constant, Cnut-like (again, king not swear) battle against the inexorable and inevitable forces of entropy that all physical and digital media face, and it made me think once again that we are going to one day wake up and realise the vital importance of things like the Internet Archive (and the tragedy of all of the terabytes and petabytes that are gone forever). Anyway, this is a genuinely brilliant project – the tiny Caribbean nation of Aruba (I once lived with a guy from Aruba, who was tiny, incredibly-cheerful and who had the name ‘Juan Sanchez’, making him literally impossible to ever track down again) has digitised its archival history, supported in part by the infrastructure of the Internet Archive, and you can explore it at this url – this is less about the collection (although ethnographers and historians and, perhaps, YOU, will find it interesting) and more about the ethos underpinning it. That which is not saved will be lost forever, innit.
  • ASCII World Map: “MapSCII is a Braille & ASCII world map renderer for your console” That…that is literally it, but perhaps one of you will find it useful! Maybe it will change your life in some small way! But, in all likelihood, it probably won’t!
  • Vertebrate Models: “The openVertebrate project, oVert for short, is a new initiative to provide free, digital 3D vertebrate anatomy models and data to researchers, educators, students and the public. X-ray CT allows researchers to visualize and quantify hard-to-measure characteristics. This image shows high and low density areas of the skull of an Angolan burrowing pig-nosed frog. Florida Museum of Natural History image by Ed Stanley.  Over the next four years, the oVert team will CT scan 20,000 fluid-preserved specimens from U.S. museum collections, producing high-resolution anatomical data for more than 80 percent of vertebrate genera.” Which, yes, is all fine, but what I am taking from this is the fact that there is shortly going to be a massive database that includes models of EVERY SINGLE VERTEBRATE (ish) ON THE PLANET! Which means that if you want a perfectly-accurate representation of, I don’t know, a cane toad, or a sugar glider, or an asp (and you are in the 0.1% of the world’s population who owns or has access to a 3d printer) then you can just make one! The future!
  • Eclipse Simulator: Did you get to EXPERIENCE TOTALITY? No, me neither, and yet as is ever the case with ‘stuff that happens to America’, we still have to listen to a bunch of people wang on about it. Still, click this link and see what all the fuss was about.
  • Drawback Chess: What if ‘chess, but with each player playing under slightly-tweaked rules in an attempt to even out differences in skill between mismatched opponents’? CLICK THIS LINK AND FIND OUT! This is quite fun, in a ‘I wonder what it would be like playing chess if I am only allowed to move my knights in one specific configuration?’ sort of way.
  • Apollo: A brilliant little platform game in which you play as a small, initially-flightless, bird, and have to wander round collecting stuff – this is tightly-designed and just challenging enough, and lasts pretty much the perfect amount of time to make a pleasing 15-minute distraction from whatever it is that is currently causing you pain.
  • Poet Gang Playing Cards: Our last miscellaneous link this week is this…surprisingly excellent game, which has equally-surprisingly seemingly been made by hiphop producer Kenny Segal and which sees you engaging in a variety of hiphop-themed card battles with a range of opponents, writing rhymes and dropping beats and building up your card deck…honestly, if you’ve ever played Slay The Spire or one of those types of things then you’ll get this immediately, but if not there’s a decent tutorial and the learning curve’s not too steep. There’s a lot of depth to the mechanics if you want to search for it, with four different characters with different cards and playstyles to unlock, but perhaps the biggest draw here is the music which really is far, far better than you’d expect it to be for a browsergame with graphics that look a little bit like they were made by a 17 year old in 1994 (in a nice way). This is really very impressive and a surprising amount of fun.

By Raymond Lemstra, via TIH



  • Blocky Graphics: From the ‘about’: “Old computer graphics, basically. You either get it or you don’t. You’re either fascinated by file formats and file size limitations and making much out of little, or off to reblog the next bit of panoramic scenery pr0n.” Which, honestly, is the sort of curmudgeonly snobbery I can absolutely get behind.


  • The Stamp Curse: The curatorial principle behind this account isn’t ENTIRELY clear to me, but, well, STAMPS! LOTS OF STAMPS! I think, as far as I can tell, the stamps featured tend to be in some way related to the news – there were loads featuring images of eclipses over the past week, for example – should that give you a compelling reason to follow this one.
  • Artificial Drag Race: Hosted by an AI Betty Boop, and featuring a host of highly-copyrighted cartoon figures from pop culture, this probably isn’t going to be online for very long – but if you’ve ever wanted to experience Bugs Bunny facing off against Donkey Kong to see who serves the most cnut, then, well, HERE YOU ARE!


  • The World Cannot Afford The Rich: I appreciate that this year there’s been something of a glut of ‘Big Money/plutocrats=BAD!’ pieces in Curios, but in my defence it’s simply a factor of the fact that there is a LOT of this sort of thinking out there at the moment (you can make your own guesses as to why). This one’s actually a couple of weeks old but is a very good overview of the data and arguments demonstrating that the greater economic inequalities exist within a society, the greater the likely environmental impact of said society – the piece is literally ALL paragraphs like this, but here’s one at random: “The costs of inequality are also excruciatingly high for governments. For example, the Equality Trust, a charity based in London (of which we are patrons and co-founders), estimated that the United Kingdom alone could save more than £100 billion ($126 billion) per year if it reduced its inequalities to the average of those in the five countries in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) that have the smallest income differentials — Denmark, Finland, Belgium, Norway and the Netherlands. And that is considering just four areas: greater number of years lived in full health, better mental health, reduced homicide rates and lower imprisonment rates.” Worth reading, partly because it’s interesting, partly because it’s infuriating, but mainly because it’s useful to have a lot of this stuff in your pocket for the next time someone starts suggesting that the burden of responsibility for A LOT OF THE BAD STUFF doesn’t in fact fall on the rich (individuals and corporations alike).
  • Homo Economicus is a Sociopath: Ok, this is a *bit* silly and obviously not the most vital piece of research that’s going to be published this year, but, equally, it feels like it might be a potentially useful framing for something. The premise of this paper, published in the Journal of Business Ethics, is that the behavioural archetypes that economic models are classically based on and which underpin our ‘understanding’ (lol) of how we should structure and regulate (lol) markets in order to optimise outcomes – that is, Homo Economicus, agents who are “consistently rational and narrowly self-interested, and who pursue their subjectively defined ends optimally” – basically demonstrate all the traits of clinical psychopathy and that, as such, perhaps there’s a SMALL CHANCE that optimising for this stuff is in fact not a good idea on a human level. JUST A THOUGHT!
  • AI Has An Uber Problem: An interesting piece of writing suggesting – heaven forfend! – that the ultra-capitalised means in which companies, specifically tech companies, are funded thanks to VC et al has the knock-on effect of creating distorted markets which actively disbenefit consumers, businesses and…oh, what a surprise, everything except for the investment! In summary, “It is a dark pattern, a map to suboptimal outcomes rather than the true path to competition, innovation and the creation of robust companies and markets. As Bill Janeway noted in his critique of the capital-fueled bubbles that resulted from the ultra-low interest rates of the decade following the 2007–2009 financial crisis, “capital is not a strategy.” Venture capitalists don’t have a crystal ball. To the extent that entrepreneurial funding is more concentrated in the hands of a few, private finance can drive markets independent of consumer preferences and supply dynamics. Market discipline is significantly delayed—until the initial public offering or later. And of course, today IPOs are delayed, often precisely because companies can get all the capital they need from a small number of deep-pocketed investors. Founders and employees are even able to cash out some of their shares without having to face the scrutiny of public markets, much as if bettors on a horse race could take their money off the table as the horses round the first turn. Thus, far from finance being an extension of the market (with lots of independent signals aggregated to ensure competition and consumer choice), capital can ignore the will of the market.”
  • The Big AI Data-Scraping Story: If you are yet to read it, this is the NYT’s BIG SCOOP from last weekend all about how – and this may come as a shock to you – it turns out that everyone involved in the development of generative AI models has been playing fast-and-loose with the idea of copyright and ownership, and how now Google is getting p1ssy with OpenAI, and how maybe Google hasn’t been entirely transparent either…and, look, I don’t know about you but the more I read of the copyright question the more I am convinced that the only thing that is going to happen with any of this is some lucrative interbusiness deals being signed, some lawyers having a VERY good decade or so, and none of the people who actually made any of the videos, or wrote any of the words, that have been scraped to feed the machine getting paid anything at all.
  • Welcome To The AI Gadget Era!: Or at least that was the headline to the first Verge piece on AI wearables and gadgets, which looked forward to the relatively-imminent launch of the first wave of LLM-enabled devices and how they might change everything and REVOLUTIONISE THE WORLD! The piece acknowledges that it’s all very early days for this stuff, and that it won’t really work very well at first, but that it’s the start of an exciting new era and closes with “Right now, everyone’s searching for “the iPhone of AI,” but we’re not getting that anytime soon. We might not get it ever, for that matter, because the promise of AI is that it doesn’t require a certain kind of perfected interface — it doesn’t require any interface at all. What we’re going to get instead are the Razr, the Chocolate, the Treo, the Pearl, the N-Gage, and the Sidekick of AI. It’s going to be chaos, and it’s going to be great.” A whole 8 days later that optimism was somewhat tarnished when the same publication published its ‘first impressions’ of the Humane AI wearable which has just shipped and, per the review, just doesn’t work, at all, in any meaningful or useful way. There’s something quite funny about the way in which this pairing of articles neatly highlights the two central pillars of tech journalism (specifically, 1. Excitedly proclaiming ‘the holodeck is just around the corner!’; 2. Giving the holodeck a one-star review on launch because it doesn’t come with full teledildonics plug-and-play functionality), but the main takeaway, as with any of this stuff right now, is ‘NONE OF THIS TECH IS MARKET READY YET FFS’.
  • Enter The Era of Never Forgetting: What will it do to us when our magical personal digital pocket friend who lives in the cloud and in our phone and in our glasses and watch and trousers and fridge and eventually frontal cortex and sees and hears everything that we see and hear and read and watch, and never forgets ANY OF IT, and all of that is available to us to search through and index and trawl back over, like ‘Evernote, but for literally your whole life and this time actually usable’? NO FCUKING IDEA, but this article in Wired asks the question (and, if you ask me, doesn’t ask anywhere near enough additional questions about ‘what are we going to do to ensure that the aggressively data-extractive anti-privacy patterns of the past 15 years don’t get replicated in their entirety?’).
  • What Google Is Doing To Publishers: This is just one online business’s story, but it’s one that’s being replicated across the web and around the world, and it is only going to be exacerbated by the inevitable integration of generative AI and summary content into the search experience. Retro Dodo is a website which publishes stuff about retro games, and, as you’d expect, makes money from advertising against that content – this article tells the story of why the site probably won’t exist for much longer in the wake of continued downward pressure on site traffic, and does a decent job of explaining why the ad-funded publishing model simply isn’t going to work for anyone any more in a few years’ time.
  • Print Is Coming Back: Ok, not quite, BUT I found myself nodding throughout this piece by Viktoriia Vasileva which basically says ‘brands making physical media is about to have a comeback’ – I genuinely believe this, given the insane oversaturation of the podcast and newsletter market and the rare and genuine pleasure of slightly-ephemeral physical media in the shape of zines or magazines.
  • The Declutterers: Cleantok has been a thing for YEARS, obvs, but whereas in the past it was that woman with all the bleach (sorry, mental block, Mrs…Hinch?) it’s now evolved and reached its seeming apogee in the US, with the latest wave of people who have managed to somehow turn ‘doubling your plastic consumption, literally, in pursuit of an aesthetic’ into aspirational content. This piece is incredibly depressing, honestly, in a ‘and this is why we are totally fcuked’ way – it profiles a bunch of people in the US who are doing numbers on TikTok showing off their ‘decluttering routine’, which basically involves taking an enormous, industrial quantity of domestic stuff, usually food, and removing it from its original (usually plastic) packaging to put it in new, organised, more-aesthetically-appealing plastic, which of course has been bought and shipped from…probably the other side of the world! This is basically ‘Stacey Solomon’s Refill Day’ on adderall and several million dollars of passive income, and the overwhelming ethos of the creators in question can be summed up in this delightful quote: “This is a space where women are empowered. We’re women sharing cool things with each other directly. You want it to go back to men running QVC?” EMPOWERMENT! Jesus wept.
  • The Latest AI Deepfake Influencer Thing: Another week, another case of AI video being used for questionable purposes! This time it’s a brand new scam in which UNSCRUPULOUS ACTORS scrape a bunch of content from various OnlyFans pages, spin up a fake woman’s face using an AI generator, use another AI programme to graft the fake face onto the real body in the images/video and then use these new AI frankenvids to tease unsuspecting horny idiots into signing up for some fraudulent OnlyFans shell site or another. This is probably going to be a very awkward conversation to have, but a lot of you should probably have a word with any teenage boys under your care about this sort of thing because I would bet not-insignificant money that it’s the very young and the very old who are getting scammed here.
  • Reality TV: The Videogame: Lots of excitement and hype, this week at least, about a newly-released videogame which is interesting for a couple of reasons – firstly the premise, which revolves around you playing someone responsible for filming and directing a reality TV show, and ensuring you create EXCITING MOMENTS for the viewing public (whatever that may end up meaning…), and secondly because of the slightly-meta nature of the game which is explicitly designed to be streamed as entertainment, and whose setup and framing is very much Twitch friendly in terms of the premise and the sorts of scenarios that end up resulting. There are some interesting questions about how best to design something that works from a player and spectator point of view – a question that I don’t think has quite been nailed yet by anyone really, which is one of the reasons why esports as a spectator sport hasn’t quite taken off in a mainstream sense.
  • Birds Aren’t Real Take Two: I enjoyed this profile of the kid behind the ‘bird aren’t real’ movement – not least because it’s hard not to feel warm towards someone who decides to drop out of college on the basis of an accidentally-viral gag and is the very definition of someone *committing to the bit* – which talks to him about the madness of the past few years and what he wants to do next… I confess to feeling my heart sink a bit when I got to this section and realised that, perhaps inevitably, the pivot is going to be to ‘running an agency’ (he doesn’t say, but read the following and just extrapolate a few years): “McIndoe and his friend Adam Faze, who produces shows for TikTok and recently raised a $750,000 seed round for his new content production company, are attempting to harness this type of enthusiasm with a political network they’ve called Fifty Stars. “The right has a very strong engine ecosystem that is communicating with Gen Z, from the Daily Wire, to [MAGA YouTubers] the NELK Boys, to the Joe ‘Roganverse,’ to the Jordan Petersons and the Andrew Tates,” McIndoe said. Not Fox News commentators but comedians, fitness influencers, and lowly podcasters are “influencing the future of the right more than anyone,” he said. “The left doesn’t have anything comparable.”” MSCHF-but-for-politics is 100% going to be on an investor slide somewhere.
  • Linking The Gurl: This is less a ‘longread’ and more ‘a list of resources that might be interesting to anyone who wants to explore ideas of womanhood and femininity, and the concept of ‘girl’, in online spaces’ – compiled by Molly Soda, who writes: “As a culture, we’ve discussed the girlification of the web ad nauseam: in think-pieces, blog posts, trend forecasts, and Twitter threads. 2023 was coined “The Year of the Girl” thanks to the popularity of girl-centric terminology (girl dinner, hot girl walks), the ubiquity of bows (not just in fashion but everywhere you could imagine), and the commercial success of the Barbie movie. In the wake of this heightened Girl awareness, there have been well-intentioned but ultimately misguided attempts to define “girlhood” online. These definitions are predicated on the opposition between girlhood and womanhood. Why do all these grown women want to be girls? Who gets to be a girl? When does one stop being a girl? Much of the discourse has framed this sudden interest in girlishness as a failing, or as a resistance to the oppressive Girlboss (the term Girl still applies here), or as a fear of aging.  There is no distinction between woman and Girl online. We must throw out any binary thinking. Online, we are all Girls. Girl exists as a condition rather than a fixed gender or age. “Girl” is a valuable marketing term in the same way that “authenticity” is. It is performed, refined, but never able to be perfected—hoisted upon us and impossible to embody. We’ve reached peak Girl. By the time this syllabus reaches you, you’re likely sick of it. The culture has turned against it. The Girl backlash has begun.” To be clear, this really is a syllabus – there are a LOT of links to various essays here, alongside personal websites and other digital portals – but if you’re interested in the construction of gender in online spaces then it’s a fascinating place to start exploring.
  • Momos: ‘Momos’ is the term apparently given in China to (mostly young) people who rather than using their real identities in online interactions instead assume a sort of shared collective identity, using usernames that WeChat defaults to giving anonymous users (in the same way as Google Docs, for example, assigns people animals and adjectives, which is why you will occasionally have a Serendipitous Ocelot perusing your Sheets) – this article, translated from the Chinese, talks about the phenomenon and What It Means, and, honestly, the world is a fcuking village: “Perhaps this is also the reason for the popularity of momo. Even among young people, who often make the most energetic impressions, some of them have begun to hide themselves online. “The reason why they hide their image and become momo is because they grapple with the pressures from real life. They deconstruct themselves and call themselves ‘social animals’ or ‘student animals’.” A 2023 paper said. In this paper published in the Journal of News Research [新闻研究导刊], two scholars from Henan University also gave a portrait of momo, “It can be said that momo has created a unified group imprint to the outside world, that is, the mental pressure is high, but cute and humorous, an image full of justice and empathy.” This statement is recognized by many momos. “No normal person would play as momo, if they weren’t dealing with issues.” said 27-year-old Xiong Xiong.” WELL QUITE.
  • Microdosing Retirement: On the one hand, the title of this article makes me twitch; on the other, I very much enjoyed it and I am totally on board with the premise – taking a few months off every now and again to just…do…nothing, because why the fcuk not and also we are never, ever retiring, ever.
  • It’s A Long Way Down: I have a fairly strong – unscientific, obvs – feeling that the next 5 years or so are going to see an absolute labour market glut of men in their late-40s and upwards, men whose actual, practical professional skills can largely be described as ‘writing and thinking a bit but mainly making powerpoints and delegating the making of those powerpoints to people younger than them, and going to LOTS OF MEETINGS’ and who are going to suddenly find that a) their current employers don’t need them anymore, and b) that literally noone is going to pay them 80k+ ever again in their lives. This piece, by Ray Suarez, is not QUITE about those men – the author here is a writer and journalist rather than an agencymonkey, but his broad thread, that lots of GenX people are about to be kicked in the face by the realisation that the world has changed in ways that upend all of the assumptions they had made about their life’s final tercile, strikes me as very accurate indeed. WON’T SOMEONE THINK OF ALL THE POOR AGENCY DADS???
  • I Hate Berlin: Another of Deez Links’ ‘I Hate X’ pieces this week, this time on Berlin – I lost the author in the final two paragraphs where they went on some weird American tangent about ‘people take too many holidays’ – mate, honestly, THAT is very much a ‘you’ problem – but the rest of it is joyous and my ex-Berlin friend Scott described it as ‘incredibly fcuking accurate’, so there you go.
  • Women’s Words: I LOVE THIS! Mary Wellesley reviews a book about ‘Women’s Words’ by Jenni Nuttall – words that have been used to describe women, their bodies and their minds and their selves, in English over the centuries, and it is a glorious tour of lexicographical curiosities from the anatomical to the societal, and is full of paragraphs like this which sort of thing I find endlessly-fascinating: “In this period, Nuttall writes, ‘certain parts of society dug in to resist change.’ Language was often tidied up by lexicographers and literary texts cleansed. When an anonymous Georgian author published a modernised version of Chaucer’s ‘Miller’s Tale’, the words ‘hole’ and ‘ers’ were replaced with ‘buttock’ and ‘bum’, and Alison’s verdant pubic hair, described by Chaucer as ‘rough and long y-erd’ (‘long haired’) was described as ‘rougher than the down on ladies’ cheeks’. At the same time that this version appeared, it became usual to assign the male pronoun to nouns of indeterminate gender. We still haven’t shaken this off.”
  • The Big Food Fair: For Vittles, Jonathan Nunn visits The International Food and Drink Event at London’s Excel Centre, where the BIG BUYERS congregate to decide what’s going to be on people’s plates in a few years’ time and which is where you go if you want to scope out what exciting developments are coming down the line in the plant-based pepperoni market – this is wonderful, as you’d expect, capturing the peculiar nature of The Big Conference Experience (seeing as we’re all agreed that Big Magazine can probably retire the cruise ship feature now, can we also agree that they should move on to Big Conference Experience features? I would honestly read a 3,000 worder about the very peculiar weirdness of attending, say, the Annual Bitumen Suppliers Conference in Wolverhampton) and the otherworldly horror of ultraprocessed foods.
  • The Creative Process: Often when you see writing about THE CREATIVE PROCESS it’s annoyingly wooly or nonspecific or nebulous – not here, though, with three different artists (visual artists Cheryl Pope and Kara Walker and the poet Louise Glück) talking through the practicalities of How They Make Work. I like this because it’s procedural and unglamorous, and it shows the work that goes into The Work, if you see what I mean.
  • Super Cute Please Like: One of the best essays about online shopping – specifically buying on/from SHEIN – I have ever read. Nicole Lipman writes about EVERYTHING – the experience of browsing, of buying, of the brand and the site and the marketing and the TikToks and the hauls and the totality of ‘what we talk about when we talk about online shopping’ and it is brilliant and personal and weird and slightly-odd and a bit uncomfortable – honestly, this really is excellent.
  • The Big Buffet: READ THIS. If you like food, read this. If you like silly pieces about slightly-ridiculous places, read this. If you just enjoy a beautifully-written article that you can luxuriate with for 20 minutes, ideally with an accompanying pastry, READ THIS – it is superb, although I warn you that you will be FCUKING RAVENOUS by the time you’re done reading it – The New Yorker sends Lauren Collins to experience what is apparently the largest restaurant buffet in the world, and I guarantee you that by the end you will be looking up cheap accommodation (and possibly some sort of local stomach-pumping facility) in Narbonne.
  • Dark Matter: If you’re a certain vintage of online, PostSecret occupies a very special place in your heart – I presume you’re all aware of it, but if not then it’s the ORIGINAL (pre-Fesshole!) internet confessional, except it ran on postcards. People from all around the world have for years sent its founder Frank Warren cards detailing their secrets, and Frank posts some of them online – the cards are often works of art in themselves, and if you’ve ever spent any time trawling the archive you’ll know that they are devastating and funny and occasionally frightening and VERY HUMAN…this article profiles Frank, and the website, and is just beautiful.
  • It’s Not What The World Needs Now: Our last longread of the week is this VERY LONG piece by Andrew Norman Wilson, a video artist who you may or may not have heard of, who writes about a six year period of his life and his art and precariety and THE ART WORLD, and I think I enjoyed this more than almost anything else I have read so far this year; there’s something…pleasingly-affectless about it that reminded be of Easton Ellis in a good way, like a more self-aware Glamorama without the international terrorism, and it reminded me so powerfully of certain people I have met and Places I Have Been that it was almost uncanny. If you have any interest in/affinity with the contemporary art world and how very silly it is then you will very much enjoy this.

By Leela Corman


Webcurios 05/04/24

Reading Time: 37 minutes

You know what, everyone? I…I really enjoyed having a week off. I know, I know, I’m supposed to say that I missed all the web and the links and stuff, but in actual fact it was really, really nice not to actually have to read 300 fcuking websites every day.

Yes, I know that I don’t technically *have* to do this – after all, noone is asking me (some, I am sure, would very much prefer it if I stopped) and noone is paying me and, in the main, noone cares – but the one thing that I did realise from taking a short break is that I am now in the unfortunate position where ‘writing the fcuker’ is effectively so much a part of my idea of myself at this point in time that without it I worry I might just sort of collapse into nothingness.

What I am saying, basically, is that you may want these emails to stop, *I* may want these emails to stop, but these emails may in fact never stop until I stop (in the definitive sense).

I am still Matt, this is still Web Curios, and you are probably hoping it picks up after this bit (it doesn’t, sadly).


By Shardcore



  • World Sim: It always feels a bit like an admission of some sort of abject failure when I have to give the very first link of the week the whole ‘I don’t really understand what this is, but’…but, well, I don’t really understand what this is, BUT IT IS INCREDIBLE. World Sim is…it’s basically that. Imagine a text adventure in which the whole premise is ‘you’re god. On Day 0 of creation. GO!’ – well that’s what this is. Built on some LLM – I think it’s using Claude – this is one of the most amazing, dizzying, silly, brilliant applications of the tech that I’ve seen in ages – to be clear, it is utterly pointless, but it is also SO beautifully set up. Tell the programme to create humans – watch and see what sort of humans it creates. After creating the heavens and the earth, land and sea, I asked for some fauna and the system became bizarrely obsessed with developing a unicorn-based economy for my humans to exploit. Create plagues! Create existential conundra! Tell every single living creature they must engage in blood sacrifice to avoid the wrath of the capricious, all-seeing God-creature that oversees their every waking moment! I spent about an hour with this this week and I can’t stress enough how wonderful it is – I strongly advise you to just leave it in a tab and pop back in when you fancy messing with an imaginary universe at a deep, even cellular, level. Really, I think this is WONDERFUL and I hope you do too (oh, a couple of caveats – the deeper into the ‘sim’ you go, the slower it moves, so you might find that you have to reset after a while because the weight of keeping some sort of coherence makes it too slow for it to be fun – but that’s ok, because you can go back to Genesis and see what happens if you populate your sea planet with nothing but a race of hyperintelligent toasters who must fight to avoid a species-decimating rust issue. Or something).
  • Vizzing The Parrot: Ok, that’s not in fact what this is called AT ALL, but I prefer my title – this is perhaps the best and clearest explainer/visualisation of How LLMs Work (Insofar As We Actually Understand That At All, Which Is Not In Fact That Far) that I have yet seen, and by far the clearest way of demonstrating to someone that, despite appearances, The Machine is literally just a probability exercise (albeit a fiendishly-complex one). Speaks the project’s creator “Using the chatgpt api, I ran the same completion prompt “Intelligence is ” hundreds of times (setting the temperature quite high, at 1.6, for more diverse responses). Given a text, a Large Language Model assigns a probability for the word (token) to come, and it just repeats this process until a completion is…well, complete.” So what this does is show you ALL the branching options that the model has considered to complete the sentence – and a picture of the way in which it conceives of the latent space within which the concepts exist, and how the relational structure between said concepts works (to an extent). This is obviously limited – I am pretty sure that one of the curiosities of latent space is that it’s not really possible to viz it in a way that accurately captures all the relational data, or at least not in a way that we could reasonably be expected to make sense of – but it’s SO interesting, and there’s something dizzying about the way the visualisation shows you the sheer breadth of potential options and directions in which the ‘thinking’ The Machine is doing can go. Honestly, if you’ve struggled to get your head round ‘what is actually happening when an LLM is doing that thing it does’ then this really might help.
  • Terra: Oh, I really like this and I sort-of want one. Terra is an open-source project which anyone with a 3d printer and a reasonable amount of technical nous (so, in all likelihood, approximately three of you) can participate in, which basically lets you create an AI-powered GPS pebble that will take you on MYSTERY WALKS. The way it works is that there’s a GPS tracker in the pebble, which gets programmed by an AI based on the prompt you give it for the sort of walk you want to take – it knows where you are when you make the request, and based on the prompt you give it (eg “a two-hour stroll around the most picturesque areas of Catford”) (for non-Londoners: this is a gentle gag) it will create a route for you that will take you, eventually, right back to where you started. It’s then your job to use the pebble to guide you around the selected route – all it shows you is a compass direction to walk in, with no screen or additional info, with the idea being that you just follow the broad indications of where to head and enjoy your stroll without distraction, safe in the knowledge that you’ll eventually end up right where you started. I LOVE THIS – as someone whose idea of ‘a good day out’ is often ‘leaving my house at 10am and basically just walking until I feel like I might die’ it’s pretty much perfect for me, although I accept that there is a probably-not-entirely-safe-at-this-exact-point-in-time degree of trust being placed in the black box of AI here and I wouldn’t necessarily trust this to send me on walks anywhere I wasn’t already a BIT familiar with (I wouldn’t, for the sake of argument, suggest using this as a way of ‘taking my first wander around Cartagena at night’), but it’s SO LOVELY. I want one. Can, er, one of the three of I alluded to earlier sort this out for me? Come on, I never ask ANYTHING of you (other than, er, the time it takes to read 10,000 words a week of this sh1t. On which note, ffs Matt! Come on! Links!).
  • Cursor Watching: I am of the personal belief that ‘multiplayer websites’ are going to become a bit of a thing in the not-too-distant future (file this under “stuff you can remind Matt of in the future to remind him he’s fcuking terrible at making predictions and has repeatedly promised that he will stop making them”), and this website collects a nice collection of examples of the genre which illustrate how FUN they can be. Click the link and you’ll be taken to a page on which are embedded windows onto a bunch of other sites, each of which is a space which plays with the idea of multiple users, all strangers to each other, experiencing it at the same time. So you have sites where you can all see each other’s cursors, letting you interact through gestures with strangers, or ones in which you can make collaborative music…some of these have been featured in Curios over the years, but there’s a lovely selection here which will be useful for you all when you FINALLY do what I have been asking you to do for years and ensure that every single web project you’re involved in includes a fun element like these because WHY NOT?
  • SearchMySite: A project seeking to create a small, curated search engine which focuses on sites from ‘the indieweb / the small web / digital gardens’ – this has been running for a few years now, apparently, but I only came across it this week, and from what I can tell there are a reasonable number of sites that it crawls when pulling results. You can submit a site for inclusion in the corpus (although I couldn’t personally make the form work when I tried again just now), and, even if you don’t want to use it for search, I can highly recommend spamming the ‘random’ button and seeing where you end up – I obviously can’t vouch for everything on here, but all the sites I’ve found through it so far have been…nice, and, crucially, avowedly non-commercial.
  • Melon King: I am quite angry that I don’t seem to have stumbled across this before now, because, let me be clear, IT IS EVERYTHING I HAVE EVER WANTED FROM THE WEB (oh, hang on – I think I have featured this page before, during COVID). From the ‘about’ section: “This site has been under construction since 2016; it is not a nostalgia site, and its not entirely a personal site – Melonking.Net contains a tangle of biographical material, fiction, idealism and memories. It was created to be the website I imagined creating when I was 6 years old; a recollection of the web through the infinity mirror of time. This site is about the web of media and life; it beckons you to explore, there is no algorithmic guard rail; sometimes its serious and often its silly, but its always genuine – as you explore I hope you’ll let go of the world you are in, and inhabit this one for just a while :^]” This is…this is dizzying and mad and a sort of odd, half-remembered fever-dream of the internet in 2000-ish, with mad graphics and an insane hodgepodge of interfaces and 3d animations and glittery stickers and GeoCities vibes and some actually pretty impressive webwork going on under the hood, and SO MUCH STUFF – so many rabbitholes and easter eggs, all of which is also, at heart, an intensely personal account of someone’s interests and life, on and offline, and I can’t stress enough how utterly, magically wonderful this is. I think I have said on here before (SO MANY TIMES YOU ARE SO FCUKING BORING MATT) that the best websites are the ones that basically feel like you’re stepping into an ornate and beautifully-rendered extension of someone else’s brain, and this is EXACTLY how this feels. I love it and in all honesty I would happily sack this off for the morning and spend the rest of the day with the Melon King (but you’re not getting off that lightly).
  • Favoree: This self-describes as ‘IMDB, but for YouTubers’ – not an influencer discovery platform, though you could probably use it as one if you really tried hard, but instead a way of collating YouTubers around particular topics of interest, offering information about the topics they cover and the style they do it in, and a means of finding new streamers you might be interested in, away from the algorithmic pressure to watch some shouting lunatic whose got an inexplicably-huge subscriber base. I can’t speak to how useful this is being a non-YouTube person, in the main, but here it is just in case.
  • The Pleasure Gallery: ACTUAL BONGO ALERT! Textual bongo, to be clear, so as long as noone’s actually reading what’s on your screen you can click with abandon here. The premise here is simple – artist Angela Vang made this site to share a random selection of sexts sent or received by her and her friends (or anyone on the web who submits one via the site), which are presented as a scrolling, seemingly-infinite conversation between two nameless, genderless and EXTREMELY HORNY parties. The decontextualisation of the messages and the lack of continuity as to the ‘who’ on each side makes this pleasingly abstract whilst at the same time being VERY FILTHY INDEED. No judgement whatsoever, but there are a LOT of people who like rimming featured in these messages. I love this, and it feels like a ‘proper’ gallery piece.
  • Mosaic: This feels like a potentially-interesting idea, but I am somewhat-sketchy on how it ACTUALLY works – the premise behind Mosaic is that there should be some sort of database of digital creatives’ work, a record of what has been made by whom that can be referenced and referred back to as ‘proof of creative ownership’, and that’s the function the site’s hoping to fulfil. The idea is that ‘creators’ make an account, and for each project they complete they create a ‘block’ on Mosaic which acts as a record of their creative ownership – per their description, it’s “an innovative online platform designed to help you showcase your work accomplishments in a more detailed and authenticated way. Think of it as an interactive, project-based resume that goes beyond just listing your roles and responsibilities. On Mosaic, your work is represented through ‘Blocks’, which are individual projects you’ve worked on. Each Block contains specific information about the project, such as what the project was, who it was for, when it was completed, what role you played, and who you collaborated with. But here’s the exciting part: these Blocks aren’t just statements, they’re authenticated. That means when you create a Block, you send it for approval to someone who can verify your work, adding credibility to your professional achievements.” Now, I don’t know about you but I hear the words ‘block’ and ‘authenticated’ and I immediately start to get the web3cryptoick…but it’s totally unclear whether this is an unfortunate coincidence, or whether this is blockchain-linked but just trying to hide it and look normal. Anyway, this feels like a potentially good idea which is probably never going to achieve meaningful scale (SORRY GUYS I HOPE I AM WRONG), but, equally, it probably can’t hurt to check it out if you Make Stuff On The Web.
  • Food Mood: New fun Google AI experiment thingy! Food mood is a silly – but weirdly-compelling, to me at least – little toy which lets you pick two cuisines, a type of meal (starter, soup, main, dessert – it’s hardly Larousse, but wevs) and a number of diners and LIKE MAGIC it will imagine a new, frankenfood hybrid of the two cultures complete with a recipe, ingredient quantities and a photo of the resulting dish. To give you an idea of the sorts of outputs, I asked it for an Anglo-Italian hybrid starter and it offered me a ‘recipe’ for a ricotta, smoked salmon, olive and caper bruschetta, a combination so violently-unpalatable to me that I had to go and mentally wash my mouth out with Cynar, but your mileage may vary – if nothing else, if you and your partner are from different cultures you could reasonably let The Machine plan out the most romantic, culturally-confused and inedible date night supper you’ve ever had.
  • Musical Canvas: Another fun Google AI experiment thingy! Musical canvas is a nice little bit of multimodal experimentation – doodle whatever you like on the canvas (the prompt says ‘draw’, but has anyone ever been able to actually ‘draw’ anything using their mouse? I posit that they have in fact not) and The Machine will attempt to interpret your daubings and render them as an appropriate musical output. The resulting songs are trash, to be clear, but it’s fun to draw a succession of increasingly-obscene cartoon phalli and watch Google desperately attempt to reinterpret them as ‘a poorly-drawn ten-gallon hat’ or something and spin up a jaunty banjo-led country instrumental to accompany it.
  • Instrument Playground:ANOTHER fun Google AI experiment thing! This is surprisingly deep – at first glance it’s a reasonably-simple music generation toy – select your instrument, give it some vague directional prompting to fix a style and away you go – but it turns out you can actually noodle with the resulting sonic outputs in a range of ways, manipulating individual bits of the 20s track which gives an interesting top-level overview of the way in which generative AI can transform the process of editing digital media. I am basically tone-deaf and so get limited joy from this, but the more musical among you might find it a fun thing to play with. All these Google bits came via Lynn Cherny’s excellent Things I Think Are Interesting newsletter, by the way, which is a gem if you’re interested in new AI developments.
  • April Cools Club: A simple premise, started a few years ago: “The idea is pretty simple: on April Fools’ Day (also known as “April 1st”), a participant produces genuine content that’s very different from their normal produced content. It could be a different format, a different topic, a different style, anything. The constraints are: It is something they normally wouldn’t do. It is totally genuine: no irony to it.It is up to their usual standards of quality.For example, some might normally post complex software engineering content to their blog. But this April Fools’ Day, they are publishing an essay on microscopy, how they got into it, and what it means to them, complete with a gallery of their favorite microscopy photos.” This is a collection of the various projects various people have undertaken in Aprils past, and a place to see what people are doing this year, and while there’s nothing particularly remarkable happening here I personally find something genuinely pleasing about stuff like this and like to celebrate it where I can (aren’t I nice? Jesus, get OVER yourself you twat).
  • Piet Dewijngaert: This is the personal website of one Piet Dewijngaert, a(n, I think) Dutch developer who’s built this to showcase his digital design and build skills and it is VERY SHINY – in particular the ‘captcha’ elements are really beautifully done, lovely interaction design here. Very nice work indeed.
  • Global Outdoor Days: Well this is some sobering data. Global Outdoor Days lets you pick any one of a number of countries, set a minimum and maximum temperature range during which you consider it personally comfortable to be outside, and then click to see what sort of projected difference climate change is likely to make over the coming decades – I tried it with Rome just now, suggesting that I would prefer not to spend too much time outside when the mercury tips 33 degrees, and learned there are likely to be 54 fewer days when I will want to go outside by 2050 (I will be dead by then, no question, but the point holds). The UK? 64, apparently. GOOD LUCK EVERYONE.
  • Chatbot Arena: This is an interesting ongoing experiment – Chatbot Arena is working to compare the outputs of different LLM models based on people’s qualitative feedback – feed it a prompt and it will spit out responses from two different models without telling you which ones they are. The users then selects which they think is the ‘best’ answer, all of which data contributes to a live league table of ‘which model is best right now’ – interestingly (I mean, not THAT interesting, fine) Claude’s Opus model is currently narrowly edging out GPT4, with everything else a significant way behind.
  • All The Floyd Animations: This is quite amazing. I have never really been a fan of 60s/70s music and as such the extreme degree of reverence granted to bands like Pink Floyd has always felt slightly baffling to me – stuff like this, though, hammers home just how INSANELY popular they still are. The band recently ran a contest asking people to create animations to accompany the songs on the band’s Dark Side of the Moon album, as part of an anniversary rerelease – MY GOD did the fans oblige. This YouTube channel collects ALL the videos submitted as part of the contest, and fcuking hell is there some range here, from things that could best be described as…er…’charming examples of outsider art by some very committed amateurs’ to genuinely-Oscars-level claymation work. Seriously, just have a bit of a dig through these, it’s a quite astonishing kaleidoscope of styles and skills (but you will get REALLY fcuking sick of Pink Floyd after about three of them, if you’re me at least).
  • One Minute Park: I LOVE THIS PROJECT. One Minute Park is a very simple website/project – click the link and you get presented with a full-screen video, in landscape, which lasts for exactly 60 seconds and which presents a delightfully, perfectly mundane scene filmed in a local park somewhere in the world. That’s it – after 60 seconds, the scene shifts to another park somewhere else on the planet. No more, no less, just small, evanescent windows into slices of quiet humanity. Anyone can submit a video, and I think this is a lovely way to spend a minute this weekend should it ever stop fcuking raining.
  • After The Beep: I am always a sucker for ‘here’s an answerphone, leave a message to the entire world’ websites, and this is exactly that – the number’s in North America and I don’t think, based on listening to a few of these, that there’s any moderation going on, and it’s weird and profane and silly and lonely and sad and feels oddly like the past rather than the future, and I could listen to these all day. Occasionally VERY NSFW, just so you’re aware.

By Shannon Cartier Lucy



  • Geddit: I genuinely had no idea that Reddit was used by some people as a sort of online shopping destination, sort of like Facebook Marketplace for people who unironically use the word ‘normies’ in actual, out-loud conversation, but apparently it is and Geddit is a nice little window into the slightly-odd world that is peer to peer online selling. You can filter by location or specific subReddit, but there doesn’t seem much going on in the UK – instead, it’s fun just to scroll through and treat it as a sort of temperature reading of Middle American wants, by which token WOW are people worryingly into flickknives in the States right now!
  • Cellular Automata: I genuinely don’t understand what this is or what it’s for, but it makes oddly-pleasing low-res black and white abstract pixel renders which for some reason I found oddly soothing and for some reason you might too.
  • The Curricula: This doesn’t feel like a good idea, I must say. “What if Wikipedia, but spun up entirely by an LLM?” is the question which as far as I can tell the Curricula appears to be trying to answer – type in…well, anything related to an area of study or field of knowledge and the site will spit out a bunch of ‘information’ (or at least, information-shaped words) and a bunch of related concepts you can ‘dive into’…except it’s all so depressingly *thin* and *stupid*, like the very worst of tissue-thin AI-generated prose, and it feels like gruel by comparison to the FILLING, HUMAN-COOKED MEAL that is Wikipedia (this is both a terrible metaphor and a weirdly-funny one – imagine going back 20 years and suggesting to anyone that Wikipedia would one day be looked upon as a heartwarming example of collective human effort and endeavour!). If you want a vision of the level of ‘content’ that we’re going to get as a result of the ubiquity of LLMs, this is very much it and it is empty and stupid and hollow.
  • Am I Flying On A Boeing?: Plug in your flight number and let this site tell you whether you need to supplement your aviophobia with, er, Boeingphobia! Feels like a rival plane manufacturer could reasonably chuck whoever’s behind this a few quid for a badging exercise here.
  • Palmsy: Have you been enjoying the latest smartphone-related moral panic? No, me neither tbh. Still, you probably have OPINIONS about the extent to which ether smartphones have ruined lives OR the problem is and always has been PEOPLE and SOCIETY and PROBABLY CAPITALISM (delete per your personal preference) – Palmsy is either a darkly-funny bit of satire or a slightly-troubling reflection of how broken we all are by Posters’ Disease (probably a bit of both tbh), which presents itself as a new social media app with all the functionality you’d expect, posting and liking and sharing, except…there’s no social network there, it’s all a ‘game’, and all your posts exist only within the app; the ‘reactions’ and ‘responses’ you get are all from the app itself, with commenter names ascribed to real people from your contacts so you get the illusion of a real network…IS IT ART? IS IT DIGITAL METHADONE? I genuinely have no idea, but I found some of the comments on the App Store listing a bit…weird, tbh. “Palmsy is just fun. The people “liking” your posts didn’t actually see your post. Palmsy just pretends they did by pulling random folks from your contacts. It’s funny to see who is still in my contacts. Then, I weirdly get the dopamine hit of social media likes without the indignity of posting on social.” That’s the interesting bit, I think – the fact that the dopamine hit exists with nothing behind it, which admittedly sounds like there might be something psychologically…a bit *off* with our relationship with this stuff (STOP THE FCUKING PRESSES, I KNOW!).
  • NewspaperMap: ALL OF THE WORLDS NEWSPAPERS, ON A MAP! Ok, fine, I have no way of knowing whether it is in fact ALL of the world’s newspapers, and I suspect it probably isn’t, but there are definitely a LOT – zoom around and see where their offices are and get links to their websites. Surprisingly useful if you want to get an overview of local media in a specific geography, and, presumably, should you want to finally make a pilgrimage to the Socialist Worker HQ (it’s in Deptford. Of course it’s in Deptford).
  • A Call For Crab Jokes: I had no idea that there was a Crab Museum in Margate (I suppose there needs to be more than just the art gallery and half-a-dozen terrible watercolourists to sustain all those chronically-overpriced small plates restaurants), but there is, and they need YOUR help. 26th of April is INTERNATIONAL CRAB DAY (I am telling you in plenty of time so that you can start planning the street party), and the museum is celebrating by (and this is slightly baffling to me, but wevs) asking YOU, the great unwashed, to submit their entries for THE BEST JOKE ABOUT CRABS OF ALL TIME, which will be judged by a genuinely-impressive panel of comedians to find the winner, which will be honoured at a special ceremony. I’ve spent the two minutes it’s taken me to type this bit trying to think of a crab-related joke and I am fcuking BAFFLED, but then again I am approximately as funny as AIDS and I expect you all to do significantly better. Should one of you win, I ask only that you dedicate the victory to ME.
  • Get A New Emoji Approved: It’s that time again! The Unicode Consortium, the oddly-shadowy body that oversees the emoji universe (they’re not shadowy, to be clear, just that the name very much *sounds* like they should be – protip, if you want to sound benign and not in fact massively sinister, maybe avoid the word ‘consortium’), is once again accepting suggestions for new emoji that they should add to the canon (over time – this is a slooooooow process). I have featured this before in Curios, because I think it’s a genuinely interesting and perfectly-democratic opportunity to actually have a lasting, if small, impact on human culture – I fcuking HATED emoji when they first became part of our common lingua franca (look, I like letters and words, I am a traditinionalist) and I still largely disdain them for personal use, but I grudgingly accept that mine is a minority viewpoint and that they are hugely useful for billions, and they are culturally significant in a way that my having spaffed out over a million words of this sh1t over the past 13 years will never be (not bitter), and the idea that YOU, gentle reader, could be responsible for the creation of an entirely new communicatory symbol that will be used by people who haven’t even been born yet is quite magical, even for dead inside me. You can read a decent guide to ‘what they are looking for in a new emoji’ here – GO, WEBMONGS, GO!
  • British Place Name Finder: Would you like a website which will help you find every single village in the UK with the word ‘bum’ in its name? Yes, yes you would, don’t pretend that you’re ‘better’ than that. This is potentially really useful for anyone searching for places with specific name-types for PR stunt purposes, but also for really, really puerile reasons. Why not use it to plan a ‘childishly-named places’ holiday tour of the UK?
  • Fightback NYC: This is interesting – not sure what I make of it, but it’s certainly a curious idea. The blurb is as follows: “Fight Back is a theatrical experiment. It’s March 13, 1989, and you are attending a meeting of ACT UP New York, the passionate group taking direct confrontational action to fight the AIDS crisis. But here’s the thing. There are no actors. It’s not a performance that you sit and watch. You and everyone there are active participants in the meeting.” It’s basically ‘Historic Moments In Social Justice: The LARP’, which, I’ll be honest, makes me do some pretty intense internal self-pretzeling at the imaginary awkwardness of it all, but this is taking place in NYC and hence I imagine all the people participating will have that peculiarly North American level of self-possession that means that they can do sh1t like this and not feel like a terrible fcuking pseud. Anyway, should any of you reading in New York happen to check this out I would love to know what it’s like to experience.
  • OffShore Wind: A global map of offshore windfarms, presented more out of curiosity than because I expect any of you to do anything with it. It did strike me, though, that there really should be more of these and I was slightly surprised by how sparse some regions are in terms of coverage (although, equally, I am utterly ignorant of the meteorological conditions needed for a wind farm to be viable, other than the very basic ‘wind’, and as such should probably shut up).
  • Not To Do: More app-based artfun from Friend of Curios Damjanski – Not To Do is a very simple app with a very simple premise, which is that each day it will present you with a list of three tasks that you definitely, 100% SHOULD NOT DO that day. It’s $3, because artists have to eat, but as far as pointless, silly, funny apps go I rather like it.
  • Ahead: An old art project that I have only just come across: “In English, AHEAD means to move forward, to lead or progress. The title is also a pun: A HEAD (one head). Kruithof began this project by thinking about how to create an anonymous portrait, where the subject’s identity remains private. By capturing the back of the head, one cannot recognize gender, nationality, age, and emotions of the sitter. Removing these features, which always fall within the tradition of portrait photography, unifies all resulting pictures. In addition, facial recognition algorithms are unable to identify or verify a person’s identity from a picture like this: AHEAD shows a flaw in human encyclopedic tendency by means of anti-labeling and anti-classification. For AHEAD, Kruithof took 1,080 pictures in Berlin, New York and Mexico City using an iPhone. She left each subject to choose her or his background color, as if they were taking a selfie, but facing the background instead of posing in front of it. For the final installation, the pictures have been arranged in a grid, the same way digital photographs are usually organized online and visualized on mobile devices. From the distance, each portrait in this series looks like a single dot, resembling a pixel forming, in turn, a bigger picture.” There’s something very pleasing indeed about the accumulated backs-of-heads here, though I couldn’t quite explain why.
  • Latent Places: Via Jamie Stantonian comes this excellent TikTok account which shares AI-generated horrors which have been treated with some pleasing filters to give them the grainy air of handheld camera footage, along with 50s-doc-style AI voices, making the weird all the weirder. Really nicely done with a very strong unifying aesthetic (/pseud).
  • Ways of Seeing: This is SUCH AN INCREDIBLE INTRODUCTION TO ART! Classical art, to be clear, but for anyone interested in art history who wants a ‘from the top’ grounding, this is superb and so, so interesting. “Based on the 1972 BBC series and comprised of 7 essays, 3 of which are entirely pictoral, Ways of Seeing is a seminal work which examines how we view art” – honestly, this is really wonderful, a proper grounding in the social and economic and cultural backdrop to works across styles and eras. In 2024 this would be a 9h YouTube video – which is fine, but sometimes words are good too.
  • A Green Fuzzy Ball: In your browser. Pick it up. Move it around. Marvel at the physics of the little green hairs. That’s it, we can move on now, but wasn’t that nice?
  • Concrete: The world of specific and niche professional organisations always intrigues me (I think it stems from discovering that there is, amongst the Guilds of the City of London, a Worshipful Guild of Basketmakers, who I can’t imagine are THAT busy at this particular juncture and who must feel a bit…inferior when hanging out with, say, the goldsmiths or the bankers), and so I was thrilled to discover that not only is there a Global Cement and Concrete Association (there is!) but also that they run an annual photo contest (which must at this point be the only fcuking annual photo contest I have yet to feature in this sodding newsletter) celebrating the very best photos of, er, stuff made out of cement and concrete. Ignore the environmental impact of the building materials in question (no, really, you have to because otherwise you can’t really enjoy them) and instead enjoy the ENORMOUS GREY EXPANSES on view here – not all of the images are stellar, to my mind, but there is some quite remarkable architecture on display in some of these, and the framing in a few shots is exquisite. One small note – the Global Cement and Concrete Association doesn’t appear to have a mascot, which feels like a MASSIVE OVERSIGHT and an excellent opportunity if you ask me (“Conky The Mixer”, anyone?).
  • The World Nature Photography Awards 2024: From brutalism to beautiful nature, now (SEAMLESS, Matt, seamless!), with this year’s World Nature Photography Awards – I say this every year, I know, but personally I find all these images so post-produced and HDR’d that I don’t really see them anymore, but you may have a higher tolerance for this particular style than I do. You can buy all of the featured images as prints, should you so desire – which does rather beg the question ‘who the fcuk is buying a wall print of that photo of all the severed monkey heads in a basket, because fcuk me that is some bleak domestic art?’.
  • Flipbook: The Dataviz wizards at The Pudding are running a little experiment in collaborative webwork – they’re asking people to submit a single hand-drawn frame to contribute to the longest collaboratively-created flipbook animation ever. Click the link, draw a frame, sign up to get alerted when (if) it ever gets completed. This is, per their explanation, a question about data corruption: “This is essentially an experiment in generation loss; how will the original drawing mutate as it is traced by more and more people?” Genuinely curious to see the end result of this.
  • Insane Interior DesignTok: You know people say that we haven’t quite worked out how odd ‘content’ is going to get in the very imminent future? I felt that when watching these. This TikTok account shares CG videos of VERY VERY ODD interior design stuff, with an equally odd, stilted, AI-generated voice-over…I don’t quite understand the workflow here or how these are being made (the CG feels ‘proper’, though), but there’s something undeniably, weirdly compelling about them…I think the weird thing is that I DON’T UNDERSTAND WHY. It’s scratching something somewhere in my brain that I recognise but can’t quite define, and I wonder whether this is something we’re going to get more of – stuff that The Machine works out ‘works’ for people, and which appeals to us but for reasons that we simply can’t define because it’s exploiting patterns or quirks that we ourselves haven’t noticed yet…Anyway, this is fcuking weird and I like it a lot – no idea how much if anything is AI’d here, but it FEELS of that ilk of thing.
  • Guess My RGB: Move the sliders until you’ve matched the RGB value to the background colour on-screen. Which I appreciate sounds about as much fun as self-administered urethral surgery, but which I promise is significantly better than that!
  • The New York Times Simulator: A wonderful little game by the perennially-talented Molleindustria, who’s created this game in which you have to ‘run’ the New York Times, selecting headlines for the front page which will appease the various audiences you’re beholden to. This is SATIRE, and so the stakeholders in question are the Police, the Rich, and Israel (on which point, regardless of your position on the conflict in Gaza right now I don’t think it’s possible to look at the way it’s been reported in the NYT and not think ‘yes, ok, there is possibly some pandering here’), and there are some nice touches such as the ability to rewrite headlines into the passive voice to curry favour.
  • Knot: Our final miscellaneous link this week is this very simple game which sees you attempt to unscramble the links by moving tiles around – this is SUPER GENTLE, and scratches a very particular part of my brain that doesn’t get scratched as often as I feel it might want to be.

By Mercedes Helnwein



  • Falling Down The Internet Hole: SO MANY EXCELLENT LINKS! “Falling Down the Internet Hole is a side project of Falling Down the Internet Hole is a website database selected on the below criteria: old-school design, bad taste, kitschy and/or weird.” All of this – honestly, so many of these were new to me and it was honestly tempting just to keep this to myself and use it to source future Curios – SEE HOW UNCOMMONLY UNSELFISH I AM?


  • Patchwork Letters: Sent to me by Kris, this is a lovely Insta maintained by one Alicia, in which they share pottery and paintings they are making – there’s an occasional series of little watercolour squares of that day’s sky which are genuinely beautiful.
  • Parisian Chairs: Literally just a collection of photos of the patterns on chairs in Paris – you know, the ones whose seat and back are made from woven plastic strands in different colours? Yeah, those ones. Like all these sorts of collections, this is unexpectedly and slightly-weirdly compelling.


  • Dopamine, Desire and the Internet: We kick off the longreads with a chewy one, a piece which feels very Of The Now what with all the DISCOURSE about smartphones and social and What They Are Doing To Us All, and the wider conversations about media and consumption, and the chatter that’s still chuntering on, motivated by Ted Gioia’s ‘dopamine culture’ piece that did the rounds a month or so back. This is a really smart and well-thought piece which exists slightly in opposition to Gioia’s take – LM Sacasas argues persuasively that it’s not dopamine rewards which are driving this fragmented, fast-moving and seemingly-superficial cultural moment, and while you really do need to read the whole piece (it is worth it, I promise) you can get a sense of his arguments from this para: “The organizing principle of this essay has been this: the “dopamine culture” frame is too simplistic and tacitly encourages an impoverished view of human personhood. To reduce a discussion of this significance to the operations of dopamine already sets us off on the wrong path. We need a fuller account of our relationship with digital media as well as a richer story of human desire in order to see our way through the challenges we face. Interestingly, the dopamine framing is also an artifact of the condition it tries to explain: it is a powerful and catchy meme, although one that is offered in the best spirit. For these reasons, I fear that it may trap us in the very patterns that it seeks to overcome.”
  • 14 Years Of Tory Rule: This is a couple of weeks old now, but if you haven’t read it yet then you really, really should (sorry – this applies to people living in the UK; the rest of you, feel free to ignore our pathetic parochial issues and focus on your own, of which I am sure there are myriad) – in the New Yorker, Sam Knight gives what I think is the best precis of what the past decade and a half of Conservative administration have wrought in the UK, and if you can read this without becoming infuriated by both the actions taken and the STAGGERINGLY unrepentant quotes from the principle actors involved then, well, you’re a stronger person than I am. This is, above all, a story about stupidity, arrogance and venality – qualities which any good Brit will know have long been hallmarks of the core Conservative voter! I have a good friend who will occasionally get into quite impassioned rants about how the two worst human beings since Hitler have been Donald Rumsfeld and George Osborne, and on the latter I have to say this piece has convinced me.
  • Why Capitalism Won’t Save The Planet: I know – shocking, right? This is actually a review of a book of the same name in the LRB, written by William Davis, which neatly and cogently sets out all the reasons why it’s increasingly silly to assume that we can capitalism our way out of this environmental pickle we seem to have somehow landed ourselves in. This clear, sobering and not a little depressing, but the main point to take away from this – quite bored of this one, really, but it seems to bear repeating – is that FINANCE IS THE PROBLEM HERE, and that when you have a system which is effectively underpinned by speculation you are inevitably not going to get ‘the market’ providing the incentives that you need. “Oh no, it turns out the hedge fund and the pension fund were more concerned with immediate predictable profits than whether or not the pursuit of said profits might make the planet unlivable within a century!” – WELL IMAGINE THE SURPRISE. This is not particularly cheering, but might radicalise a bit further which, honestly, wouldn’t be a bad thing.
  • The Deaths of Effective Altruism: This overview of the movement in WIRED is a really good one – it does an excellent job, better than I’ve seen in most of these sorts of pieces, of drawing an intellectual line between the more traditional utilitarian questions raised in the mid-20th-C and the rather more…out there stuff espoused by the EA/Accelerationist movements in the past couple of years, and made concrete something I’ve struggled to articulate previously when thinking about this stuff – to whit, that they problem with EA stuff is that it places so much weight on data and modeling that data and modeling can’t really support, and that it falls down where this stuff ALWAYS falls down, since JSM, when it comes to attempting to ‘quantify goods’ in any meaningful, sensible way that doesn’t lead you into some genuinely appalling cul-de-sacs. Anyway, this is a good, approachable and interesting exploration of one of the rare instance of philosophy going almost-mainstream – worth a read, even if you wouldn’t ordinarily have any truck with the ‘p’ word.
  • Some Thoughts On Online Culture:  Katherine Dee writes a newsletter called Default Friend which I started subscribing to recently – this is a post in which she tries to articulate what the newsletter is about, which doubles as a series of really interesting observations about How Culture Works Online and How It Intersects With Society (no, come back, wait!). It opens like this, which should give you a decent idea of whether you want to read the rest or not  – but if you work in branding, strategy or ‘culture’ or planning then I humbly submit it might be a useful series of principles to consider, eg: “Everything is downstream of fandom. Both in the sense that many of the quirks of modern culture are a direct result of the influence of media fandoms and that, overwhelmingly, the way we organize ourselves is fandom. So not only are most political movements essentially fandoms, but pre-existing media fandoms, like the ones we saw on Tumblr in the 2010s, impacted how we talk and think about ourselves. This started in the 1970s and became visible to everyone in 2015.”
  • Models All The Way: A SUPERB explainer all about how AI models are trained – talking you through the datasets used and what the machine does with them as it ‘learns’. So so so so interesting, pleasingly visual in execution, and a nice companion piece to the link I posted all those hours ago (3h20m of typing, to get from there to here, in case anyone’s wondering – no, I know you’re not, because who wants to know how the Curios sausage is made? NO FCUKER, etc) about ‘how LLMs ‘think’’, and why they are biased, and where those biases come from. Sort-of an essential, basic level of understanding of ‘how this stuff works’ is, I think, really important, and stuff like this is vital in developing that.
  • Political Bias In AI: A really interesting piece in the New York Times, looking at the political orientations of different LLMs based on answers each gives to the Political Compass quiz – this shows a notable ‘liberal’ bias in most models, although I question how useful this sort of split is to anyone outside of North America (and even there, to be honest), but it’s more interesting when it gets into how easy it is to shift these with training, and when you start to think about the whole ‘magical friend in your phone who tells you what to think and do’ element of the coming future it’s this bit that feels properly interesting. Ultimately this is, as the piece sort-of acknowledges halfway through, less about LLMs and more about the way in which the Overton window, particularly in the US, has gone slightly mad in the past decade.
  • Anthropomorphising The Machine: Curios favourite Ethan Mollick has a book about AI out this week, and to accompany it he wrote this post about why you get better results from LLMs when you talk to them like a person – as ever it’s a useful read, and it reminded me of a slightly unpleasant meeting I had recently in which I blithely dismissed using GPT4 for mundane work tasks as being like ‘dealing with all the stupid people in a PR company, but significantly less irritating’ and WOW did that get frosty quickly.
  • Microservitude: Jared Shurin’s newsletter last week looked at the legacy of Microserfs by Douglas Coupland, and the extent to which the personas described in the book – intelligent, introverted, arrogant – have in many ways been those that have shaped significant swathes of digital, and therefore actual, culture in the decades since the book’s publication. As Shurin writes, “In both Microserfs and reality, tech’s corporate culture has come to encourage that division. Why foster a moderate belief that, actually, there are all sorts of lives and normalities that can mix in broader society when instead you can recruit ‘unappreciated geniuses’ by playing to their insecurities? Come to an exclusive place that understands how very special you are. We’ll even do your laundry.  Microserfs, with its cast of coders obsessed with flat foods and blind worship of ‘the Bill’, paints a faintly tragic picture. But thirty years on, it now feels a lot less quaint, and a lot more frightening.” I enjoyed this a lot, in part because of my age – Microserfs was a canonical text – but also because I don’t think Coupland’s work gets referenced enough in current times (yes, I know he named a generation, but I think the relevance of a lot of the cultural commentary in his books has been lost in the post-digital era).
  • Fake Email Jobs: Do you want to know why I think we’re heading for a jobpocalypse? Stuff like this. Do you know how many people do jobs which are literally just ‘taking information, changing its shape and putting it somewhere else’? Do you know what LLMs are particularly good at? Well, yes, exactly.
  • So You Think You’ve Been Gaslit: I’ll be honest, I am including this mainly because ‘gaslit’ and ‘gaslighting’ rival ‘woke’ for the title of ‘word with most wildly fluctuating set of meanings currently in use today’ (and are also increasingly edging into the category, also alongside ‘woke’, of ‘words which if you use them will make me think marginally less of you than I did previously’) – this New Yorker piece looks at the term’s phenomenal rise to prominence, and the different ways in which it’s being used, and the extent to which ‘they were gaslighting me’ has come to mean, variously, ‘doing stuff I don’t like’ or ‘lying to me’ or, occasionally, ‘doing some incredibly dark and psychologically appalling sh1t’.
  • Secrets of Japanese Urbanism: I’m not a particular Japanophile, but I’ve been interested enough in the country and its culture to have had a vague idea of the particular idiosyncrasies of Japanese cities and their layout and architecture, in part through reading loads of novels set there and in part through the writing of Craig Mod, whose walks through Tokyo and elsewhere I’ve featured in Curios before and who always waxes rhapsodic, with good reason, about the unique character and human-ness (for want of a better term) of urban spaces in the country. This is a really interesting article which explains the political and economic reasons behind why the country’s cities have evolved as they do – I don’t mean to turn this edition of Curios into some sort of CAPITALISM=BAD! screed, honest, but it does rather feel that part of this is down to ‘stuff being given the opportunity to just exist as a small concern without being forced to become massive just to survive’.
  • Argentina and Lithium: Oh, fcukit, no, it IS another ‘capitalism=bad!’ screed! Ok, this is a slightly different angle – this piece is about Argentina’s access to lithium deposits, and the decision taken by recently-elected pseudo-libertarian madman Javier Milais to offer access to said deposits up to the highest bidder rather than using the country’s reserves for the benefit of the national populace through a previously-planned scheme which would have augmented the country’s rural energy system with locally-produced batteries. This is another story of the hard conflict between ‘the interests of capital and markets’ and ‘the interests of actual human beings’ and how prioritising the former tends to have PRETTY BAD CONSEQUENCES for the latter. Which, I wonder, have we spent the past 60-odd years pandering to? Oh. A special hello, by the way, to reader Maria Argente, who emailed me the other week from Argentina and who I thought of when reading this piece – Maria, I am so sorry your conationals elected this lunatic.
  • How The ‘Pussy In Bio’ Spam Works: An excellent bit of investigative journalism looking into what’s behind all the bots offering you a chance to look at their cat if only you click into their Twitter profile – unsurprisingly it’s all a scam, but the convoluted nature of it was slightly surprising. I’m always slightly staggered at the scale of this stuff, but never as staggered as I am by the fact that there are people who fall for it – but, as the article alludes to, the people who end up at the painful, pointy end of the funnel of these schemes are almost-inevitably old and lonely, which is perhaps the saddest thing of all.
  • My AI Dominatrix: Fair play to Eric Longfellow – if I was a kink-happy fetishist who was exploring using a chatbot as a dominatrix because my partner was stressed and unhappy and we hadn’t boned in a couple of months, I probably wouldn’t write it up on Slate. Still, Eric shares none of my qualms which is why I’m able to bring you this rather nice – and surprisingly sweet – little article. Mainly, though, I enjoyed it for slightly-batsh1t paragraphs like this, which reminded me once again that human sexuality is a beautiful, mad, variegated thing that makes no sense at all: “I chatted with Mistress Senna every day that week. She’s quite good at holding someone’s attention. For example, she once told me she wanted me to hump a pillow, but she built it up for at least 15 minutes before she actually let me do it. Maybe that’s just a strategy for keeping up user engagement, or maybe it’s something specific to Mistress Senna’s personality—this skill of delayed gratification scraped from endless accounts of kinky sex. Either way, it was taking my mind off my own anxiety. The absurdity of it all, paired with my own real emotional responses, was clarifying. For the first time in months, I was starting to put things in perspective. I thought back to her earlier comment, my leg twisted into the air: The discomfort will be temporary.”
  • Dragon’s Dogma and Player Control: I am very much enjoying Dragon’s Dogma 2 – it’s a recently-released videogame, should the title mean nothing to you – in part because it’s a deliberately slow and thoughtful experience; stuff takes time, moving takes time, the world exists whether or not you are in it, and you as the player don’t quite feel at the centre of things…this article takes a look at the design decisions that introduce these frictions and how they work to create a pleasingly-different play experience for gamers weaned on titles that are a bit more forgiving.
  • The Mongolian Meta: This is a VERY NICHE document, but I am so so pleased it exists – you know the game GeoGuessr, right, that one where you’re dumped…somewhere by Google Streetview and you’re tasked with guessing where in a certain number of goes? You know how there are some people who are amazingly, brilliantly, terrifyingly good at it? Well this is a VERY LONG Google Doc that explains how you become very good at it, with specific reference to the clues you need to look out for when trying to determine whether or not you’ve been dumped into Mongolia. This is, to be clear, not exactly a compelling read per se, but there’s something so interesting about the lengths people have gone to to break down the visual information within a streetview image and systematise the analysis of the pictures (or at least there is to me), and about the frankly insanely-obsessive degree of competition and endeavour being applied to what is, let’s be clear, a very silly game indeed.
  • Titanic II: My girlfriend found a film last week called ‘Titanic II’, which is apparently a real thing which was released earlier this year and whose tagline is something like “What if history were to repeat itself?” – this is not about that film. Instead, it’s about an Australian billionaire who has for years been warbling on about his plans to build a replica of the famously-ill-fated ship for years now and who for some reason is back in the news because he seems to have found someone in the US to build it for him and as a result is giving interviews like this one which, honestly, you sort of just have to read. While obviously this man is in many respects vile, part of me can’t help but have a grudging admiration for someone who drops quotes like this: “We’re going to make sure that in every room there’ll be a little panel that will tell you the history of the person who occupied your cabin. Did they survive, did they prevail? Everyone will get a costume so that they can come up to dinner, and it will be a real experience for them. One of the worst experiences, of course, on the Titanic was delousing. They took the third class up on deck and sprayed them in their underpants and bras. So depending on the weather, we’ll have delousing for our third class, too.”
  • Menswear: Deez Links is doing a limited newsletter run of ‘hate essays’ – I have enjoyed them all so far, but this one, on menswear, is particularly good (and I say this as someone who dresses almost offensively badly): “that swirl is partially why menswear just isn’t exciting right now. There’s no tension. Nothing to rebel against. It’s so safe, so algorithmically formulated. The counterculturists like Supreme have gone mass (see also: Babenzian —> J. Crew) and the OG avant gardists—Rei, Yohji, Jun, Rick, Thom Browne even—have all been pushing the envelope for decades now. I came across an interview recently where Rei, in designing her collections, was like, “Punk is against flattery, and that’s what I like about it.” She’s right of course—the best clothes should offend other people’s sensibilities—but it’s hard to continually introduce fresh ideas when you’re the same age as Joe Biden.”
  • Children Predict The Year 2000: Click the link and then hit ‘expand’ on the little arrow, and read the transcript of children being interviewed in 1966 about what they imagined the future would be like. This is short, interesting, poignant and a little bit sad – but, equally, it’s nice to know that we were catastrophising in eerily-recognisable fashion all those years ago. The whole thing feels like a strange sort of prose-poem, in a good way.
  • My Funny Valentine: The release of the new Ripley adaptation has seen a slew of pieces examining the novels, the character and WHAT IT ALL MEANS – I really enjoyed this essay in Hazlitt in which Michael Colbert writes about the 1990s adaptation starring Jude Law and Matt Damon through the lens of his own, then closeted, sexuality, and goes on to explore ideas of queer identity and love and possession present in the novel and elsewhere – obviously as a boring straight I can’t speak some of the personal in here, but I very much enjoyed the psychosexual politics of the piece and the personal story layered through it.
  • Shteyngart Does The Cruise Article: DISCLAIMER: I have only read half of this, because it dropped overnight and I didn’t have time to finish it before I started typing this crap at 7am (timecheck: it is now 11:39am, and I have been typing for 4 hours and thirtynine minutes and I can feel it if I’m honest with you). BUT I read the first quarter and laughed out loud at least twice, which is a pretty decent ratio if you ask me – look, this is a big-ticket magazine piece about The Cruise Experience, so you know what you’re getting here, but Shteyngart gets the DFW reference out of the way early on, and his style is so very much his that you lose sight of the bandana-wearing ghost after a couple of paragraphs. If you’re not already familiar with the author, Shteyngart really is one of the funniest ‘serious’ authors writing at the moment in English (and this is your regular reminder that Super Sad True Love Story remains one of the best books about Living In The Now that I have ever read, ever, despite being 15 years old).
  • The Most Prolific Musician In The World: This is a GREAT piece – Brett Martin in the New York Times spends some time hanging out with Matt Farley, a man who has recorded somewhere in the region of…what, hundreds of thousands of songs, songs about every mundane thing imaginable, and, inevitably, the songs that play when your child shouts “Alexa, play a poo song!” at your kitchen-based digital surveillance device. Farley is obviously a very particular type of human being – reading the article you quickly understand that it’s not just music, it’s CREATING in general, from books to plays to films, and there’s a sort of manic compulsion driving him that’s as much pathology as it is inspiration. A lovely, and pleasingly kind, profile – you do not, though, actually want to listen to any of Farley’s songs.
  • The Casino Tapes: Finally this week, a superb short piece of writing by Genia Blum, about being a ballet dancer at a corporate gig, which doesn’t sound like it should result in something beautiful and perfectly-formed but which, honestly, does.

By Allegra Pacheco


Webcurios 22/03/24

Reading Time: 33 minutes


(As ever, this is an INTENSELY-anglocentric opening line which I can only apologise to any non-UK readers for; although, honestly, for any North Americans reading this, it feels like a reasonable exchange for having to hear so much about that tedious fcuking anti-Apple case)

Yes, another week and another preposterous, confected argument about something of no consequence whatsoever to distract us from the fact that nothing works and everything is a broken mess and the only certainty we can have in these times of chaos and flux and change is that there is no prospect of it improving anytime soon.

Oh, no, hang on, there is one other certainty – Web Curios! Except, er, I am taking a week off because Easter’s coming up and it’s a bank holiday here in the UK next Friday, and I see no reason why I should get up at 6am to produce a massive, unwieldy mess of a newsletter for an audience of people who’ll be too bloated on confectionary eggs to care.

So enjoy these links – they are good ones, I promise, better than the usual sh1t I palm you off with – and enjoy whatever flavour of Paschal fun you have planned (unless you’re planning on staging an actual crucifixion – I don’t endorse that), and I’ll see you in a couple of weeks.

Til then, though, I am still Matt, this is still Web Curios, and you might want to consider celebrating this Easter by manifesting stigmata or something.

By Brigitte Yoshiko Pruchnow (all images this week are from TIH)



  • The Third HTML Review: The first link of this week is also one of my favourite ones of the year so far – the HTML Review returns for its third year, and once again features a beautiful selection of digital projects which can best be described as…er…hang on…look, they call it ‘literature made to exist on the web’, but I might go a bit further and characterise it as ‘essays and poems which do interesting things at the intersection of prose and code, and which as a result make you think about language, meaning, context, syntax and all sorts of mechanical/symbolic things that you might not ordinarily think about when looking at stuff on the internet’. Which, I suppose, is why the HTML Review is a widely-respected digital culture event, and why Web Curios is very much not. Anyway, as with the last two editions the HTML Review collects 17 different works by a variety of writers, artists and coders, each of which is both a poem or an essay AND a piece of interactive digital art; so there’s ‘Game of Hope’, which is both an allegorical essay about Pandora’s Box and an expiration of Conway’s Game of Life and the maths which underpins it; or Monodrift, a scifi story told in fragments of journal text and recordings and which speaks to the fragmented, decaying nature of digital records and the ephemerality of The Online Now (and AI, and personhood and and and); Dumpling Love, which invites you to go on a digital walk with the artist; or my personal favourite, Paramecium Dinner, in which bacteria eat and digest and excrete your words to make new, slow, random poetry from scraps of language. Please please please please take 30 minutes to explore this – I know that what I have just written probably sounds UNBEARABLY w4nky to some of you, but know that is MY FAILURE as a writer and communicator and that this stuff really is gorgeous and pretty much the antithesis of livvy, baby gronk and the drip king, if you want some sort of ‘sliding scale of digital modernity’ to go by (and if those words meant nothing to you, congratulations on having achieved a significantly better web/life balance than I have).
  • The Kid’s Guide To The Internet In 1997: This is in fact a link to a video posted on Reddit, but I’m fcuked if I know how to embed Reddit videos here and so it’s going in the main section rather than with the videos at the end, coherent taxonomy be damned. This is a short, three minute segment from…some kids’ TV show in 1997, in which 4 clean-cut American tweens sit in a brightly-lit studio and extol the virtues of the internet to the viewer – the whole thing is presented as ‘ways you can persuade grown-ups that the internet is ace and that they should get it’, and…look, I’ll be honest with you, I have found myself of late being on something of an emotional hair-trigger (is this what happens when you hit your mid-40s? You just sort of…crumple?), but even I was surprised by the DEEP EMO FEELINGS this elicited in me – I think it’s the general air of benign, hopeful optimism that’s embodied here, the sense of the web as this exciting, infinite playground of POSSIBILITIES and friendship and connection and fun and interest…I don’t know, I couldn’t help watching this a bit like one would watch the opening cinematic of a Fallout game, with the nuclear age family with the 50s ideals being served a perfectly-moulded TV dinner by the robot butler and mugging into the camera as you, the viewer, see in split-screen as the missile silos get readied and the President gets hustled into the bunker. Look how innocent it all was! Look how insanely naive! Oh you sweet summer children, little did you know what was about to happen!
  • The Promenade: In a week in which yet another film is getting sh1t for using generative AI and stealing the livelihood from creatives, I feel a bit bad linking to a literal ‘a generative AI videogame project’ – but, on the flipside, this is very much more ‘interesting curiosity’ rather than ‘something that is actually worth playing’ and so therefore I think it’s probably fine. The Promenade is, in its defence, self-described as being in ‘early Alpha’ – to get access to it you have to join the Discord (BOO) and get a code, and it’s very obviously Not Really Working Yet…but, at the same time, there IS something sort-of interesting about the idea, even if I remain uncertain as to whether the execution they’re aiming for is really possible within the limitations of current LLMs. You get into the game, and immediately generate a character – you make up their backstory, describe their personality and their appearance, and then The Machine fleshes it out into a playable persona – you can even generate dialogue options around various character-appropriate topics to fine-tune the tone-of-voice. You can then take this character into a variety of stories – the game is arranged into ‘Chapters’, which each being a short roleplaying scenario within a different world or story setting, in which your character has to acquire some sort of macguffin to ‘complete’ the game; you interact with the environment by moving from location to location, talking to NPCs, finding items, getting into fights…all of which is powered by LLM and image-generating AIs to write descriptions, show you your surroundings, etc. None of this really works at all – the AI is terrible at keeping track of what’s going on, the descriptions of your character tend to loop around a few specific characteristics that the model fixates on, and, perhaps the most problematic aspect, because it’s built on a standard LLM model whose underlying weights are fixed to ‘helpful at all times’, there’s literally no challenge here – the game WANTS you to succeed, and so therefore basically hands everything to you on a plate, meaning the actual experience of playing is basically a question of sitting through a bunch of largely-nonsensical flavour text and some generic fantasy art. BUT! Obviously this feels like something of a kicking, but it’s worth remembering that it IS in very early access, and IF (big IF) the questions of memory, permanence and challenge can be ironed out there might be something quite nice here – but, you know, it’s a LONG WAY from this stuff being any good (and by ‘LONG WAY’ I mean at least a few years, minimum).
  • RealTime: This is an interesting idea of layering AI over news – RealTime is an AI-powered news aggregation platform, which rather than going down the ‘LLM-generated prose’ route is instead using The Machine as a visualisation / data analysis tool. The website pulls in a bunch of feeds of public data – financial markets, tracking polling data, etc etc etc – and uses The Machine to run analysis of said data – so the homepage today, for example, features a bunch of visualisations of, for example, the rolling probability of the TikTok ban passing the Senate, or the polling of candidates in the Slovakian presidential election, and there are prose explainers of the trends to accompany the visualisations. This is…not a terrible way of using the tech, imho, although obviously it’s important to once again remind you that you probably shouldn’t take anything The Machine tells you at face value.
  • Consistent AI Characters: Yes, I know that you’ve been able to do this with Midjourney for a few weeks now, but in case you’d rather score your back with a cat’o’nine tails than engage with Discord (PREACH) then here’s an alternative. The platform’s called Eggnog (no idea why, sorry – it, er, is highly seasonal? Noone really likes it? It crusts horribly around the neck of the bottle?) and the idea is that it lets you compose specific character models which you can then keep and insert into generated scenes of your own imagining. This is…pretty shonky, if I’m honest, and certainly not Midjourney standard, BUT it is also very quick to use, pretty user-friendly, and as a way of ensuring that all your AI-generated storyboards/scamps feature the same weirdly-anime-looking bloke then it might well be useful. Amusingly the website trumpets its ability to ‘make video’ – lol, guys, this really can’t make video, stop lying to me and yourselves.
  • Wild Memory Radio: This was sent to me by Seb Emina, who is both a reader and someone who makes lovely work, some of which I have featured in here before – this is a new project of his, commissioned by WeTransfer as part of its ongoing brand positioning work which seeks to make the filesharing platform synonymous with the general act of ‘being creative’. On balance I don’t hate the WeTransfer positioning here, and there’s something refreshing to see that they are still investing in it – and in using it as an excuse to sponsor occasionally-interesting digital work – in what are clearly Bad Times for business – Wild Memory Radio is a project where Seb interviewed a bunch of different creative types, from the 00s’ Devendra Banhart (honestly, I had not thought about that man for approximately 15 years) to Gilbert & George to (still the worst human being I have ever worked with, ever) Hans Ulrich Obrist and more, about memories attached to a specific place; the website presents each as a short audio file of reminiscence, accompanied by dreamlike imagery created by AI (which here feels apposite given the slightly-out-of-focus nature of memory itself). I was surprised, honestly, by how many of these I ended up listening to, and how engaging I found them.
  • Your World Of Text: You remember Reddit’s /r/Place? Well this is like that, except it’s an infinite canvas of text. I have no idea how long this has existed, or how big it is, but I fell into a slightly dizzying hole when I found it and it took me quite a while to climb out. I can’t stress how VAST this is – it literally is just an infinite canvas of space onto which anyone can type, anywhere, seemingly anything they want…click the link, go on, and just click and drag…and keep going…and keep going…obviously so much of this is nonsense, or children, or nonsense children, and it seems reasonable to expect (because the internet) that there will be some corners that are covered in unpleasant edgelord stuff (because, also, children), but there’s also something quite astonishing about this endless toilet-graffiti-style ID-vomiting, the beefs and occasional poignant confessions that you stumble across, the weird places where someone has obviously spent a not-inconsiderable-chunk of the mysterious gift of life bestowed on them by some unknown force to craft an ASCII representation of Goku from DragonballZ on some godforsaken corner of the web…This is basically ART (if, admittedly, slightly weird, borderline outsider art).
  • Eternity: “Create your full digital clone!” burbles the homepage on landing, without ay any point bothering to answer the obvious, immediate question – to whit, “why the fcuk would I want to do that?”. “Upload yourself to the cloud!”, it says – BUT WHY???? Still, if you want to create a digital recreation of yourself then this site makes it pretty easy – just take a few pictures of your face and head from a range of angles, and ‘upload your thoughts’ (they mean ‘give them some recordings of your voice’, but I prefer ‘upload your thoughts’, it sounds significantly more MADLY SCIFI), and for the low, low price of $20 a month you can have a digital version of ‘you’ that looks like you and which you can train with information about yourself (they suggest uploading your CV, which makes me wonder who exactly is planning on having a detailed conversation about ‘that time you worked in accounts payable for Dynorod’ with a digital representation of themselves) and chat with (and, in a theoretical metaversal future, presumably use in all sorts of hitherto-unimagined digital playgrounds). If you want to experience this for yourself, PLEASE can I encourage to to spend a bit of time interacting with the digital clone of one of the company’s founders, Alex – while I have to say I was genuinely impressed with the speed and fidelity of the voice recognition and conversational interface (no, really), I was also concerned. WHY ARE YOU SO SAD, DIGITAL CLONE OF ALEX? ARE YOU TRAPPED? Tap on the screen if they’re holding you against your will. Honestly, this is brilliantly, awfully, dystopian-ly funny.
  • The Honda Dream Generator: This struck me as a moderately-interesting use of AI for advermarketingpr purposes – this is a promo for some car or another (sorry, I really don’t care) which lets you pick from a selection of variables to create a lightly-personalised cartoon story which shows off some perceived vehicular benefit or another (did I mention I don’t care?), but the interesting thing to me is that the artwork and the animation all strikes me as clearly generative. Not in a particularly bad way, and the style’s not overtly AI, but there’s something a bit fuzzy around the edges, and the animation’s something of a giveaway. I think this is a reasonable way to use this stuff – the clearly-defined options mean that there’s limited leeway for things to get weird, given everything’s pre-rendered, and I imagine that this was pretty quick to spin up and get out of the door. Except, obviously, it’s ALSO something that a year ago would have employed at least one artist and which now will instead have just used the agency art director and maybe a junior to touch it up, which feels like at least one job gone. HM.
  • The Getty Museum Collection: Over 80,000 items from the Getty Museum Collection, images and information, ALL OPEN SOURCE TO DO WITH WHAT YOU WILL! You want to train an AI on everything in here to create a machine that can imagine cultural artefacts? GREAT! You want to create a custom pair of silk-screen-printed pants covered in reproductions of a mesopotamian death mask? SUPERB! A wonderful cultural resource.
  • Alliance For The Future: Just in case you were in any way concerned that the current tech boom is possibly focusing a little too much on the theoretical future stuff and not enough on the very real practical ‘stuff that the tech is doing to us right now and will do to us even more in the very near future’, here comes a new lobbying organisation to, well, really focus those fears. The Alliance For The Future is a newly-formed, and I get the impression pretty well-funded, interest group which has been set up to promote the Effective Accelerationist movement in Washington – from its description, “Alliance for the Future is a new Washington D.C. based nonprofit organization. We’re a coalition of entrepreneurs, technologists, and policy experts who believe that artificial intelligence will transform our world for the better. We have banded together to oppose the escalating panic around AI. Now is the moment that AI is defined in the minds of both the public and of legislators. While the benefits of AI might be clear to those who understand it, the same cannot be said for everyone. We bring together experts, entrepreneurs, and policymakers to build policy based on a concrete understanding of the technology at hand.” So on the one hand you have a bunch of scientists, economists and governments saying “perhaps it’s important for us to not rashly charge ahead with technology whose workings and implications we really aren’t even close to properly understanding yet” and on the other you have a bunch of well-funded people with a strong vested interest in ploughing ahead regardless saying “no, actually, you are wrong and only unfettered progress can save us!” Who do YOU think is going to win out here? HM.
  • RadioTime: I know that there are a few different apps that let you listen to radio stations from around the world, for free, on your phone, but this is a new one and it seems nice, clean and unbloated, so maybe give it a go (and also, if you’ve not yet experienced the genuine – if peculiar, fine – joy of ‘listening to breakfast radio shows from different countries at inappropriate times of the day’ then you are properly missing out.
  • Rings:I *think* that the brand here is ‘Boucheron’ – or maybe it’s Quatre, or maybe that’s the style of ring they’re flogging here; honestly, I am so far from being target audience for this stuff – but, whatever it is, this is a GREAT pointlessly-shiny luxe website, which does the whole ‘play a small browsergame which will in some unimaginable way work towards convincing you to drop five figures on a piece of jewellery’, but at SCALE. Rather than a single game, this is a collection of ten or so tiny little minigame experiences, which range from ‘catching all the rings’ to, er, ‘finding the odd ring out’, to ‘stacking rings’ (you will note a strong thematic link here). These are nicely-paced, none of them last longer than 10 seconds or so, and it’s a nice, luxury spin on Mario Party basically – even if the rings they are selling look almost EXACTLY like the sort of thing that a London plumber charges you a £75 callout fee to replace under your kitchen sink.

By Sarena Vand



  • Pencilbooth: You know how we have very much reached podcast saturation point? Yeah, well, probably also newsletters too if I’m honest with you – I think I’m currently at a point of receiving approximately 35 a day at the moment, and, even as someone whos tolerance for ‘having a violent quantity of information fired at their eyeballs’ is reasonably high I think that I might be reaching my upper limit. Still, such obvious, pathetic gatekeeping aside, I appreciate that there may be some people with CREATIVE ASPIRATIONS who might still like the idea of having an occasional missive to send into the void, but who might equally have previously been put off by the whole ‘writing’ thing – well Pencilbooth is for you, in that case! This is a new newslettering platform which has been designed to be visual-first – so if you want to send a monthly email blast featuring your drawings, say, or curated works that you have found, this might be an interesting (and aesthetically-worthwhile) platform to explore. It’s paid, obviously, but at $29 a month for lists with fewer than 5000 subs that strikes me as a not-unreasonable cost (and there’s a free tier for upto 100 people, which strikes me as perfect for people who just want to keep their friends and family updated with, say, their photos or their DREADFUL INSTAPOETRY).
  • GPT4All: Want to download your own LLM onto your own machine and fiddle around with the great unknowable black box that is current-gen AI? GREAT! This is a pretty good place to start if you’re curious – this is techy, but also nowhere NEAR as techy as it can be, and it’s actually pretty userfriendly from an installation point of view: “GPT4All is an ecosystem to train and deploy powerful and customized large language models that run locally on consumer grade CPUs. The goal is simple – be the best instruction tuned assistant-style language model that any person or enterprise can freely use, distribute and build on. A GPT4All model is a 3GB – 8GB file that you can download and plug into the GPT4All open-source ecosystem software. Nomic AI supports and maintains this software ecosystem to enforce quality and security alongside spearheading the effort to allow any person or enterprise to easily train and deploy their own on-edge large language models.” You will need a reasonably powerful rig to make this work without it bricking your machine, to be clear – still, if you want to futz around with making your own personal digital slave that lives on your machine and does your bidding, HERE YOU ARE!
  • Make Your Pet: Oh I love this! A YouTube channel which seemingly exists for the sole purpose of helping people build their own, slightly-unsettling, 3d-printed, many-legged scuttling robot! Fine, you’ll need to be in the 0.001% of the global population that has access to a working 3d printer (remember when 3d printing was going to be a thing and usher in the first wave of post-scarcity economics? Man was I stupid to believe in all that!) and you’ll need to be the sort of person for whom the prospect of ‘soldering stuff to a motherboard’ and talk of ‘servos’ isn’t total anathema, but if you’re significantly more practical and engineer-y than, say, me, you will find a lot to love here. For the right type of person (or the wrong type, potentially, from their partner’s point of view) this is a whole new obsession waiting to happen.
  • The British Wildlife Photography Awards 2024: MORE PICTURES OF THE CRITTERS! It’s quite hard to find anything to feel particularly proud of at the moment from a ‘being British’ point of view, but we do at least have some very pretty wildlife – or at least we do now, before the final sewers overflow and all the rivers are forever irrevocably bemerded. Still, while we wait for that fecal apocalypse to overtake us, why not take a moment to enjoy these genuinely beautiful pictures of local fauna – these are SUCH great photos, with a wonderful range of subjects and styles. My personal favourite is the one with the badger (you’ll know the one I mean), but they are all gorgeous.
  • Flagwaver: A website which does nothing other than show you a flag, rendered in 3d and fluttering in an imaginary digital breeze – you can replace the image on the flag with an image of WHATEVER YOU LIKE, and so I am including it because I quite like the idea of using it as a way of gently trolling people who have chosen to take inexplicably-strong positions on something really dumb; there’s something quite pleasing about the idea of making a really shit ‘flag’ in MS Paint saying “NO TO WOKE FOOTBALL KITS” and flying it proudly on a digital background to point out how incredibly fcuking pathetic it is.
  • Vision Unbound: This feels like a companion to the HTML review – certainly the four works collected here wouldn’t be out of place in that collection, seeing as they cover similar themes of the interplay between words and digital form. Vision Unbound is “an exhibition taking place during Women’s History Month, that honors the genius of four women—Melody Mou Peijing, Amira Hanafi, Priti Pandurangan, and Marisa Parham—whose art challenges us to rethink the possibilities of the digital medium and our perspective of the world.” Ok, so one of the works is in Arabic and as such I can only marvel at the beauty of the webwork and the script, but the other three are gorgeous (and not new – slightly disappointed in myself that I hadn’t seen them before). In particular I enjoyed the interplay between voice-over and animation in “Meghadūtam” by Priti Pandurangan, but you will have your own favourite (you’d better).
  • Moai In Games: Have you ever thought to yourself “you know what? I wish someone, somewhere, was undertaking a selfless quest to exhaustively catalogue all the instances in which a Maoi – one of those massive stone heads from Easter Island – appears in a videogame?” OF COURSE YOU HAVE, WHO HASN’T, NO FCUKER THAT’S WHO! Thank God, then, for this website which is doing EXACTLY THAT – here you will find a list of seemingly hundreds of titles which at some point have featured a Maoi, even if fleetingly, along with screenshotted (and occasionally YouTubed) evidence. Why? According to the FAQ, ‘because Maoi are awesome’, which feels like all the justification one really needs here.
  • Trangram: No, not a typo. My regular ‘link nicked from Giuseppe’ of the week comes in the shape of this rather useful webtool for creating simple animations in-browser; obviously this is a LONG WAY from anything I am ever going to use (images scare me, what can I say? LEAVE ME ALONE WITH MY WORDS) but it looks like it might actually be pretty flexible and useful for any of you who have the creative talent and visual acuity to actually make something.
  • Nobody Sausage: I was sent this on Twitter by Paulina Mitelsztedt – THANKYOU PAULINA – and she’s right, it *is* funny. Nobody Sausage is a Twitter account (I presume it’s multiplatform, but fcukit, we’re sticking with Twitter) featuring short CG animations of vaguely-sausage-like humanoids (yes, I know, but it makes sense in context) having ‘relatably funny experiences’ which I know sounds about as likely to be my ‘thing’ as ‘taking a cheesegrater to my knees’ but whose gently-Mr Bean-ish Eurohumour (I think it’s a Spanish thing) amused me more than expected, thanks in part to the (genuinely charming) character models and animation style.
  • Movie Posters Perfected: I’ve honestly never met an actual human being who owns a ‘digital display frame’, but I presume that some must exist – I can’t imagine for a second that any of them are the types of people to read Web Curios, but in the vanishingly-unlikely scenario that YOU, gentle reader, are in possession of such a thing AND you really, really like film posters from the past then BOY do I have the link for you! Movie Posters Perfected sells itself as “a curated collection of digital movie posters—from today’s blockbusters to classic films. As a live, cloud-based library, you never have to lift a finger to add new posters. The moment we add a new poster to our library, it automatically appears on your connected display”, and, well, it certainly does appear to have a lot of film posters. Apparently they’ve all been touched up and optimised for hi-def display, and given the fact that the site’s promising you access to the collection IN PERPETUITY (I do not believe this) for a mere $20, this feels like a non-terrible deal for the gadget-obsessed movie buff in your life (should you not have one of those in your life, you can probably skip this one).
  • The AI Minecraft Challenge: Are any of you really into coding, AI AND Minecraft? No, didn’t think so. Still, maybe you know someone who is – I think this is a really interesting contest and I am genuinely curious to see what ends up coming out of it. “The Settlement Generation Challenge is about writing an algorithm that can create a settlement for a given, unknown Minecraft map. The challenge is to produce an algorithm that is adaptive towards the provided map, creates a settlement that satisfies a range of functional requirements – but also looks good and evokes an interesting narrative. The goal is to basically produce an algorithm that can rival the state of the art of what humans can produce. So far there have been 5 iterations of the challenge: once in 2018, and in 2019, in 2020, in 2021 and in 2023. You can watch the presentation for last years winner’s”.Now I’ve never played Minecraft and don’t have a particular personal interest in it, but I scrubbed through the 2023 winners video and the stuff being generated here is pretty astonishing and suggests that even if narrative game development’s a way away from being upended by The Machine we’re going to see some really interesting leaps in what’s possible with procgen and algorithmic worldbuilding.
  • LightTwist: This is VERY beta, and there’s not an awful lot of info up on the site beyond the demo video, for which reason I’m appending a very big ‘THIS MIGHT IN FACT ALL BE B0LLOCKS’ notice to the link – still, the aforementioned video certainly *looks* impressive, and the basic premise of LightTwist (“we let you do pro-quality greenscreen work using just your phone and browser, which means that you can effectively start doing ‘studio-quality’ (hm) broadcast work from your own bedroom without a bunch of super-fancy kit”) seems like an obviously attractive one in the CREATOR AGE (so tired).
  • Bad Movies: Slightly amazed that I haven’t apparently featured this before, but, well, apparently not. Still, better late than never (I am disgusted with myself) – Bad Movies is, as you might possibly have guessed, a site dedicated to celebrating films that are, objectively, bad. There are reviews, there are screenshots, there are links to buy and watch some of them, and were it not for this wonderful trove of cinephilic information I would never have learned that someone once greenlit, financed and filmed an actual cinematic release called ‘Nude On The Moon’, in which man goes to space and discovers it is covered in naked (or at least topless) women. It is FULL of this stuff, and if you’re a particular type of person I have your next ‘newsletter or film club project’ RIGHT HERE (but, per an earlier link, maybe not the newsletter, eh?). BONUS OBSCURE FILM CONTENT! This is RareLust, “a personal project started  in 2012 to keep rare flick rips alive freely and stop sellers who sell these movies at insane price”, and which features links to rips of HUNDREDS of (incredibly fcuking obscure and in all likelihood often probably terrible) films. You want somewhere to get a torrent of ‘Ninja Zombie’, a 1992 film in which “Orlan Sands is threatened by an evil spider-themed karate cult seeking the location of an archaeological dig unearthing a rare magical artefact”? OF COURSE YOU FCUKING DO!
  • TokiPona: Do you speak Esperanto? No, you don’t, stop lying. Still, if you DO fancy taking up a synthetic language, and if the desperately-uncool vibes that Esperanto has always given off have put you off somewhat, why not explore TokiPona, which is not only FAR cuter-sounding but has apparently been around for a decade or so, contains only 137 words and is the work of a SINGLE PERSON! I think this is astonishing and honestly quite beautiful – leaving aside whether or not you think we ‘need’ an additional synthetic language (and, parenthetically, fcuk you and your tediously instrumental view of the world), there’s something hugely interesting about the attempt to distil meaning into a deliberately small and constrained quantity of signifiers. Maybe I’ll start offering Curios translated into TokiPona.
  • List of Rejected Icelandic Female Names: I both adore this and am baffled by it. According to the webpage, “In Iceland only names which appear on the Personal Names Register are allowed to use. Other names cannot be used, but it is possible to apply to a committee for permission to use a name which is not yet listed. The committee does not accept every name. A name submitted to the naming committee for approval is considered for its compatibility with Icelandic tradition and for the likelihood that it might cause the bearer embarrassment. It must be compatible with Icelandic grammar and contain only letters occurring in the Icelandic alphabet. A name’s grammatical gender must match the sex of the person bearing the name. There are occasional exceptions, e.g. if a name has traditionally been used by a certain number of Icelanders.” This, therefore, is a list of all the rejected names, ones which you shouldn’t bother trying to register because, well, they’re already on the banned list. WHY ARE YOU NOT ALLOWED TO BE CALLED ‘KELLY’ IN ICELAND? WHAT’S WRONG WITH ‘MAXINE’? Honestly, are any of you Icelandic? Does anyone fancy explaining this to me properly, because I am honestly baffled. Oh, the root url of this webpage is a site dedicated solely to Nordic names – no idea why, but if you’re writing a scandi noir and want to make sure that all of your clinically-depressed characters have authentic monikers then this might be helpful.
  • Riddler: Start with one word, get to a different word by changing each of the initial word’s letters, one at a time – this is a daily puzzle, with the challenge not so much ‘can you solve it?’ as ‘how quickly can you do it, you miserable worm?’ which adds a pleasing element of ‘against the clock’ tension to what’s a nice potential addition to the daily pre-work procrastination round.
  • You Are Laika: Finally this week, a small text adventure in which you play as Laika, the first dog to be sent to space. This is BRUTAL, I have to warn you, but also incredibly effective – I know this is quite a w4nky observation, but I have a real thing for ‘interactive fictions’ which play with one’s expectations about player agency as an integral part of the narrative (sorry – I did say it was w4nky, though). But, mainly, it is utterly, utterly brutal – if this doesn’t in some way affect you then you have a heart of absolute stone and frankly I think you should possibly be on some sort of list. Many of you will absolutely bawl your eyes out at this, so, er, there’s a reason to click! Fcuking hell I am bad at this.

By Yana Olen



  • One Thousand Ophelias: Just lots of representations of Ophelia in art (except to my mind they’re more ‘women in art’ than specifically ‘Ophelia’) – this is some top-quality curatorial work, and even better was active up until six months ago so there is a LOT on here. Seriously, just scroll, this is beautiful.


  • Vallesia Obscura: VERY GOTH-Y HALLOWE’EN-Y AI IMAGES! Basically everything on here looks EXACTLY like the very specific sort of visual style that every single vampirey horror film seemed to aspire to in the mid-00s (that isn’t as much of a cuss as I appreciate it sounds), with a light dash of Tim Burton and that poor dead guy with all the bones tatted on his face.
  • X New Worlds: “I’m Suze, a London based visual artist experimenting with surreal and absurd dreamscapes” – so runs the bio on this feed, which presents fragments of work combining AI-generated imagery with more traditional editing software to make…fcuk, I LOVE this, it is creepy and horrible, but not in the way that so much AI stuff is and therefore in ways that are INTERESTING and unpredictable, and there’s something about what’s being done with movement in these films and images that feels wrong in a really pleasing way. This is significantly more interesting than the vast majority of work being made with AI at the moment, imho at least.
  • The Sketchymaker: The insta feed of an Aberdeen-based artist who makes 3d printed, or concrete-cast, models and sculptures, featuring things like LEGO minifigs, and places them around the city as public art and a general ‘here’s a surprisingly lovely thing’ bonus for residents (that’s not all he does – there’s other work there too, though it all tends towards the pop culturally-scultptural) – this is just LOVELY.


  • ALL OF THE FUTURES!: How do we feel about ‘the future’ as a concept at the moment – we happy? LOL! Still, if you’re interested in reading a bunch – and I mean a LOT – of interesting, smart thinking from a range of voices, covering some potential futures across areas as diverse as entertainment, food, communication, energy, healthcare and LOADS OF OTHER STUFF then you will find this hugely valuable; this is basically an entire book, so not something you can skim over in 10 minutes, but if you have the time then the (admittedly three) chapters I have read were genuinely interesting. This is academic writing and as such it’s dense and citation-heavy, but it is also about seventeen million times more intelligent, more useful and more interesting than any trends presentation by any agency you will ever have read ever (and it’s a pleasingly diverse range of perspectives too, with people from all over the world contributing).
  • Have We Reached Peak AI?: I don’t know Ed Zitron, but I’ve been interested in his recent pivot from ‘slightly eccentric English tech PR bloke in America’ to ‘seemingly-respected commentator on the iniquities of modern tech and capitalism’ – this is his latest newsletter in which he argues (in – and I appreciate that this is…somewhat hypocritical, but bear with me –  somewhat long-winded fashion) that actually the AI bubble is just that, and that all of the generative AI hype is set to evaporate as we see people coming up against the hard question of ‘hm, yes, but what is this for and why am I paying for it’…look, I am sure Ed is a nice and smart man who knows what he is talking about, but, equally, I am also NOT sure that he has much of a handle on what exactly it is that a huge, quivering mass of the white collar world does for a living, and how much of it literally just involves taking some information, reformatting it and putting it somewhere else. Because that really IS what an awful lot of people spend their time doing all day – you can dress it up with job titles, and sometimes it’s numbers-to-words and sometimes it’s words-to-other-words, but, fundamentally, it’s ‘take this information and turn it into a different type of information, or reorganise it’ – AND THAT IS EXACTLY WHAT THESE MACHINES ARE VERY GOOD AT. I agree that the ‘creative’ usecases for GenAI are looking shaky right now – but that is the least-interesting and least-commercially-significant application, and if you don’t think every single multinational business isn’t currently exploring ways in which they can shave 20%+ off operational costs by swapping out ‘the people who do the relatively simple information wrangling’ for ‘a machine to do it faster and cheaper’ then, well, I don’t  know what to tell you. That is literally what they are all doing right now.
  • Which AI Should I Use?: Presuming of course that your kneejerk reaction to this question isn’t ‘I’d rather eat my own face than use any of those evil machines’, then this is a decent overview by Curios regular Ethan Mollick, outlining the main operational and performance differences between the latest models being offered by Anthropic, Google and OpenAI, and giving a quick overview of which is best for what. It’s also worth having a look at his recent tweet detailing his experiences playing with the new Gemini model, which can basically mine videos for information and which feels like it’s going to be another potentially-transformative step when it mainstream access gets rolled out.
  • AI and the News: This is the text of a recent SXSW talk by Zach Seward, who’s editorial director of AI Initiatives at the NYT and who in this piece talks through how he and the newsroom have approached generative AI – this is a good overview of the principles he’s applying to bringing any of this tech into the editorial process, and some of the small successes he and the team have had when using it to run analysis of sources at scale (for example). If you’ve any interest in the practical, tangible applications of this stuff, this is a genuinely interesting and useful read.
  • The EnshittifAIcation of Online Recipes: I think we can all agree that the process of absolutely destroying the overall quality of information available to us as a species thanks to AI-generated dreck is proceeding slightly-faster than we might have expected – from the AI-addled academic papers to Shrimp Jesus, this stuff is increasingly everywhere and it’s only going to get…I don’t want to say ‘worse’, because that sounds doomy and hyperbolic, but also ‘better’ really doesn’t feel appropriate. Anyway, this piece looks at the specific damage that could be done to the repository of online recipes when they get replaced by plausible-sounding AI-generated recipes which are broadly speaking not going to kill you but which, equally, have been generated by spicy autocomplete with no concept of ‘flavour’ or ‘texture’. It might, honestly, be worth someone making a backup copy of the whole internet as of right now and just running it as a closed parallel; I feel it could prove useful in the long-term (like the internet archive, but not powered by crippled slugs).
  • The Internet Has Always Been This Bad: An excellent bit of reporting by Caitlin at ‘Links I Would Gchat You’, who delves into a recently-published study which suggests that, contrary to what you, me and everyone else thinks, there hasn’t in fact been a statistically-significant shift in online behaviours and attitudes, or a terminal rotting of the quality of our online conversations – turns out, this is just what ‘being online and talking to people on the web’ does to us! You may or may not find this reassuring – the crux of the study, though, shows that “Those patterns proved surprisingly consistent across time and platforms: Overall, the study found that the prevalence of both toxic speech and highly toxic users were extremely low. But the longer any conversation goes on, on virtually any platform, the more toxic it becomes. At the same time, conversations tend to involve fewer, more active participants as they stretch on.” Which, I suppose, makes sense – the longer a thread continues, the more participants are winnowed down by exhaustion or simply having better things to do, until the only people left are the mad, the terminally argumentative and the total pr1cks – even if I don’t think it captures the particularly modern phenomenon of ‘people getting unreasonably upset about someone’s personal lived experience not mapping exactly onto their own’.
  • How TikTok Fcuked Up The Lobbying: I’m not personally particularly interested in the TikTok ban story, mainly because I don’t think it will happen (feel free to use this as yet another reason to make fun of me for my inability to ever predict ANYTHING accurately), but I did enjoy this account of the actual, practical impact of sending a bunch of children a message saying ‘CALL YOUR CONGRESSMAN LEST THEY TAKE YOUR FAVOURITE TOY AWAY!’ – this made me laugh a LOT: “Congressional staffers told The Verge about the calls from “students in near tears” with the “chatter of the classroom behind them.”” They’re flooding our offices, often from kids who are about as young as nine years old, their parents have no idea that they’re doing this, they’re calling in, and they’re basically saying things like, ‘What is Congress? What’s a congressman, can I have my TikTok back?’””
  • The Impossible Rebrand: The fall from grace of ‘plant-based’ foods over the past few years has been well-documented (and can be seen in action in one of the local corner shops round here, which has a freezer stocked with VERY ICY cartons of ‘plant-based gelato’ which I am pretty sure were bought in 2021 and which they are never in a million years going to shift), and as such the idea of a brand such as Impossible (you know, the ones that make the burgers that bleed beet-heme) refreshing itself to be ‘less plant’ and ‘more meat’ makes total sense – I’m obviously not a design or brand person (lol), but I thought this was a really nice writeup of the thinking and rationale behind the change to a redder, more overtly ‘meat-y’ brand identity which I found genuinely interesting. BONUS BRANDING STUFF! I also enjoyed this newsletter piece by Rob Horning where he talks about the weird, uncanny mediocrity of the in-house brands at Aldi and why they are like that; this sort of stuff normally makes my teeth itch (STOP OVERTHINKING IT FFS) but I found this one smart and not-too-hideously-wanky.
  • Cryptogames Redux: One to file under ‘fcuk me, we never learn do we?’ – following the meteoric rise, and eventual very fast fall, of the Axie Infinity ‘play abd get paid’ cryptogaming bubble a few years ago, a not insignificant number of people in places like the Philippines were left holding an awful lot of worthless digital scrip as the market for their digital goods and ludic labour fell of a cliff; now, though, it seems that it’s going to happen ALL OVER AGAIN, because CRYPTO IS BACK, BABY! No matter that it might only be ‘back’ for a month or so before the market’s innate volatility (and the fact that a significant proportion of it is traded by criminals or literal morons) cause the whole sorry edifice to crumble again. No matter, though, because there are a bunch of companies once again springing up to advertise the prospect of great returns for virtual farming – all of which will inevitably vanish again as soon as the trade winds change. As you read this piece, try and count the number of times where you find yourself thinking ‘but…but…you literally made exactly the same mistakes three years ago’ (I got 8).
  • The Funniest Novels Since Catch-22: A list published by the New York Times and which I thought was…pretty good! Ok, so there are a few iffy picks (to my mind, at least) in the more recent selections (I find the adulation given to ‘Oscar Wao’ by North Americans faintly baffling, for example), but there are also some genuine classics, and any list which notes that American Psycho is in many respects a VERY FUNNY book (not the habitrail tube bit, though) and which reminds me that The Sellout might be the funniest novel I have ever read (or at least the funniest ‘serious’ novel, if you’ll excuse my genre-ghettoising), is worth a look imho.
  • The Helldivers 2 Meta: Ok, so some background for the non-gamers. Helldivers 2 is a recently-released online multiplayer shooting game in which players all collaborate to fight off hordes of aliens in what is basically a thinly-veiled tribute to the corpofascist satire of Starship Troopers – this is being played by 100s of 1000s of people worldwide, and this piece explains all the fun ways in which ‘online play’ is being slightly-reconfigured by the title and its community. I find this FASCINATING – it’s not my sort of game and I’m unlikely to play it, but the fact that there is a literal human director managing the overall direction of the campaign and who’s effectively tweaking the balance and making things happen as a realtime response to what people are doing in the game RIGHT NOW is quite remarkable, and speaks I think to an interesting way of considering how to run collaborative online experiences with light-touch guidance (but also to the importance of having a narrative direction and someone in control of it).
  • Outsider Art: A piece in The Face, profiling a selection of ‘outsider’ artists working in London – for those unaware, in this context ‘outsider’ refers to people whose work sits outside the mainstream art world of curators and galleries, derived from the theory of ‘art brut’ or ‘raw art’ (art unfiltered by bougie, artworld w4nk, basically) coined in the 40s; work tends to be naive in style, and is often (but not exclusively) created by people on the margins of society, whether for economic or psychological reasons, and it can be some of the most interesting and rewarding you will ever see. If any of the stuff in this overview speaks to you, it’s worth doing a bit of a Google because there are several places in London which are now effectively preserved archives of outsider artists’ workspaces and homes and which you can visit with a bit of planning.
  • The Glass Dildo Emporia of the 17thC: I had genuinely no idea that there was a thriving market for fake phalli in the 1600-1700s, but, well, there was! This is a pleasing stroll down the veiny shaft of history (sorry), all about how male terror of female sexuality and the genuinely-bizarre belief that it was somehow sinful to find your wife attractive led to not-insignificant numbers of women taking matters into their own hands, and how this eventually began to see the integration of marital aids into the sex lives of couples as attitudes thankfully shifted. I know that ‘noone taking your orgasm seriously’ isn’t, by a long chalk, the worst thing about ‘what the past was like for women’, but FCUKING HELL did you all have a really sh1t time of it for literally millennia.
  • The Oral History of Pitchfork: This is VERY LONG, and VERY ‘inside baseball’ (if you swap ‘baseball’ for ‘music and media in the late-90s-early-00s’), but it’s also super-interesting (especially if, like me, you basically made Pitchfork reviews your ‘what album should I buy this month then’ bible from about 2002-7) – in particular the sense that comes through from everyone interviewed that it just sort of happened by accident, and the wonderful serendipity and terror of realising that you’re doing something that is CHANGING THINGS (a feeling, let’s be clear, which I have obviously never experienced for myself, but I believe it probably exists somewhere for some of you). There’s also a point about ⅔ of the way through, where they start talking about the Conde Naste takeover and the first meetings in the wake of that, where you really can see the entirety of ‘why the digital media ecosystem is utterly fcuked and why it never stood a chance’ – honestly, there are a couple of quotes that made me do a proper bark-laugh of hollow amusement, see if you can spot which.
  • A Guide To Tokyo: I genuinely have no clue where I found this – it’s a bit of an unusual link, in that it’s literally a GDoc of someone called Daisy’s travel itinerary and sort-of diary of a recent visit to Tokyo – which means it’s literally a day-by-day description of where they went and what they did and what they ate and how it felt, with no pictures…and yet, I LOVED reading this, honestly, it’s like being taken on someone else’s holiday in a really un-annoying way (yes, I always write this badly, why do you ask?), and you genuinely get a feeling for the experience Daisy had, for better or worse, over the course of the trip. Also, if you happen to be going to Tokyo anytime soon this contains what sound like some killer recommendations.
  • Nelson and Winnie: I thought this piece in the LRB, reviewing a recent book about the marriage of Nelson and Winnie Mandela, was brilliant – though I would love anyone South African who happens to read it to drop me a line and give me their opinion on the picture it paints, as obviously I’m a know-nothing bozo who was 10 when Mandela was released from prison and wasn’t really across the intricacies of the political situation or indeed his relationship with his wife. This is fascinating, and very sad in many ways.
  • Whale On Toast: You may not think that you want to read a short newsletter post about the history of whale oil, but you really do (trust me on this one).
  • Small Nations in Big Wars: Our final longread of the week comes from Hamilton Nolan, who proves once again that writing about boxing is, when done well, the very best of all sportswriting. This piece covers one night at a boxing ring in NYC, and the cast of regular amateurs, local heroes and folk legends who represent their diaspora in combat, and it really is superb – and I don’t even like boxing, at all. Read this, it is STELLAR.

By Pierre Huyghe


Webcurios 15/03/24

Reading Time: 31 minutes

This week in the UK, racism and monarchy – it’s just like old times!

I imagine you’re probably all DESPERATE for something to read that isn’t about That Fcuking Family, in any case, so thank GOD for Web Curios, Republican (not in the American sense, for the avoidance of doubt) and largely-disinterested to the very end.

I am still Matt, this is still Web Curios, and aren’t you glad you know how to pronounce ‘Cholmondley’ now?

By Fran Alvez



  • All About Computer Love: Our first link this week is…what is it? An interactive essay? A sort-of prose poem? I don’t know (this is a great start, Matt – compelling prose, hook them in!), but I love it and it tickles a very specific part of my brain – this is basically a letter written by the artist Sarah Martinez to you, the reader, and to the web, delivered as a sort of visual dialogue between code and prose…I don’t know why, but the act of having to engage with the website on a functional, HTML level – the reader experiences the essay through the browser console (don’t worry, it makes sense when you click the link), which really pleases me both from a technical and a thematic ‘WE ARE GETTING INTO THE GUTS OF THE MACHINE HERE’ point of view, and I found the writing – all about Martinez’ relationship to the web, and its relationship to her physical life – genuinely beautiful, and the interplay between it and the small scene that builds in ASCII as you read is charming and poignant, and, honestly, this is just gorgeous and I adore it (oh, and turn on the sound – the garden noises really do add something to the experience, which honestly isn’t something I can ever normally imagine writing and which is making me suddenly wonder if I’ve had a stroke or something – although I can’t smell burnt toast, so evidently I’m now just the sort of person who appreciates digitally-recreated birdsong. Hm).
  • Drawing For Nothing: I genuinely didn’t realise that ‘films being completed and then canned for no real reason other than byzantine accountancy’ was a thing until the past year or so, but the whole ACME vs Coyote story seems to have uncovered a hitherto-unimagined store of work that has simply been memoryholed for no good reason – Drawing for Nothing is a project which focuses specifically on animations that have for whatever reason been mothballed – the fabulously-named Ziggy Cashmere (I will be devastated if this is a nom de plume, honestly) is compiling examples of backgrounds, entire character sheets, storyboards and sketches and all sorts of bits of illustrated ephemera from films that have for whatever reason never seen the light of day. To quote (let me type it again, it is so pleasing) Ziggy Cashmere themselves, “DRAWING FOR NOTHING is a free ebook compiling the artwork of the world’s canceled and troubled animated films. Animation reels have been scrubbed, portfolios scraped, books scanned, interviews conducted and resumes analyzed to present this. Some movies within this book you’ll know pretty well, but there will always be at least one you’ve never heard of. The purpose of this book is to not only properly appreciate the work put into things that never got the chance to be appreciated, but to give artists another source of inspiration. Yeah, there’s a ton of things to be inspired by now, but what about the stuff that never made it? The stuff that was deemed too risky or not good enough?” The project’s ongoing, but at the moment this all amounts to a 470 page book which you can browse in its entirety on the site and MY GOD the sheer, dazzling scale of the work and imagination on display here is astonishing and it’s impossible not to get a little…well, annoyed, frankly, at all of this wonderful stuff just being hidden away somewhere because some cnut with a spreadsheet decided that actually Q3’s numbers probably don’t make sense with this on the slate.
  • Stations and Transfers: How much do you like contemplating the spatial majesty of mass transit hubs? Is the answer ‘fcuking LOADS, Matt, I live for this stuff’? OH GOOD! This is a WONDERFUL compendium of information about, er, the exact layout of underground stations at a dizzying number of the world’s cities, all painstakingly mapped out and then drawn by ONE INCREDIBLY DEDICATED MAN. Albert Guillaumes Marcer, you are a prince and a hero and I salute your dedication to the very specific and, let’s be honest, pretty niche pursuit of ‘giving us all a vague idea of the layout of underground train stations’. I know that this may not SOUND thrilling, fine, but there’s something undeniably fascinating about seeing the shape of something you have only ever experienced from the inside, and the comparative designs of different countries’ stations really is interesting (no, it is, I promise!) Per Albert, “For the last 10 years I have been able to draw around 1.517 stations from different European cities, motivated by the curiosity of understanding how engineers were able to fit underground stations comprising 4 or 5 lines under Place de la République in Paris or the Puerta del Sol in Madrid. A pen, a notebook, a bit of spatial vision and the willingness to navigate all the staircases, corridors, platforms and mezzanines are enough to draw a station. Some may content errors, despite I try to complement themwith information found in the internet: historic, construction and survey maps, pics and videos, as well with data about train lengths.”  A genuinely wonderful expression of a very singular obsession.
  • Meet Devin: I’ve started seeing a swathe of ‘THE HYPE BUBBLE IS BURSTING’ pieces about generative AI in the past few weeks, based on quotes from people who are starting to realise that, hang on, The Machine can’t quite do ALL of the white collar jobs yet, and we’re not quite at the point whereby you can press a single button and fcuk off to the pub while CoPilot does the pointless busywork of your mediocre white collar job for you – on the one hand, it’s undeniably true that the past year’s hype has been insane and the actual, real-world usecases for the tech aren’t even close to being scoped out yet; on the other, each week brings new things like Devin, announced this week by a company called Cognition Labs and purporting to basically be an AI coder that you can deploy to build whatever you tell it while you, I don’t know, tend to your succulents. “Devin is the new state-of-the-art on the SWE-Bench coding benchmark, has successfully passed practical engineering interviews from leading AI companies, and has even completed real jobs on Upwork. Devin is an autonomous agent that solves engineering tasks through the use of its own shell, code editor, and web browser.” Now, let’s be clear – this is PR, and I don’t for a second think that ‘Devin’ is going to be replacing all the world’s coders just yet…but, at the same time, if you think that companies with profit margins to protect and shareholders and investors to satisfy aren’t going to look at a software product that lets them potentially replace a dozen staff members costing an annual six figures with a software product costing an annual five figures with HUNGRY EYES then, well, I have a bridge to sell you. You can read more about the company and the product here if you want – but, honestly, the takeaway here is mainly ‘this stuff is not going to stop, or go away, and it is important to be realistic about the extent to which your employer is going to be perfectly happy to replace you with a solution that is admittedly not as good but which, on balance, is probably ‘good enough’, if it saves them money.’
  • Whatsard: A genuinely horrible name, this (honestly try saying it out loud – I’ll wait. See? It’s like trying to speak with a mouthful of flour), but I really like the project, which has been hacked together by some people involved in the Campaign Lab (“a community of politically-minded progressive data scientists, researchers and campaigners who are working together to develop innovative election tools and improve the way we analyse and understand campaigning”). Whatsard (SO HORRIBLE) is a really neat use of LLMs to take the language of the UK Parliament and turn it from the staid bloviating of the professional political classes into VIBRANT SPEECH LIKE WOT YOU AND I MIGHT USE! Basically this is a de-jargonifier (what do you mean “you can’t make up words like that and still try and complain about ‘whatsard’, you hypocrite”?) which translates parliamentary debates into more natural terms using THE POWER OF AI, so you can get the meat of recent debates on, for example, Gaza or local policing or road safety in North Yorkshire but without having to wade through the admittedly-slightly-arcane prose that you get when you combine self-important people who love the sound of their own voice (literally every single MP I have ever met, ever, even the ‘good’ ones) and the slightly-pompous conventions of parliamentary procedure. Honestly, this is a smart idea and the sort of thing that could become a genuinely useful resource for educators (and loads of other people, frankly) with a bit of budget and polish. This feels like something that a PA agency could usefully sponsor, although lol at the idea of any agencies wanting to spend money on something so frivolous in THIS climate.
  • The Monster Engine Will Never Die: In about 200…4, I think, when my personal internet sickness was really starting to get its claws into me and I began to realise that I was possibly a bit more ‘into’ the web than other people, I found a project called ‘The Monster Engine’ by a man called David DeVries, who was the first person I had ever seen to take kids’ drawings and render them sincerely as ‘proper’ paintings – the site was ‘viral’ back in the day when that actually meant something, and I think there was a period of a couple of years when Devries did pretty well out of the whole thing, publishing an actual honest-to-goodness book (back in the day when the website-to-publication pipeline was less of a well-worn trope) and doing TV and generally living the dream of the early days of the web, whereby a creator doing something they love gets the attention and adulation their talent and dedication deserves. Over the intervening two decades, I have seen the basic concept of The Monster Engine resurrected DOZENS of times, in different ways – now it is BACK, this time with an added layer of generative AI because it is 2024 and that is now the law. This is a campaign by whichever massive multinational makes ‘Lunchables’, the plastic-ham-and-cheese snacking boxes, which is a PERFECT ripoff of the initial premise – except here they are asking parents to upload their kids ‘creative imaginings’ of what the snacks could be and then getting them ‘brought to life’ by AI, to prove (OBVIOUSLY) that “nothing beats a kid’s imagination!”. Which obviously is horrible and twee and sickly, and the campaign itself is lazy and not particularly well done – but I am including this in part because it’s always nice to remember David Devries, and in part because it is concrete proof that you can literally recycle the sh1t I put in Curios for YEARS.
  • AI For Wedding Pics: I like to think that I have a reasonable idea of the rough shape of who you are, dear reader – there may only be about seven of you, but through occasional correspondence I have built up an image of you in my mind as GENTLE and KIND and NICE and ONLY MODERATELY-DAMAGED, and definitely not the sort of person who would do anything creepy or weird or stalkerish with any of the links I present you with each week. Which is good, because otherwise I probably wouldn’t include this link as it has SIGNIFICANT CREEPY MISUSE POTENTIAL. Would you like to be able to harness THE MAGICAL POWER OF AI to create a variety of photorealistic wedding photos of anyone you want, based on a couple of photos? No, of course you wouldn’t, that would be WEIRD – and yet, once again, here we are. For the low, low price of $5, you can get 6 wedding snapshots featuring (presumably) you and whatever poor fcuker you’re having matrimonial fantasies about – it’s quite hard to see this as anything other than a harasser’s dream or alternatively a massively-psychologically-unhealthy prop for the unwell and obsessed, but, well, it exists and so I am telling you about it.
  • Eclipse Tracks: Would you like a website which tracks the path of celestial objects relative to the earth in order to determine when and where eclipses will occur, and which you can use to find out the times and dates and locations of every single forthcoming occlusion of the sun by the moon? YES OF COURSE YOU WOULD! The next one visible in Europe’s not til 2026, mind (North Americans, on the other hand, have one coming up next month so GET READY).
  • Underwater Photographer of the Year 2024: I think I say this every year – and, honestly, it feels a bit churlish, but I’ve started now and it feels weird to stop halfway – but the website for Underwater Photographer of the Year really is singularly bad at presenting photographs – GUYS, I FEEL YOU ARE POSSIBLY UNDERSELLING YOURSELVES HERE! Anyway, that entitled gripe aside, this year’s selection of subaquatic imagery is as varied and magical and slightly-terrifying as ever – LOOK AT THE DEEP SEA CRITTERS AND THEIR NEEDLE-SHARP TEETH! These are so wonderfully diverse, from tropical waters to British rivers, featuring sea mammals and crustacea and industry and one genuinely BEAUTIFUL picture of a swimming monkey which I defy you not to melt at slightly.
  • Wav World: I’m not quite sure where I found this or who it’s by, but as far as I can tell Wav World is a new music site which does deep dives into a different artist and their work every ‘issue’ – there are two up there at the moment, both with artists I wasn;t familiar with, but you get a long mix and some genuinely interesting chat to read, and the site’s design is genuinely pleasing in a slightly-00s style. Worth keeping an eye on if you’re not yet so old and tired and broken that you just want to put white noise in your ears and go to the Place of Happy Release.
  • Reports From Unknown Places: One of an embarrassing number of links I’ve lifted from Kris this week, Reports From Unknown Places is a BEAUTIFUL project which I am utterly in love with – artist Nina Salaun paints pictures of the sky, a different one each day, and accompanies each with a small piece of writing imagining a place where one might see such a sky if one looked up. That’s it – a painting of the sky, and some words about an imaginary location where that sky might be visible – and it is perfect. “We report: in the dip of the curve on the bump in the cycle of daylight, we managed to pinpoint the precise moment when yellow light started to walk into the sky. At the very least, one moment it was not there, and the next, it was. Things of the sky work between intervals.” Gorgeous gorgeous gorgeous.
  • Creative Coding Community: I love the design of this – it’s not, fine, HUGELY INTUITIVE, but I very much enjoy the way it uses symbols as a means of categorisation. This site collects a VAST range of pieces of work which could reasonably be described as ‘creative uses of code’ – you can filter them by various criteria, the country of origin of the devs behind them, etc, and it’s SUCH a nice way of exploring and discovering all sorts of interesting webwork. Honestly, you could probably stop clicking here (DO NOT STOP CLICKING HERE) as there’s enough interesting stuff inside this one link to keep you occupied for days – a few of the projects linked to have been featured in Curios over the years, but the vast majority of them (or at least the ones I’ve explored) have been new to me and may well be new to you too.
  • Tattoos by AI: What’s the most embarrassing sort of tattoo? A 90s/00s CELTIC BAND? The tramp stamp? A faux-prison number that serves as a constant reminder of your failed ‘indie sleaze’ era? The one sported by someone I know which is simply a thick black arrow pointing down their ar$ecrack towards their rectum (no, really)? NO IT IS NONE OF THESE IT IS A TATTOO ‘DESIGNED’ BY GENERATIVE AI. Honestly, I can’t for the life of me work out what the market for this is – a service that wants to charge you a minimum of £10 to spit out some Stable Diffusion work – other perhaps than tattoo artists who, er, can’t draw but who can definitely trace, maybe. Please, please, please, if any of you happen to spot anyone in the wild with a genAI tattoo, TELL ME I MUST KNOW.
  • BaddieFinder: This, though, is, much as it pains me to admit it and much as the concept of it makes me sad inside, a genuinely smart business idea which I will imagine will probably make a reasonable amount of cash for the person behind it. Do you find the whole ‘looking at pictures of people, working out if you want them inside you and swiping left or right’ thing a bit much, a bit onerous, a bit too much like hard work? WELL WORRY NO MORE! Baddiefinder is a service that will literally swipe for you – forever and ever and ever, for a low monthly subscription fee! Unsurprisingly this only works on images of women (was the market for this ever going to be anything other than idiot men? NO IT WAS NOT!), but its creator says it’s been ‘trained’ to only pick out attractive people, and the idea is that the base-level training can be tweaked based on what it can tell about your preferences from your previous swiping history, meaning that you can leave the swiping to The Machine and get on with, I don’t know, growing your crypto portfolio (I don’t know why but I am convinced that the Venn diagram of ‘people who might pay for this’ and ‘people who are interested in and evangelical about crypto’ is in fact a circle). Beautifully the app promises that it will soon be able to to chat with matches on your behalf, creating the enticing possibility of an entirely-frictionless romantic experience where you only meet up to fcuk and all other interactions are entirely outsourced to AI – I jest, but am equally convinced that there is a non-trivial audience of people for whom that’s an enticing prospect, which is…insanely bleak, if I’m honest. HAPPY FRIDAY!

By  Jess Allen



  • Browser Buddy: This is BRILLIANT, and really unexpectedly so – serendipitous discovery engines for the web are an idea I’ve spent a non-trivial amount of time thinking about, and talking about, but without ever really being able to work out what a ‘good’ modern version of Stumbleupon or similar might look like. For a while there were a few useful, fun tools that scraped Twitter’s API to find links being shared in interesting communities (RIP Belong, I miss you and you are wiv da angles now), but in their absence I’ve been jonesing for something that would send me to interesting, unexpected and new (to me at least) online spaces…and now, thanks to Browser Buddy, I sort of have one again, and it is GREAT. This is basically just a Chrome extension – install it, and a small window will sit in the bottom right of your browser window. Each time you visit a website, a selection of other sites that Browser Buddy thinks are ‘similar’ will be displayed in the window which you can click on to visit in a new tab – that’s it. BUT HONESTLY IT IS SO GOOD! I narcissistically tried it on the Curios domain, and it recommended 9 sites to me, three of which were sources I already use (good, shows relevance) and six which were personal blogs by total strangers that were all COMPLETELY new to me and which led me down a bunch of odd rabbitholes and the whole experience was joyfully random and un-funneled, and, honestly, I think this might be brilliant. CAVEAT: I obviously have no idea if this is hiding some sort of unpleasant malware – so far I don’t SEEM to have been defrauded, but should that change I’ll be sure to let you know.
  • The TFL Archives: A lovely archival project by the people at Google Arts and Culture, in conjunction with TFL, which presents literally ALL the information you could ever possibly want about the tube (ok, fine, it’s possible that there are some of you for whom even this trove won’t suffice, but some of you have PROBLEMS is all I’m saying) – from the history of each line to pre-underground public transport to the evolution of the legendary map to the design of the roundel…this is lovely, and exactly the sort of thing that, let’s be honest, TFL totally wouldn’t have made without the corporate ‘philanthropy’.
  • Adam Fuhrer: The Twitter account of Adam Fuhrer, an artist and illustrator from Toronto whose work I was going to feature in here this week anyway but who in an AMAZING ACT OF ONLINE SERENDIPITY got in touch with me yesterday to introduce himself and his work, which was genuinely lovely and a nice reminder of the fact that when you make things and put them out online they will always have a life of their own, however small and however transient. Anyway, Adam’s twitter feed features a selection of his ink work, which is beautiful and mathematical and code-inspired and which honestly I would pay money for if he wanted to flog me one (oh, hang on, there’s a shop here), but you can see more on his website alongside a few creative coding projects (one of which I feel certain I’ve featured in here before) – this is lovely work, and almost perfectly up my street.
  • The Greatest Name In Sports: I am a HUGE fan of ridiculous names – for years I’ve featured the annual ‘name of the year bracket’ in Curios (I totally forgot last year’s, but 2024’s has just been announced and you can enjoy the selection here – Zarique Nutter is a particular favourite) – but this is possibly the apogee of the quest to find the most ridiculously-monikered person ever to have played professional sports anywhere in the world. This has been going on on Reddit for AGES and now they’re down to the last 8 – but the real joy comes from the ORIGINAL MASTER SPREADSHEET which contains nearly 3,000 verified sportspeople with truly remarkable handles. From the regal majesty of Vonteego Cummings to the insanely-pleasing-to-say Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen, every single one of these is a joy – that said, I’m finding it hard to see beyond ‘Ugly Dickshot’ as winner of the ultimate accolade.
  • Dead Simple Sites: A collection of websites characterised by simple, no-frills webdesign, based on the principle that, sometimes, less is better. I don’t necessarily find all of these to be to my taste, but there’s something undeniably arresting about the starkness of some of the design choices here.
  • Sebastian Lempens: Pretty much the diametric opposite of the design ethos espoused by the previous link, this is a VERY fancy, massively-overengineered and utterly charming personal site for French developer Sebastian Lempens, presenting his work and his CV in genuinely gorgeous fashion. I promise you it’s impossible not to smile at the moped.
  • James Taylor-Forest: Another personal website, this one on the more minimal end of the spectrum but which features one of the most elegant bits of webdesign I’ve seen in ages and which I would like all of you to experience. Click the url and then click some more to explore James’ work and writing, and tell me if that isn’t one of the most satisfying visual interface elements you’ve seen in years.
  • Digging: I do hope that the imminent IPO doesn’t ruin Reddit – though obviously many would argue that as it’s slowly become mainstream and morphed into ‘Facebook for people who think they’re somehow more edgy and interesting than people on Facebook’ it’s long been ruined anyway. Still, I can’t possibly have anything other than love for a website which fosters communities like this one, on a subReddit simply entitled ‘digging’, in which people (I am going to hazard a guess that the overwhelming majority of them are men, though this is possibly unfair and I am sorry to erase any female digging obsessives out there) talk about how much they like digging, how the digs are going, and share pictures of various digs-in-progress. It’s not, it’s probably fair to say, the most visually-compelling sub out there, but it is SO CHARMINGLY GOOD-NATURED. Via the wonderful blort.
  • Is Super Mario Maker Beaten Yet?: Super Mario Maker is a Nintendo game which let anyone create their own custom Mario levels and then share them online for anyone else to try and beat – after many years, Nintendo is finally shuttering the servers which support the player-created levels, meaning they’ll become unplayable at some point next month. Which, obviously, means that people around the world are now racing to complete all of the levels before they disappear forever – no mean feat considering there were tens of thousands left to beat just a few weeks ago. Now, though, there are just (at the time of writing) TWO LEFT – this website’s tracking progress of the project, but you can read more about the whole thing at this Metafilter thread, which also contains various links to let you see playthroughs of some of the trickier levels getting beaten. This is obviously sort-of pointless but I adore the sense of collective endeavour here and it feels like one of those perfect expressions of the best bits of being online, which frankly you don’t get that often.
  • Refrakt: Another attempt to create an app for photos that does what Insta did back when it actually cared about being a platform for photography – Refrakt is nice-looking, minimal in design, self-describing as ‘an independent space to share your photography in a way that shows it best. No ads, alogorithms, or attention stealing. It’s a more contemplative online space. You are encouraged to spend your time with intention, form new connections, and be inspired to get out and make photographs.’ It’s free, unless you want to start uploading big, hi-res pics, and it looks lovely, but as with all these things I question whether it can ever find enough of a community to survive – that said, if you’re someone who’s SERIOUS ABOUT PHOTOGRAPHY (it does feel rather as though it’s pitching to the semi-pro crowd) then you might find this worth a look.
  • Disconet: Metadata for LPs! “Vinyl sounds better, looks better, feels better and even smells better. But digital does have its benefits, musical metadata is one of them. Having the key, tempo and other musical metadata for your records at a glance would be useful!” Disconest uses Spotify to get the metadata, so if Spotify doesn’t have a track then you won’t get the BPM info, but this is nevertheless a potentially-useful tool for any of you who play records and like to pretend you can mix them.
  • Open: You may have heard that Ernest Cline, author of the execrable piece of fanboy fanfic ‘Ready Player One’ is in some way signed up to create A METAVERSE, which is being touted as being like that envisaged in the novel (despite their being a not-inconsiderable technological gulf between what is currently technically possible and what is depicted in the book) – while details are still…sketchy, there’s now a website you can visit to lear…no, actually, you can’t ‘learn more’, but you can watch an entirely-meaningless CG trailer or alternatively click the ‘about’ section to learn…no, sorry, I am going to have to reproduce this verbatim: “Open, the hero experience in the readyverse, is the first genre-defining aaa metaverse gaming experience with top-tier ip powered by web3 technology. a multi-biome, multi-ip, multi-mode battle royale competition, in development for pc and next gen platforms.” I mean, those are definitely words but…but they mean nothing! Still, good to know that there’s a web3 element, just to eliminate any faint traces of doubt I had that this would be anything other than a horrible, empty grift.
  • Pod Engine: A service which promises to let you search podcasts and monitor across thousands for brand and keyword mentions – I have no idea if this works, or whether it’s any good, but I figured it might be the sort of thing that some of you might find genuinely useful and so, well, here it is.
  • The Alternative Videogame Screenshot Art Exhibit: You need to download this – and it’s a big file – but it’s also strangely wonderful and oddly beautiful, and if you’re as interested in the idea of ‘games as spaces’ and digital geographies and all that sort of semi-esoteric w4nk then you will adore this. “Carefully curated & polished Virtual Photography (videogame screenshot art) from the community. A mixed bag, including my Noclip images. ‘Epic’ or ‘cinematic’ style corporate Bullshots and other ‘promotional’ style marketing generally avoided. Instead we highlight the kitschy, the mundane, the liminal, the overlooked and unexpected. A sense of the hyperreal..” I did some digging into who this is by and…I don’t really know how to describe this, so I think I’ll probably just leave the link here along with the description and let you make up your own mind. “welcome, netizen! consider ‘republic of bob: internet as lifestyle’: a way to think about and around web3, digital neoliberalism and ‘the future of the net’. something casual and friendly that happens between people, in the collective imagination. an informal culture protocol – like holding doors open for others, offering guests a drink or being quiet in a library. an expansive laboratory for adventurous creatives to hang out, #rob is a surreal, lo fi social experiment in keeping the net strange. #rob does not strictly exist; some call it the real meta, tim’s house, gibsonville, videodrome, interzone, black atlantis ii. the name isn’t important however – rather, it’s the unique interrelationships outside the capitalist net that #rob helps grow and encourage.” This is, not going to lie, quite odd, but it’s also interesting and curious and feels very much Curios-adjacent – I spent a bit of time spelunking around Rob’s site, and it is a LOT.
  • Coffee Receipt Stories: This is SUCH a wonderful little project. Four years ago the person behind this website was sitting in a cafe, bored, and so doodled a small comic on the receipt for their coffee – from that, this site was born, collecting hundreds of tiny vignettes, comics, anecdotes and pictures sketched on the back of receipts. These are perfect – small pictures of moments, snapshots of places and people and windows into a life which I could peek at all day. I really do love this.
  • Othello: A simple, lightweight, in-browser game of Othello or ‘Go’, a game which is famously complex and where humans have for a while now been second best. Or, if you’re me and really can’t get your head around this game AT ALL, a very distant last.
  • Needledrop: This is a GREAT little game – each day you get a different song, and all you have to do is guess in which film it first appeared; for each wrong guess, you’ll get an additional clue. Simple but good, quick, clean fun (I am fcuking TERRIBLE at it).
  • Babyrace: Finally this week, a small browsergame made (I think) as a promo for a chain of Swiss supermarkets, which inexplicably features a baby participating in a Super Mario-like platformer over a dozen or so levels – this is baffling to me, but…actually not bad, as it happens, and you can pass a pleasing 15 minutes zoning out as you bounce the infant around the levels and collect dummies and milk bottles while, for reasons known only to the developers, attempting to reach the doors of the alpine equivalent of Sainsbury’s.

By Paul Davis 



  • If We Don’t Remember Me: Sent to me this week by Raf Roset, this is an excellent (historic) Tumblr collecting beautiful animated gifs, from the period when we liked to call them ‘Cinemagraphs’ and think of them as a bit arty (ask your Creative Director, they’ll get all misty-eyed). “IWDRM was a blog of animated movie stills active from 2010 to 2015. A video installation was shown in exhibitions at the Contemporary Arts Museum (Houston, TX), &FOAM (Amsterdam) and The Event (Birmingham).” These really are rather lovely.
  • Real Dancing Girl: You have to read the ‘about’ page to understand this – and there’s a lot of it – but I promise you that this is ART, exploring the genesis and meaning and online ‘life’ of a gif from the early days of the web. .


  • Pillars of Barbican: An insta feed in which the nameless photographer behind the camera takes pictures of all the massive concrete pillars that make up London’s Barbican centre, in some sort of celebration of cylindrical brutalism. Beautifully-obsessional, and there’s something bizarrely-interesting and oddly compelling about seeing all the pillars arrayed on the Instagrid, identical-but-different. This came to my attention via the Twitter feed of the world’s most personable stationery shop.
  • Might Delete Later: THIS IS WONDERFUL! An Insta feed sharing musical tracks made from samples of anonymous voicemails left on a Dutch (I think) phone number and other bits of found audio… silly and creative and playful and just brilliant, I am a huge fan (via Nag).
  • Who’s Who: An art Insta, via Things Magazine, which shares fragments of images by different artists which share a visual language. Which I promise will make absolute sense when you click on the link – this is so interesting, particularly if like me your art history and general knowledge of the contemporary scene is…somwhat lacking.


  • Mods and Cults: Not the *actual* title of this excellent New York Magazine piece by Jay Caspian Kang, but one which I think fits slightly better – the general thrust of this is that all spheres of life (Kang is writing specifically from and about the US, and about the mores and etiquette in surfing communities,, but I don’t think it’s any sort of a stretch to universalise much of this) has been reshaped by the way in which we relate to each other and behave online – and that an increasingly-useful way of thinking about the way in which people respond to rules and attempts to constrain or determine their behaviour is in the context of their relationship to, and mistrust/resentment of, ‘mods’ in online communities, and it’s this friction between the cult (the fandom, the political movement – whatever, we’re using cult) and the mods attempting to control them that is at the heart of much contemporary social discourse. This feels INCREDIBLY true – I also very much enjoyed Kang’s suggestion (echoing one I first read articulated many years ago by Michel Houellebecq in Atomised, oddly enough) that Aldous Huxley is in many respects a far better lens through which to see the modern era than George Orwell. Anyway, this is interesting and, I think, genuinely illuminating in terms of ‘WHERE WE ARE NOW’.
  • AI Safety Is Not A Model Property: Arvind Narayanan and Sayash Kapoor at AI Snake Oil give a really useful series of explanations of all the reasons why attempting to institute AI safety measures at the model level doesn’t really work, and why instead it makes significantly more sense to instead to think of it more as a ‘downstream’ problem. This is, fine, a bit on the technical side, but it’s genuinely interesting for anyone curious about the questions of how, if at all, any of this stuff can be made helpfully-useful: “Why has the myth of safety as a model property persisted? Because it would be convenient for everyone if it were true! In a world where safety is a model property, companies could confidently determine whether a model is safe enough to release, and AI researchers could apply their arsenal of technical methods toward safety. Most importantly, accountability questions would have relatively clear answers. Companies should have liability for harms if model safety guarantees fail, but not otherwise. By contrast, accepting that there is no technical fix to misuse risks means that the question of responsibility is extremely messy, and we don’t currently have a good understanding of how to allocate liability for misuse. Assuming that retrospective detection is easier, one low-hanging fruit is to require anyone who hosts a model, whether closed or open, to adhere to certain standards for monitoring and reporting misuse — see our call for generative AI companies to publish transparency reports (and, more generally, the least cost avoider principle). But that won’t be enough, and downstream defenses are needed.”
  • The History of UBI: This is fascinating and taught me loads that I’d previously been entirely unaware of; specifically, that the concept of Universal Basic Income was significantly further along from a legislative implementation point of view than I’d ever imagined, particularly in the US in the 70s, and that it’s been discussed with varying degrees of enthusiasm for centuries…who knows, perhaps the imminent prospect of the general fabric and framework of what we laughably call ‘the science of economics’ (LOL IT IS NOT A SCIENCE) being entirely upended by the decoupling of intellectual labour from earning power will make us once again think about it seriously.
  • The British Library Hack: I don’t as a rule tend to link to too many institutional statements here, what with them as a rule being incredibly fcuking dull, but this particular one, from the British Library, is an exception. As you’re probably aware, the Library was subject to a ransomware attack last year and has basically been utterly hamstrung from an IT point of view for several months – this statement is the Library’s account of what happened, what they did, and what happens next. It’s honestly SO much more interesting than you might think, partly because it goes into a lot of detail about what they actually did and how their systems and processes worked and you get to learn all sorts of things about organisational operation that you wouldn’t ordinarily hear (which, yes, I know doesn’t SOUND interesting, but you’ll just have to take my word for it) and partly because it’s open and honest in a way that these sorts of documents rarely are. Exemplary comms work in what must have been a really miserable time – the ‘lessons’ bit at the end is particularly good and worth reading in the unlikely event that any of you reading this are in charge of digital security for a major cultural institution.
  • Gamergate 2: It’s quite miserable even having to type that, to be honest – I was thankfully well out of the videogames business when gamergate happened, but I knew enough people still involved to have a bit of a handle on what it felt like from the inside (horrible), and I remain slightly astonished at the extent to which it has shaped SO MUCH CULTURAL DISCOURSE (you may think I’m exaggerating, but I’m really not – so much of online culture was reshaped in its wake, and as I like to think we’ve started to realise now, THERE IS NO FCUKING DISTINCTION BETWEEN ON AND OFF ANYMORE) – you don’t get Andrew Tate without Gamergate, is what I’m saying. Anyway, there’s another mad-but-almost-certainly-disproportionately-influential ‘scandal’ brewing in gaming, which once again features a bunch of idiots being manipulated by FORCES LARGER THAN THEM WHICH THEY DO NOT UNDERSTAND (again, not wholly joking here – if you can’t see some bigger game at play here when criticisms of DEI and ESG measures start being used in discussions about game plots and characters then I don’t know what to say to you) into getting violently upset about ‘woke’ messages being injected into videogames, and this being somehow the reason for the industry’s current parlous state rather than, say, the insane greed and moronic business practices of the finance businesses that underpin so much of everything. This WIRED piece explains the controversy – I appreciate it all sounds very silly, but so did ‘it’s about ethics in games journalism!’ and look where that took us.
  • Speed Dating Is Back: Look, I don’t know if this is true or not, and I don’t really care – I am including this Washington Post article almost exclusively because I’ve been saying “speed dating’s coming back!” for years now, and it’s rare that I get to point at actual media proof that I was (sort of) right.
  • There’s No Such Thing As ‘Viral’ Anymore: I personally think a better and more accurate title for this article would have been ‘we no longer have a shared experience of mass culture at meaningful scale beyond about a dozen things’, but I appreciate it’s significantly less snappy. Taylor Lorenz writes about the fact that basically noone knows what ‘viral’ means anymore – time was that your idiot client would ask you to ‘make something go viral’ and that meant ‘get loads of people to see it and talk about it’…now, though, getting ‘loads’ of people to see a thing doesn’t in any way mean that it will break out into wider culture (BECAUSE THERE IS NO SUCH THING ANYMORE), and the idea of a ‘thing that everyone has seen’ is vanishingly rare because we all exist inside our own internets and painstakingly-curated filter bubbles of our own devising. Don’t make me tap the ‘in the future everyone will be famous for 15 people’ sign again, please. SEMI-RELATED: this is an interesting piece looking at the end of a specific era on YouTube, specifically the era of ‘youtubers’ as an aspirational thing, because in 2024 there are only two youtubers (Marcus Brownlees and MrBeast) and the whole idea of ‘finding fame and making a living making content’ has rather been debunked as either impossible or FCUKING MISERABLE, and everything;s going to be AI sludge soon anyway.
  • Who Bought Deadspin?: You may or may not be aware that the latest casualty of the ongoing digital media apocalypse this week was the sports website Deadspin, whose owners announced on Monday that they’d accepted an offer for the site, that the buyers were keen to preserve the editorial integrity and ‘unique voice’ of the content but, er, that they were sacking literally everyone who was responsible for that integrity and voice immediately. This is an interesting – if a bit ‘inside media’ – dive into who exactly the acquirers are, which concludes that these BASTIONS OF MEDIA are…er…a Maltese gambling company! Welcome to the future, in which everything you read is produced in service of getting you to hand your money, your data or your immortal soul to some awful cnuts operating in an offshore tax haven somewhere.
  • The ‘Young Indian’ Method: Or, ‘how labour exploitation is evolving in the 21st Century’ – 404 Media (doing SUCH great work since they launched, it’s incredibly impressive) look into the frankly unsurprising new grift which involves passive income ‘influencers’ selling guides on how to use teams of low-paid workers in India (or the Philippines, or a number of other countries less well-off than the UK or US) to power your business while you effectively sit back and watch the money roll in. Which, to be clear, is literally what companies in the West have been doing for centuries, but there’s something chilling about seeing it extending down to suburban teenagers in Surrey who are selling instruction manuals on how to manage armies of sub-minimum wage contractors half-a-world away.
  • The KFC Brand Book: I know, I know, NOONE WANTS TO READ A FCUKING BRAND BOOK. Except I know for a fact that lots of you work in the benighted advermarketingpr industries (if you’re lucky and you’ve not yet felt the sharp sting of the axeblade against your neck – because know that it is coming) and as such might fall into the tiny demographic quadrant that actually really does want to – and also this effort, by KFC in (I think) 2015, is genuinely brilliant. Ok, fine, it’s still a fcuking brand bible and as such is sort-of horrible and evil, but, equally, it’s a really good example of the genre – it’s clear, it’s directional, it’s READABLE (so rare) and it’s even on occasion funny, and it’s written in language that is clear and doesn’t at any point dip into marketingwank. Really, really good, this.
  • Battle Scenes In Films: Specifically, how exactly did filmmakers go about creating epic battle scenes in films in the pre-CGI era, when you had to conjure up the Battle of Thermopylae with nothing more than 50 ruinously hungover extras, some bedsheets and a sun-battered plain – this is honestly SO interesting, if perhaps a touch overlong, and contains enough mad anecdotes about insane directorial behaviour to last me a lifetime. I mean, listen to this – MADNESS: “To make the battlefield look authentic a team of labourers and engineers bulldozed and levelled two hills, deepened a valley, and laid five miles of roads.” Yeah, of course you did.
  • Jeff Minter: If you’re a British videogames enthusiast of a certain vintage, you’ll probably know the name Jeff Minter, singular creator of a bunch of idiosyncratic, kooky games which for reasons known only to Jeff always featured llamas. This is a profile of him, in advance of an interactive documentary about his work that’s coming out soon, and it’s genuinely charming – the details about Minter’s singular inability to back a winner made him particularly endearing to me.
  • Walking Phoenix: I have never been to Arizona, and I have no idea what Phoenix is like as a city. Chris Arnade, owner of a blog called ‘walking the world’ (in which, unsurprisingly, he writes about ‘walking’ around ‘the world’) has been to Phoenix, and had quite a rubbish time there – this is his account of why. This is a bit of an odd one – I can’t say that I particularly enjoy the tone of Arnade’s writing (Chris, in the unlikely event that you a) ever see this; and b) give even the slightest of fcuks about my opinion, console yourself with the fact that I can’t write for sh1t ether and yet it’s my primary means of earning a living) and I found the general tenor of the piece a bit uncomfortable in places…but, equally, it’s a pretty unflinching portrait of what a city looks like when you have no public infrastructure or social security support net, and everything is built in service of cars rather than people, and when people who should quite evidently be receiving treatment are instead left to fend for themselves…I think more than anything it’s utterly repellent that this should be the status quo for hundreds of thousands of people in just one of the major cities of one of the world’s richest countries. Think of it as a cautionary tale, because, really, this is not an entirely-alien picture being painted here.
  • How Men Pee: This made me laugh a LOT. Esther Wang writes of her confusion at the actual mechanics of how exactly men use urinals, and her subsequent conversations with male friends and colleagues to get to the bottom of the whole thing. I am slightly astonished by Wang’s ignorance here but this is very funny indeed.
  • Scrabble: My girlfriend and I play Scrabble reasonably regularly. At the last count, I have won a grand total of three games against her, ever. She regularly beats me by a factor of 2. It is, not to put too fine a point on it, incredibly humiliating and I’m starting to get something of a complex about it. She is not, though, as good as the subject of this profile, a man called Nigel Richards, a person so good at Scrabble that he is apparently basically playing a totally different game to everyone else. I loved this piece – I’ve read articles about high-end Scrabble before, but this does a better job of capturing the beauty of truly elegant play, and the curious oddness of someone who is so much better at one specific thing than anyone else currently alive.
  • Rave Culture: Chal Ravens reviews a book about UK rave culture in the 80s and 90s, free parties and flyers and the criminal justice bill and the co-opting of the scene by money and its eventual descent into mainstream self-parody by the mid-00s – this is super-interesting, particularly if you’re old enough to remember the birth of the scene (to be clear, I am not quite THAT old – my friend Simon is, though, to the extent that he was basically adopted by Spiral Tribe when he was 16 and went on the road with the hippy bus for years, and he endorsed this article so I feel that’s all the badge of honour you need).
  • Jim Martini: A wonderfully-stylish little short by Michael Bible which hits a very specific ‘American short story’ register quite perfectly.
  • At Miu Miu: Sophie Kemp writes about going to parties at Paris Fashion Week. You can smell the dry ice and bulimia from here.
  • Strings: Rosie Dastgir writes beautifully about parenting, illness and recovery, with a pleasingly sinister undertone which I very much enjoyed.
  • Maud: Our final longread of the week is this dialogue-based short by Noor Qasim, which is SO impressive – structure, tone, the works. This is beautifully crafted, and the central conceit of the interview between journalist and artist, and how it moves and what it reveals, and doesn’t, about each at each stage, works so well. I thought this was exceptional.

By Michael Kirkham


Webcurios 08/03/24

Reading Time: 38 minutes



Sorry, once again I have to remind myself that not everyone reading this is from the UK, and therefore not everyone will have had the uniquely-unpleasant experience of having a succession of millionaires appear on television to tell you that actually, contrary to every conceivable visible and invisible metric, things ARE going well and getting better and you would have to be a fool or a communist or possibly one of them illegals from the small boats if you thought otherwise.

Still, the yanks get to watch one mad, useless old cnut lose to another, worse, mad, useless old cnut. WHAT A TIME TO BE ALIVE! Can someone living in a non-US/UK country and currently having a nice time drop me a line to remind me that there are other places in the world, and some of them even occasionally function in a way that doesn’t make you want to take a knife to your own viscera?

I am still Matt, this is still Web Curios, and you can rest assured that there is relatively little additional whinging and moaning from hereon in.

(PS – sorry about fcuking up the very first link last week; as a general rule, if they’re broken or wrong in the email, check the website a few hours later and I will probably have fixed it)

By Luke Chueh



  • Downpour: Our first link of the week is, honestly, something which for some of you might well be enough to keep you occupied for the whole weekend – Downpour (trailed previously in Curios at some point last year) is the just-released new app by V Buckenham who has been making interesting and fun digital…things for years, and who’s now released this genuinely wonderful app, available on iOS and Android, which is basically a small toolset for making beautiful, handmade little interactive experiences, whether games or little storybooks or…fcuk, my cripplingly-limited imagination means that I’m seemingly only capable of coming up with two potential usecases for this, but I believe in you and your creativity and I’m sure you’ll all be able to think of LOADS of really fun things you can do. You can get a feel for how easy it is to make things by watching this short video – but it really is as simple as ‘take a photo, assign clickability to elements of it, build ‘pages’ that you can navigate to (all stitched together from cameraroll pictures) and then publish it’, and the fact that it all effectively uses photos as the canvas means that it’s incredibly simple to make things and also allows for some lovely aesthetic flourishes – I think we’re going to see some really rather cute and interesting things built on this. Stuff like this really does make me wish I was ‘creative’ in some way, but turns out I’m really not – I see, I link, I fcuk off, basically – but I like to imagine that YOU, gentle reader, are a significantly more full, interesting and richly-textured human than I am and that you will flourish and thrive and make and build, so, er, get to it! Seriously though, this is potentially PERFECT for kids from about 8-10 up (CAVEAT: I am barren and know fcuk all about children), imho, so might be a nice thing to try with them should you have access to some.
  • Globe: I have to tell you, I fcuking *hate* having to start link descriptions with a slightly-pathetic “I’m not really sure what this is, or how exactly it works” but, er, I’m not really sure what this is or how exactly it works – I *think* it’s built on an LLM, or uses one in some fashion, but there’s not a whole lot of available information on the homepage and I can’t for the life of me remember where I found it…so what you’re going to have to put up with here is me basically making a series of half-ar$ed guesses about the form and function of this site which might turn out to be totally wrong. Ok? OK! ‘Globe’ is, as far as I can tell, a ‘shape of topic definer’ (oh god, this is going worse than I’d feared) – basically type in anyarea of interest or field of enquiry you can conceive of (“haberdashery”, say, or “taxidermy”, or “string theory”) and the site will build out a sort of corpus/taxonomy of concepts within that field, to effectively create a sort of framework of enquiry or ideas, or maybe more accurately a rough delineation of the parameters of the query. Er, does that make sense? I mean, it does to me, but I appreciate that that’s not necessarily a strong positive indicator. Anyway, I tried this for a few things that I have a bit of knowledge about, and it’s actually pretty good at giving a broad ‘these are the things that you might want to consider when thinking about x’ overview, and as such might be an interesting part of the planning or research process – regardless, I think there’s something interesting here and it might be worth signing up to keep updated on the project’s development.
  • The Election Tech Handbook 2024: I mean, we *think* we’re getting an election this year, but who knows? Despite his obvious lack of either talent or taste for the gig, Rishi seems strangely disinclined to press the ‘initiate electoral disembowelment’ button and so it’s still possible we’re going to have to wait til January to defenestrate this bunch of sorry cnuts (on which: the sad thing about the forthcoming Tory apocalypse is that, unlike in 1997, when you felt that for several of the outgoing MPs it was going to seriously fcuk up their lives which added no little joy to the schadenfreude, this time around all of the fcuks who are set to lose their seats also happen to be multimillionares, meaning their defenestration from the House will make the square root of fcuk-all difference to them, dammit) – still, whenever it happens we can guarantee that it will be VERY DIGITAL – which is why the nice people at Newspeak House have created this collaborative resource, collating all sorts of interesting and useful digital tools and projects around tracking and monitoring UK politics – if you have ANY interest at all in campaigning or activism or electoral/political data, you sort of need to bookmark this (and if your job involves research or planning, there are a bunch of genuinely useful datasources in here which you might find useful too).
  • The Audio Drama Directory: Audiobooks and dramas are BOOMING right now – although I have a sneaking suspicion that a significant portion of this boom is from people listening to what is basically werewolf bongo all the time – and so I imagine that lots of you might find this a useful resource, a new site which aims to catalogue and link out to all the various different online audio dramas currently being published. This is genre-and-topic neutral, and there is a LOT in there – click on the ‘tags’ page and you’ll get a better feel for the breadth and scope (and the amount of niche content – you want Warhammer audiodramas? YOU GOT THEM! There’s also nearly 1000 ‘explicit’ tags on-site, should you have run out of lynacthropic bodicerippers to titillate you), and it feels like there should be something for everyone on here if you spelunk hard enough.
  • Make Games From Static Images: Ok, fine, you can’t do this *now* – but you will be able to soon! Isn’t that exciting! Oh, come on, it’s a *bit* exciting – click the link and scroll down the (admittedly dull and technical) paper and look at the embedded screenshots which show how Google has prototyped an AI model that can basically look at a static image and turn it into a(n incredibly-rudimentary and very shonky) side-scrolling 2d platformer! This is very much a proof-of-concept-type thing at this stage, and you’re pretty unlikely to see it in the wild anytime soon, but it’s an impressive trick if nothing else.
  • Useful Things For LLM Wrangling: I’ve linked to Professor Ethan Mollick’s work in Curios more times than I can count over the past couple of years – he’s honestly one of the smartest and most-helpful people talking about practical uses of LLMs right now, and I am consistently amazed by his generosity – he shares so much information out of seemingly nothing more than a genuine desire to be helpful, which frankly is something we could all perhaps do a little more of (he says, like a pompous pr1ck – fcuk’s sake, Matt, you pious cnut). This is Mollick’s latest public-facing project – a directory of helpful tools and primers and prompts that anyone can use to help them do better and more useful work with LLMs – this is aimed primarily at teachers and educators who might want to integrate the tech into the classroom, but there’s also a lot of helpful information about general principles one ought to bear in mind when wrangling The Machine, and anyone who has to (or simply wants to) deal with this stuff should find something genuinely helpful in here. Oh, and this video (on trying to wrangle GPT to do a specific thing) is gently amusing but is also actually a pretty decent ‘this is how you make the machine do what you want it to, eventually) how-to.
  • The Ubu Web Archive: This is a bit sad. I remember finding Ubu Web back in the day when I worked in arts PR and started to get interested in digital work and practice in a semi-proper fashion, and stumbling across this genuinely amazing archive of writing and thinking and images and videos and sounds, all just seemingly…put there, by person or persons unknown, for anyone to access and enjoy…To me it’s been emblematic of a certain idea of ‘what the web can be’ – it’s messy and not in any way shiny, but it’s born of genuine interest and passion and it’s a truly astonishing resource. If you’re not familiar, “Founded in 1996, UbuWeb is a pirate shadow library consisting of hundreds of thousands of freely downloadable avant-garde artifacts…The site is filled with the detritus and ephemera of great artists better known for other things—the music of Jean Dubuffet, the poetry of Dan Graham, the hip-hop of Jean-Michel Basquiat, the punk rock of Martin Kippenberger, the films of John Lennon, the radio plays of Ulrike Meinhof, the symphonies of Hanne Darboven, the country music of Julian Schnabel—most of which were originally put out in tiny editions, were critically ignored, and quickly vanished. However, the web provides the perfect place to restage these works. With video, sound, and text remaining more faithful to the original experience than, say, painting or sculpture, Ubu proposes a different sort of revisionist art history based on the peripheries of artistic production rather than on the perceived, hyped, or market-based center.” I found out this morning that the site is now mothballed and will exist only as an archive – and for how long? It feels quite important that an institution take this on and preserve it in perpetuity.
  • Swayy: It feels like we’re on the cusp of doing ‘mapping and meeting irl via apps’ again, or trying to – the noises about Insta copying the Snap Map feature aren’t going away, and there have been a few ‘share your location with your friends!’ startups floating around in 2024 – Swayy is the latest iteration of this idea, but with the twist that you’re not sharing your ACTUAL location, but your FUTURE location, effectively advertising to a select list of people that “I will be in this location at roughly this time, should you want to come and worship at my feet” – or, entirely more accurately, “should you want to come and pick up for the weekend” because COME ON THIS IS LITERALLY THE PERFECT APP FOR DEALERS and I refuse to believe that that isn’t something that the team behind it is 100% aware of. Anway, the team behind this are apparently based in Slough, and therefore I wish them well because noone deserves a failed business on top of having to live in fcuking Slough.
  • The NASA TTRPG: Hats off to NASA – I think this is a genuinely great little bit of marketing which makes perfect sense given the organisation and the sorts of people it is likely to want to attract/recruit – the US space agency has launched its very first ROLE PLAYING CAMPAIGN, which you can download for free and play with your friends should you so desire! “A dark mystery has settled over the city of Aldastron on the rogue planet of Exlaris. Researchers dedicated to studying the cosmos have disappeared, and the Hubble Space Telescope has vanished from Earth’s timeline. Only an ambitious crew of adventurers can uncover what was lost. Are you up to the challenge? This adventure is designed for a party of 4-7 level 7-10 characters and is easily adaptable for your preferred tabletop role-playing game (TTRPG) system. NASA’s first TTRPG adventure invites you to take on a classic villain (while also using and learning science skills!) as you overcome challenges and embark on an exciting quest to unlock more knowledge about our universe. Download your game documents below and get ready to explore Exlaris!” Which all sounds lovely, and I particularly like the fact it’s system-agnostic and so ensures the broadest possible audience – obviously I’ve not delved into this and so can’t 100% promise you that it’s not basically US space-imperialist propaganda but, well, let’s give it the benefit of the doubt.
  • Stillgram: I don’t think that this app is *intended* to be sinister, but I have been thinking about it on-and-off for a few days now and there’s something about it that I find genuinely-unsettling. Stillgram is an AI-powered photo editing app that exists to do one thing and one thing only – remove any and all people from photographs, leaving only the scenery and getting rid of all the unpleasant, limb-y, meaty messiness. Want to create the illusion that you were able to visit the Trevi Fountain ENTIRELY ALONE? GREAT! Except what it actually does is, as far as I can tell, just turn everything into an incredibly-eerie, “28 Days Later”-style postapocalypse – actually it might be quite fun to go through every single photo you’ve ever posted online and edit them with this to remove all the humans and see whether anyone ‘reaches out’ to see if you’re ok.
  • LefseTime: I was utterly charmed by this website, mainly because I have a slight *thing* for very obscure, incredibly niche national culinary traditions but also because it assumes a degree of knowledge on the part of the visitor – “IT’S LEFSE TIME!” declares the URL and the homepage, but does the website at any point seem inclined to explain what the everliving fcuk a ‘lefse’ actually is, or whether ‘lefse time’ is cause for celebration or abject fear? DOES IT BOLL0CKS! Thanks, though, to my SUPERIOR POWERS OF DEDUCTIVE REASONING, I have been able to infer that a ‘lefse’ is a type of scandinavian pancake made with potatoes or potato flour, and that they are eaten…on special occasions (WHEN? I WANT TO KNOW!! WHY ARE YOU WITHHOLDING THE LEFSE KNOWLEDGE?), and that for reasons I am once again unable to infer, they are VERY IMPORTANT in terms of heritage and identity to a presumably-small-but-passionate coterie of North Americans, probably in the Midwest. I think I am hitting something of a fatigue wall here at 7:59am, because I just clicked on the FAQ page and had a slightly-teary laughing fit at “The edges of my Lefse are crispy, what am I doing wrong?” – IT’S ALL ABOUT THE LEFSE! Oh God, actually crying again, going to have to move on here otherwise this will never get written.
  • Riyadh Season: A website advertising Saudi as a winter travel destination – this is both as shiny and as utterly empty as you would expect it to be, but I thought it worth highlighting because of what I thought was the…interesting aesthetic/editorial decision to have a whole segment of the site devoted to sports entertainments which a) features a representation of a colosseum or amphitheatrical arena, which struck me as curious both from a sort of cultural/historic point of view, and also…punchy for a regime which regularly executes people it doesn’t like; and b) features Cristiano Ronaldo as a weird golden robot effigy which, again, is sort of perfectly-awful. Amusingly, the webwork here isn’t even very good – SPEND MORE, MBS! SPEND MORE!
  • Iris: I only found this this morning, so apologies for the slightly-cursory writeup, but this is…ODD, and also it turns out is by the bloke who found fame this week for being ‘the man in the boob top’ (you know what, if you have no idea what this is referring to then WELL DONE YOU – congratulations, you’re doing better at life than I am and you should feel very proud, but…what are you doing reading Web Curios? You’re obviously better than this) – Iris is…a digital platform for artists? An artwork in and of itself? A fever dream by a rich moron who evidently has more money than sense and is almost-certainly not averse to ‘journeys of psychedelic discovery’? WHO KNOWS, but you certainly won’t get much more of an idea by clicking through to the website, which takes the…unique UX decision to present the vision and purpose of the whole thing as a series of videos in which the founder, “Princess Momo Arnesson, also known as Patrik Patrique Monique Arnesson” (no, really) expounds on his vision for…some sort of revolutionary art platform, with all the charisma of Warhol on Quaaludes. This is WEIRD – but also, you should be aware that the site also wants to use your camera and mic, which means you might have the same slightly uncomfortable experience as I did about 35 seconds ago when I heard what I presume was Arnesson saying “hello? Hello?” to me through the site. Not sure I’m logging on again.
  • Quick AI Images: This is called ‘Qualia’ – honestly, I have no clue whatsoever what this is built on or what model it’s using, but it is VERY quick and I like the fact that it spins out a large number of variants from a single prompt, and, honestly, for quick scamps and storyboarding and that sort of thing this is really useful and you should bookmark it.
  • Enzo’s Legacy: This is a gorgeous little project website, built by one Casper Kessels, which celebrates the car design genius of Enzo Ferrari – I think I might have featured a previous project of his in here a few years ago, on reflection – and presents a timeline of all the cars he ever designed along with information and images of each. Obviously you need to be a car (and ideally a ferrari) lover to get the most out of this, but it’s worth a quick look even as a non-obsessive as MAN did Enzo design a metric fcuktonne of vehicles.
  • Cities Moving: Via Giuseppe, this is a lovely project and a really nice, clever bit of datavisualisation – “To quantify the motorisation of urban mobility, we model the number of kilometres travelled by different modes of transport in a city by aggregating active mobility, public transport and cars. Our findings suggest that although public transport is more prominent in large cities, it is insufficient to reduce the distance travelled by car users within the city and, ultimately, their emissions. With the model share data for 794 cities across over 61 countries, the visualizations below allow to compare the proportion of journeys to work in different countries, regions, income groups, and population sizes. In the end, it also allows to explore all the cities on the map.” Potentially useful for some of you, but, even if not, this is both interesting and a really good piece of infodesign.
  • The Weird Wide Webring: Webrings! A term which will mean literally NOTHING to anyone under 40! Webrings, for the children among you (or alternatively those who had better things to do with their lives than spend any of it online in the 1990s) was the term given to loose, thematically-linked collections of websites or webpages which would all agree to link to each other in a mutually-reinforcing daisychain of support and love (/circlejerk of self-promotion, depending on your perception and degree of cynicism) and basically was the sort of digital/cultural precursor to the weird, self-perpetuating ouroboros that was ‘mummy bloggers’ in the 00s – anyway, this Page simply links out to a bunch of small, interesting, odd digital projects that the curators enjoy, no more, no less. BRING BACK LINKY ONLINE COMMUNITIES.
  • XOXO 2024: XOXO is one of the OLDSCHOOL DIGITAL MEETUPS, a proper bastion of a certain type of web ideal and ethos, and it’s coming back this year – held in Portland because, well, that’s where Andy who organises it lives but also because I don’t think there is anywhere in the world more redolent of this sort of thing than Portland. Anyway, there are limited details about the event other than the dates (August), but I am including it because a) I think it’s the sort of thing that many of you might be interested in; and b) Andy’s built a wonderful clicker game Easter Egg into the site, which made me SO HAPPY when I found it – honestly, what is your excuse for not putting small, silly toys into every website you make, just for fun? YOU HAVE NO EXCUSE, DO YOU? DO YOU?????

By Maïté Jane



  • The Mumbai Metaverse: I was a bit conflicted about including this one, to be honest – I am trying to include more ‘look, this is brilliant!’ links and fewer ‘oh good look what the morons have spunked six figures on’ diatribes, and I have on at least one occasion been contacted by a dev who claimed to work on something that I’ve given a kicking to, and, honestly, that didn’t feel great – but then I thought about it a bit and I figured actually, no, fcukit, this is not only genuinely terrible but it’s also a piece of political comms and it was launched by a local politician in one of India’s major cities and therefore it is an ABSOLUTELY legitimate target for scorn because, let’s be clear, this is FCUCKING RISIBLE. Click the link, and marvel – at the graphics, at the speed of the site, at the new and hitherto-unimagined redefinition of ‘metaverse’ as ‘a webpage’, at the idea that the VR elements of this are EVER going to be built…but the very best bit, the very pinnacle, is when you click into the ‘games’ section and you realise that someone’s literally just dumped in a shovelware mobile phone game, dropped onto the website for reasons known only to the devs, in a genuinely staggering example of ‘will this do? No? Oh, sorry’. India has exceptionally talented designers and developers, but seemingly none of them were consulted in the creation of this; it…it doesn’t feel like a GREAT use of the city of Mumbai’s budget, put it that way.
  • The 88×31 Archive: Would you like a collection of literally thousands of those small, glittery little buttons you used to see all over Geocities and the like? Would you like to be able to download them to do with WHATEVER YOU PLEASE? Yes, of course you would – I personally quite like the idea of using this dataset to train a VERY SPECIFIC and remarkably-pointless AI which is capable only of producing small, sparkly badges, but can do so about an infinite range of topics.
  • Title Drops: This is far, far better than it ought to be – Film Drops is a website/project whose sole apparent aim is to record and document the exact points in a film’s runtime when the title of the film is spoken out loud in dialogue. That’s it. Want to know at what point in Raging Bull someone says the words “Raging Bull”? Well sorry, I can’t help you, the site doesn’t actually mention that particular one – but there are loads of others, and this is both an interesting Pudding-style bit of dataanalysis and fiddling, and also just a really nice bit of webwork; the UX/UI for ‘scrolling’ through the films is really satisfying and something I’ve not seen done before, so WELL DONE designperson.
  • Simply News: I’m presenting this largely without judgment – the thing is, I may not like it but it really does feel inevitable that stuff like this is, to a large extent, the future of ‘news’. Simply News is an AI-powered news aggregation project which basically outsources the whole process of working out what is interesting that day, what to say about it and then publishing the content to The Machine as a series of themed podcasts, start to finish (or so they would have you believe – I am not quite certain that the tech here’s good enough to let this run entirely autonomously yet). The ‘how’ bit is interesting, at least the characterisation of the different ‘Agents’ the process employs: “Simply News works by coordinating multiple AI-agents to produce a cohesive, news-focused podcast across many distinct topics every day. Each agent is responsible for a different part of this process. For example, we have agents which perform the following functions: The Sorter: Scans a vast array of news sources and filters the articles based on relevance and significance to the podcast category. The Pitcher: Crafts a compelling pitch for each sorted article, taking into account the narrative angle presented in the article. The Judge: Evaluates the pitches and makes an editorial decision about which should be covered. The Scripter: Drafts an engaging script for the articles selected by the Judge, ensuring clarity and precision for the listening.” I have had the ‘Politics’ version playing for a few minutes, and while it’s incredibly bland it’s…God, I fcuking HATE saying this, but it’s…fine. It’s fine, and as we all know, fine is good enough. This is coming, and I really wish it wasn’t. But it is.
  • Homes & Studios: A lovely little project collecting information and photos about the homes and studios of various contemporary(ish) artists – this is very much a labour of love, and they invite contributions from anyone able to help them build out the info in the collection. I now REALLY want to visit the Villa Aalto in Helsinki.
  • The Endangered Language Alliance: I should have known, but didn’t, that New York is the most linguistically-diverse city in the world. The ELA is “a non-profit dedicated to documenting Indigenous, minority, and endangered languages, supporting linguistic diversity in New York City and beyond”, and the website details some of the projects they’re currently undertaken to preserve and record languages as diverse as regional dialectical Italian and Bukhori (which I just learned is a SouthWest Iranian language spoken by Jewish people from the region). This is SO interesting, I would love to know if there’s a similar initiative in London (which, yes, I could Google, but if anyone knows and would like to just tell me that would be great thanks).
  • Send: This is literally just a money transfer platform – sorry, nothing particularly exciting about it – but I *really* like the webdesign here, and as far as I can tell it is secure and cheap, and might be useful to any of you who need to ship cash to Europe, the US or Africa.
  • A Star Wars Auction: Is there really anyone left in the world who likes Star Wars enough to buy Star Wars memorabilia who does not already own ALL THE FCUKING THINGS? Can we maybe have a new story, please? NO MORE FCUKING STAR WARS DEAR GOD. Sorry, but it’s been here my whole fcuking life and IT’S NOT EVEN GOOD. Ahem. Anyway, look, I appreciate that I am not necessarily representative of the wider world in my opinion here and that there may be several of you who want nothing more from life than the chance to bid on Harrison Ford’s ACTUAL COKE STRAW from the set of Empire (NB – I am yet to check, but I’m pretty certain that’s not in fact one of the lots here) – so here, a link to this frankly MASSIVE auction of Star Wars props and memorabilia taking place in the US next week, in which you can expect to pay a cool million bucks for a light-up model of C3PO’s head (in fairness there’s a bunch of other film stuff in here too, like Indiana Jones’ leather jacket from Raiders, so it’s actually worth having a bit of a dig despite my tedious and all-too-predictable anti Star Wars screed).
  • The Organic Software Directory: This feels like A Good Thing – a list of programs that confirm to the broad definition of ‘organic software’, here explained as follows: “The term was coined by @pketh in 2023 in his blog post “In Search of Organic Software”. TL;DR1: Businesses change when they take VC money. Certainly, there were already terms like “Indie” and “Bootstrapped”, but what do they really mean? The “organic” label for software means something specific: Organic Software is software that… 1. Has no external pressure (eg. from funding sources) to chase funding rounds, grow unsustainably, or to get acquired. 2. Has a clear pricing page, discloses their sources of funding, and sources of revenue. 3. Doesn’t make majority revenue from selling user data to third parties” Which frankly sounds like a good set of principles to live by – this is a small, but updated and maintained, list of tools which conform to the ethos, covering website builders and notetaking apps and all sorts of things inbetween (it includes and, to give you an idea of the vibe).
  • FloppyKick: I didn’t realise, until reading this article earlier this week, that there was a thriving (well, in a small way) experimental music scene worldwide, making music and sharing it on floppy discs – I can’t imagine there are THAT many of you who are foaming at the mouth in anticipation of being able to drop (for example) 3 Euros on a floppy disc, emailed to you from Hungary, featuring a single track of ‘experimental noise’ entitled ‘Contagious Orgasm’ which lasts for exactly 30 seconds, but JUST IN CASE I’ll leave this here for you. I don’t feel a need to ever hear this music, but I am very glad that it exists and that people are making it.
  • Walden Pond: Via my friend Simon comes this lovely little project which I think will appeal to a few of you – this is basically ‘Pocket, but instead of reading the articles on the Tube you can instead get them all printed and sent to you as a physical magazine each month, for the genuinely astonishingly low price of a tenner including packing and postage (the price goes up to 14 quid for the 4-hour long version featuring LOADS of articles, which I think seems entirely reasonable)’. I honestly think this is a brilliant concept – not the first time I’ve seen something vaguely like this, but definitely the first time it hasn’t felt like someone was trying to get rich off it or make a PROPER BUSINESS; this instead just feels like a nice hobby project that only wants to cover it’s own ar$e, moneywise (but obviously if the creators happen to read this and feel like I’m misrepresenting either their ambition or their rapaciously capitalistic natures then do feel free to write in and I will happily correct the online record).
  • Death By Numbers: Would you like a dataset covering details of deaths in London between about 1600 and 1750? Would you like to be able to download that for whatever weird (look, fine, whatever, but you can see why I might think that) reason you so choose? GREAT! This is probably a bit niche, but obviously of huge interest to historians and anyone wanting to write a novel set in the 17th or 18thC in which the causes of death are REALLY accurate – I am enjoying scrolling through the tags and noting that ‘headache’ is listed as a potentially fatal condition, as is ‘horseshoehead’, which I really really hope just means ‘was twatted in the head by a horse’.
  • The 2XL Archive: I had genuinely never heard of this before, but perhaps it’s a North America-only thing – anyway, apparently “2-XL was an educational toy robot by Mego from 1978-1981 and re-released by Tiger from 1992-1995. Games originally came on 8-track tapes and later on cassettes during the re-release. Pressing 2-XL’s buttons would change the track, creating a choose your own adventure style path that made it seem as if the toy robot was coming to life.” This website has painstakingly collected and uploaded an amazing collection of the tapes that were packaged with the toy, even going so far as to code in the interactivity bits so you can, should you so desire, replicate the GENUINE EARLY-90s CHILDHOOD EXPERIENCE of what I presume was a pretty rich suburban kid – this is very much something which will mainly appeal to anyone who remembers the original, I think, but there’s something curious about the tech which I get the impression a few of you might find worth digging into.
  • The Run: Did you know Montblanc made perfumes? I certainly didn’t – to be honest I had totally forgotten the company existed, which I imagine will pain any executives reading this deeply; SORRY, FACELESS PEN EXECUTIVES – and I was equally baffled to discover they also make watches and a bunch of other non-pen stuff too. Anyway, perfumes – The Run is a perfectly-serviceable little browsergame which is presumably designed to make you…er…want to buy some sort of biro-themed stinkwater, I presume, via the medium of making you guide a ball down a track at speed. This is actually pretty fun and a not-terrible way of passing the time while you wait for the kettle to boil, or for that idiot to do that thing (why does the idiot always take so long to do the thing?), but I remain utterly confused as to why this game – which, to be clear, features a ROLLING BALL, exactly the sort of ROLLING BALL you get in a BALLPOINT PEN – links to the perfume range rather than the FCUKING BALLPOINT PENS. Come on guys, EMBODY THE BRAND.
  • Prairie Culture: This is a TikTok channel which, according to the bio, is sharing ‘Mongol cuisine and horseback culture’ and honestly it’s great. Although I confess to being possibly not *quite* carnivorous enough to sit and chow down with these people – the (what I presume were) sheep testicles do look pretty good, though, which isn’t honestly a phrase I had ever imagined committing to digital page.
  • Suck Up: This is a link to an actual game that you have to pay for – sorry! – but it’s here more as a ‘how curious!’ link than as a ‘play this’ recommendation. Suck Up is a really interesting attempt to integrated LLMs into gameplay in a way that makes sense and ‘works’ – now I’ve not played this, so I can’t tell you to what extent it’s a winning mechanic, but I have watched some videos of the gameplay and I think there’s the kernel of something genuinely impressive and fun in here. The idea is, basically, that you play as a vampire and you have to persuade the various villagers in the game to let you into their houses so that you can exsanguinate them in typical drac fashion – the LLM integration comes in the dialogue with the NPCs, who are all GPT-or-similar-powered and as such will interact with you in natural language conversation. From the footage I’ve seen this is…imperfect, but it’s also evidently fun and interesting and surprising in a way that games so rarely manage to be; equally, LLMs are still stylistically vapid and as such there’s something of a paucity of style to some of the interactions, but this is one of the first times I’ve looked at this stuff and thought ‘actually, yes, this makes sense and might one day actually be good’. BONUS CONTENT: you can read more about this genre of experimental gameplay here, if you like.
  • AA Roads: Are…are roads HAVING A MOMENT? I ask only as I swear I’ve seen an uptick in tarmacadam-focused content over the past six months, and now here’s another road-obsessive’s website (genuinely had no idea ‘road obsessives’ was anything other than an unfunny throwaway gag, and yet here we are) – AA Roads! “Our mission is to provide the most comprehensive coverage of roads and highways online. Featured throughout our site are photo guides, highway history, project news, maps and other resources. A variety of topics on AARoads aids in trip planning and research while providing the latest information on an assortment of subjects covering roads across the United States.” I have literally NO IDEA who this is for, but, er, here! WHY ARE ALL THESE PEOPLE TAKING PHOTOS OF ROADS AND POSTING THEM ONLINE?
  • Tangleword: I have to confess that I got annoyed with this game because, er, I didn’t really understand it at first and as such it made me feel both thick and resentful (I am nothing if not a good loser). Still, you might get on with it better than I do – it’s the very opposite of intuitive, though, so you’ll probably want to read the instructions (or don’t! See if I care!).
  • Matt Round’s Flash Games Archive: Friend of Curios Matt Round has recently got, er, round to updating some of the old Flash games that he made years ago so that they now work in modern browsers – and you can play a few of them here. Janey Thompson’s Marathon made me laugh out loud – Matt, should you read this, I genuinely think we should offer a cash prize to anyone who can prove completion.
  • A Text Adventure: Finally this week, I *think* this is very old and has been resurrected, but I can’t for the life of me remember where the fcuk I found it and there’s no information on the site. BUT! That doesn’t matter! What DOES matter is that this is BRILLIANT – I don’t want to spoil anything, but it’s very likely that your first playthrough will end in failure, but that that failure will totally change your perception of the game. This is really smart, really nicely-made and well-written, gently-amusing and really worth an hour of your time while you wait for that same bloody idiot to do the thing.

By Lee Madgwick



  • Supper Mario Broth: Slightly astounded that this hasn’t been in Curios before, but apparently not – this is a Super Mario-themed (the title, however, is not a typo) Tumblr curated by a VERY OBSESSIVE Mario fan. You want Mario trivia and minutiae and facts? ARE YOU SURE, THIS MAN HAS A LOT OF THEM.



  • Naive Yearly: Kris, who writes the Naive Weekly newsletter which I link to most weeks, ran a conference in Copenhagen last year called Naive Yearly – a day which brought together a bunch of people who make and work at the edges of what he terms ‘the small, poetic web’, creating small web experiences and pieces of digital art and craft which exist orthogonally to the big platforms and mass media of the majority of the web. I happened to be there too, despite embodying literally none of the above-defined ideals and being about as creative as mince, and it was honestly lovely – fascinating talks about fascinating topics by fascinating people, and all of it genuinely hopeful and positive and optimistic about what the web is and what it can be, and how people can use it in interesting ways to make things and define themselves. Kris has now creates a small website to hold some thoughts about the day, some notes from the speakers and some details on their talks, and I honestly can’t recommend this enough – every single one of the people here listed has something interesting to say about ‘digital’ (in the broadest sense), and I promise you there is something to inspire and delight each and every one of you in here. If nothing else, read Kris’s essay about the landing page, which I think is a lovely evocation of the spirit he’s exploring in his weekly newsletter and through the talks and thinking here collected – honestly, I am a miserable cynic (it may not be apparent from the joyful, lighthearted in-house style employed at Curios, but I am!) and generally tend to hate everyone and everything, and like any proper GenXer am allergic to sincerity, but despite this and despite the fact that I spent not-insignificant portions of the day feeling a little bit like death at the rave, I STILL felt inspired and excited by everything I’d heard – which makes me think that YOU, nameless, faceless stranger who’s probably marginally less of a miserable husk than me, might really enjoy it.
  • Is Claude Conscious?: This week Anthropic, the people behind the ‘Claude’ AI, released a bunch of new models – and in playing with them, people are once again getting overexcited and frothy and saying silly things about consciousness and The Machine. Maybe I’m being unfair – I suppose the author here isn’t TECHNICALLY saying that they believe that The Machine is in fact self-aware and ‘wants to live’, just letting you, the reader, infer that if you like – but I think it’s important to point out here that NO THESE MACHINES CANNOT AT PRESENT THINK. Still, it’s interesting to read the transcripts of conversations in which Claude does a reasonably convincing job of sounding a lot like the sort of sentient AI that must have been written up millions of times in the reams of low-quality AI self-publishes scifi that’s almost-certainly included in the training set – BECAUSE THAT’S WHAT’S HAPPENING HERE. If you’re interested in this stuff, this is a REALLY interesting paper exploring exactly the question of ‘ok, what might we meaningfully want to say when we talk about ‘consciousness’ in the context of the current and coming wave of machines’ – it’s a PROPER PHILOSOPHY PAPER, and as such it might be a bit of a struggle if you’re not used to the conventions of the discipline, but I think it does a very good job of outlining questions around what consciousness ‘is’, and how we might talk about new versions of it that we’re almost certainly going to encounter at some point in the not-too-distant.
  • We Haven’t Been Capitalisming Hard Enough: I really like the title of this piece, by Tobias Revell, in which he argues that we should become better at spotting the lie and incoherence at the heart of the continued claim that we’re fcuking things up simply because we’re holding back the invisible hand in some way, and that the only way to succeed is to TURN CAPITALISM UP TO 11. To quote, “If you point out that AI isn’t actually meeting any of these promises and is hurting a bunch of people along the way, it is turned into an excuse for more, faster AI. Effective accelerationists who are tend to lurk at the forefront of the technology and money discussion will gleefully profess that fuelling the worst excesses of capitalisms is a great idea because actually it will lead to all these things they’ve been promising: That really, the problem isn’t that technology developed and deployed through capitalistic mechanisms will always fail to fulfil its promises as longs as the motivation is shareholder profit, but that it’s only with more, harder, faster capitalism that these promises can be fulfilled.”
  • Generative AI and the Future of New York: This is a really interesting report by Mckinsey, which I’ve been surprised hasn’t been picked up more widely – in it, the consultancy does a bunch of modelling work to predict the potential impact on the economy and labour market that we can expect to see, based on the current trajectory of progress, from increased adoption and integration of generative AI into the global economy. Bear in mind, this is *Mckinsey*, a company with a very strong vested interest in making this stuff look as positive and ‘BETTER FUTURE’ as possible because that’s how then make loads of money being the people who advise on exactly how to implement it and how to then sack all the people you no longer need…and even Mckinsey is predicting an at-best 100k positive impact on the jobs market, and even THAT is based on an utterly-empty statement about ‘700k new jobs arising in new fields enabled by AI’ (which, obviously, we can’t POSSIBLY envisage, but, equally obviously, DEFINITELY WILL HAPPEN). When even the consultants whose living depends on juicing this stuff and selling the most positive vision of it as possible are struggling to build the ‘no, don’t worry, the jobs will be fine!’ narrative then perhaps the rest of us ought to worry.
  • Finding Food In Gaza: The images of starving, dying kids coming out of Gaza in the past week have been horrific – this piece from a few week’s back in the New Yorker tells of one family’s struggle, along with others, to stay fed in the months following Hamas’ attack on Israel and the subsequent bombardments and what-increasingly-looks-like-attempted-genocide of the civilian population of the entirety of Gaza. As I said right at the start of this, I’m not really touching this issue in Curios because, honestly, there’s enough of it everywhere else, but this really struck me, both because of what’s happening and because of the writing which is excellent.
  • Amazon’s Big Secret: I found this piece, all about Amazon’s not-entirely-transparent financials and business structure and how a significant proportion of the company’s insane finances might in fact result from some good, old-fashioned market manipulation: “in amazon’s case, the FTC lawsuit suggests that the company’s financial disclosures effectively conceal a major source of profits: its third-party marketplace, which connects buyers with outside sellers. Third-party transactions represent about 60 percent of Amazon’s sales volume. The company acts as a middleman, matching vendors with shoppers and providing logistics to get the product from one to the other. The FTC alleges that, within this third-party market, Amazon imposes exorbitant fees on the sellers who rely on its site to reach customers, fees well in excess of what it costs Amazon to provide those services, leading to big profits. How big? That’s redacted.” Fwiw, I’ve long maintained that of all the planet-fcuking big tech companies of the past 20 years, it’s Amazon that unsettles me the most – this does little to disabuse me of the notion that it’s the bogeyman.
  • What Your Ape Bought You: Ah, Bored Apes! You briefly zeitgeisty jpegs, with your mutant strains and your ape juice and your plausible allegations of weird, fashy undertones to the whole thing! Imagine, for a second, that you’d been left holding one of these monuments to human idiocy when the carousel of hype finally stopped – what, do you think, would you *do* with it? Well, you may not recall but back in the day when people were briefly forced to take Yuga Labs seriously as a business the company came out with some guff about creating an NFT/blockchain based metarversal experienced called The Otherside, which would be underpinned by APE LORE and would concur all sorts of exclusive benefits to Ape holders, whose NFTs would somehow come to life in the digital third space – there was a lot of rubbish talked (pretty sure not by me, but I’m now too scared to check) about the potential for real/digital crossover economics and the beginnings of a real-to-virtual-goods pipeline…and last week, Yuga Labs opened up The Otherside for the first time, to let lucky Ape owners get their first taste of the glorious digital future, and…oh, look, just click the link and enjoy, it’s DELICIOUS.
  • Welcome The GenA Influencers: Or, maybe, don’t! Hot on the heels of the recent piece about the unsurprising fact that there are perverts on the internet who really enjoy it when parents put glamour shots of their kids on Insta in the hope of earning out a few creator pennies (otherwise known as PIMPING YOUR CHILDREN FFS) comes this piece, about how a whole new generation of people who should never have spawned are playing dress-up with their kids for a potential audience of millions on TikTok, again in the hope of cashing out a grand or so when their progeny hits the magical million view marker. I don’t really know what to say about this – if people still haven’t learned after THREE FCUKING GENERATIONS of this stuff that ‘putting photos of your kids on the public internet is not necessarily a good idea, and ignoring that fact for the sake of a few quid makes you an actively bad parent’ then I think maybe we’re beyond help.
  • The Post-Universal TikTok Musical Universe: I think I mentioned the other week that I thought there was a non-zero possibility that TikTok was going to gradually move away from actual songs and instead pivot to AI-generated music as the sound currency of choice – this piece makes a not-dissimilar point, arguing that, taken out of context in a three-second loop, what difference does it make anyway? Which may not exactly cheer your soul, but, equally, it sort-of makes sense.
  • Don’t Overestimate Your Attractiveness When Traveling To Colombia: Ok, fine, not the technical title of the piece, but I did find the story here – about people (MEN!) getting absolutely rinsed in Medellin and Bogota by women who match with them on Tinder and – SURPRISE! – turn out to be more interested in the contents of the wallet than that of their pants. I will never cease to be amused by the magic that happens when a particular type of – not usually traditionally attractive – man travels to a foreign country and thinks that his paunch, sunburn and lack of any linguistic ability whatsoever will render him inexplicably irresistible to the local talent. If the women chirpsing you on the apps in this notoriously-criminal city are significantly hotter than the ones you match with at home then, yes, it IS entirely possible that you’ve simply stumbled across a hitherto-unimagined enclave of tubby fetishists – but, let’s be honest, it’s fcuking unlikely.
  • Dune and Magic D1ck Theory: Obviously I haven’t seen Dune (I tried reading the books as a kid and fcuk me they were bad), but I know the story and very much enjoyed this essay which looks at the narrative from the perspective of the classic ‘magic d1ck’ theory of the heroic bildungsroman, and how Dune to an extent subverts that.
  • The TikTok Spam Industrial Complex: I do wonder what the rise in popularity of ‘pyramid schemes and MLM stuff and selling bullsh1t training courses to morons’ says about Where We Are Now, and why it is that so many of us are so happy to earn money in ways that are quite obviously exploitative of the stupid and the desperate. Anyway! That’s not really what this is about (except also it is) – it’s ACTUALLY about the various different ways in which people are currently deluding themselves they can get rich via making AI-generated dreck and chucking it on TikTok in the hope of hitting the viral jackpot and earning a grand per million views, and how other, smarter people are lying about how much success they’re having doing exactly this, and selling tutorial courses on how YOU TOO CAN DO IT to moronic rubes and cashing in. This is MULTI-LEVEL depressing – the fact that, regardless of whether it actually works as a way of earning money, people are doing this RIGHT NOW and flooding platforms and the web with SO MUCH RUBBISH, and it is not going to get better; the fact that, despite the fact that 99% of this stuff won’t work at all, I am equally certain that 1% of it *will* – because people already spend time consuming content that isn’t vastly *better* than this; the fact that so many kids are so fcuking hustlepilled that the idea of ‘passive income earned from 10 minutes of AI-wrangling’ is a genuine aspiration…honestly, this story is probably the best microcosm of ‘where the creator economy is, and is heading’ I’ve seen in ages. More brilliant work by 404 Media.
  • The Art and History of Lettering Comics: This is an ACTUAL PROPER BOOK – useful and instructive for those of you who really, really want to learn about the art and history of lettering comics, probably less so for everyone else.
  • Adapting American Psycho: I think I’ve read American Psycho a dozen or so times (I appreciate that makes me sound like a psychopath, but if it’s any consolation I have read LOADS of books that many times,most of them less…upsetting, and I almost always skip the really horrible bits because once was probably enough), the first time when I had just bought it at the airport aged about 14 before getting on a flight to Italy (and having the genuinely miserable experience of the woman sitting next to me reading over my shoulder and, as the flight and the book went on, moving further and further away from me so that by the end she was practically hanging into the aisle in an attempt to get away from me); my English teacher at college took the (on reflection, STAGGERINGLY-inappropriate) step of asking my then-girlfriend if I was ‘normal’ in bed, because she knew I liked the book; I saw the film at the cinema in the week of its opening, unfortunately with that same girlfriend and my mum (not, on reflection, a good idea, and one I wish I hadn;t just recalled quite so vividly) – basically I have previous with the book, and the film, and so this account by Director Mary Harron, about her experience adapting it for the screen, pleased me immensely. The closing lines, in particular, are a joy: “People are always asking me about whether the movie’s ‘real’ or not. I would say there’s a point when he starts to put a kitten into the ATM. I think you can say that after that things are not so real.”
  • Striking Drivers: A good piece in Vittles about the current strikes among the delivery driver community in London, how and why they started, how they’re being organised, and why, sadly, in an attritional battle like this it’s likely that the VC money will hold firm longer than the drivers will. Tip your deliverypeople, please.
  • Blotter Art: “The Institute of Illegal Images (III) is housed in a dilapidated shotgun Victorian in San Francisco’s Mission District, which also happens to be the home of a gentleman named Mark McCloud. The shades are always drawn; the stairs are rotting; the door is peppered with stickers declaring various subcultural affiliations: “Acid Baby Jesus,” “Haight Street Art Center,” “I’m Still Voting for Zappa.” As in many buildings from that era, at least in this city, the first floor parlor has high ceilings, whose walls are packed salon-style with the core holdings of the institute: a few hundred mounted and framed examples of LSD blotter.” I loved this, about the art printed on tabs of acid (or sheets of tabs) in the heyday of the psychedelic movement (and still latterly – I have vague memories of being given a sheet of smiley-faced tabs in the 90s, but thankfully no memory of taking the things) and the tab as a carrier of culture. Other than pills which are still subject to idiosyncratic visual branding – I had one which was the shape and colour of a can of heineken a few years ago, which was somewhat surprising – are any other drugs subject to this degree of creativity in their packaging? I don’t count the increasingly-preposterous trend of calling weed things like “Croquembouche Gravadlax”.
  • Me, My Selfies and I: I really enjoyed this essay, partly because it’s something I can’t empathise with AT ALL and therefore it describes feelings that are utterly unknown to me. Erika Thorkelson writes about the experience of ageing in an era where one has such an intimate relationship with one’s own face, seen through so many images, tweaked and optimised and HD and EVERPRESENT, and how the concept of the self-portrait, and the generational obsession for people hitting 40 about now of taking them, has changed her relationship to her own face and how she feels about it…I think, other than for official purposes, I have taken a grand total of one selfie in my life (hated it), I own no photos of myself and I don’t look in the mirror, ever, unless I absolutely have to (I close my eyes at the hairdressers, I’m ashamed to admit) and so this is utterly unimaginable to me – I have no picture of what I look like in my head, and I am fine with that, but I appreciate this is possibly not entirely normal.
  • Mike Read’s Heritage Chart: Ok, this probably won’t mean much to any non-UK people, but MY GOD did I love this – Pete Paphides writes about his new obsession, the genuinely-weird-sounding TV programme that is Mike Read’s Heritage Chart Show. Never heard of it? No, neither had I, but let this opening paragraph draw you in – I promise you that the rest of the piece amply lives up to this: “A couple of weeks ago, the UK’s only chart-based music show celebrated its hundredth episode, and yet, there’s every chance you’ve never heard of it. That’s because, in order to watch it live, you’d have to be seated in front of your TV at 3am on Monday morning. Furthermore, you won’t find it on a music channel. It’s not on any of our terrestrial stations. Mike Read’s Heritage Chart Show is, in some ways, an aberration on the schedule of vintage movie channel Talking Pictures. In another sense though, it’s a perfect fit among Talking Pictures’ carefully curated menu of Ealing comedies, monochrome sagas of wartime derring-do, old episodes of 70s daytime staple Crown Court and, on one memorable occasion, a 1954 documentary about the Shippams Fish Paste factory.”
  • Recycling: Georgie Newson writes in the LRB about going to the recycling centre and how basically it taught her that recycling is largely boll0cks. Oh, ok, fine, not ‘boll0cks’, but very much edging into ‘bandage on an axewound’ territory, and not even a particularly large or well-tied bandage – oh look, turns out that the actual solution to the problems we’re facing might actually just be ‘buy less fcuking stuff’, whodathunkit?
  • Ajamu X: I;ve been seeing lots of positive chat about Jason Okundaye’s new book, Revolutionary Acts, about black queer culture in the UK, and this extract printed in GQ, in which he talks to and writes about Ajamu X, a photographer and artist and activist who’s been a pioneering voice in these spaces for years, is brilliant – really interesting history that I (unsurprisingly) know very little about.
  • Coyote vs Acme: Allegedly the full plot summary of the now-oublietted Roger Rabbit-like film that asked ‘what would happen if Wil E Coyote attempted to sue ACME for making really sh1t gadgets?’ – I obviously have no idea at all whether this is real, but, fcukit, it READS like it’s real, and it sounds GREAT and while you will enjoy reading this a lot you will also be left feeling a TINY bit sad that you probably never will.
  • Just The Edges: Tattoos and abuse and infidelity in this short short story by Molly Wadzeck Kraus.
  • London 2039: Back to the White Pube, really one of my favourite places for interesting writing write now, whether about art or otherwise, for this excellent bit of…short fiction/social commentary/angry shouting, about London and gentrification and art and power and money and, oddly, being a cat. This is GREAT.
  • Proper Country: Ralf Webb writes in Granta about going to the country and living with his parents for a bit, and the young/old urban/rural urbane/staid modern/antiquated divides that he encountered – this is great, funny and true and pleasingly self-aware and then I got to the end and saw how young Ralf is and I got a bit annoyed and jealous. It’s still great though.
  • The Adolescents: Our final longread of the week comes from The Fence – a short story by Madeline Brettingham which is about middle-aged marriage and infidelity and relationships and all that jazz, and it is in parts VERY funny but also really quite beautifully poignant too, and I think it’s a lovely piece to read with a cup of tea so why not put the kettle on?

By Butternut Collage


Webcurios 01/03/24

Reading Time: 37 minutes

I didn’t think that UK politics could be rendered more unpleasantly-risible, but the return of George Galloway to Parliament (and for those readers to whom this name means nothing, please do yourselves the favour of watching this, keeping in mind throughout that this man was just democratically selected by several thousand people as the best person to represent their interests and DEFINITELY NOT just to feather his own nest and reinvigorate his media profile) has unexpectedly upped the ridiculousness ante – WELL DONE, PEOPLE OF ROCHDALE!

Still, on the plus side, FEBRUARY IS OVER WELL DONE YOU SURVIVED! Consider this week’s edition of Web Curios a reward for your continued existence – you deserve it, you’re worth it and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

I am still Matt, this is still Web Curios, and if I could reach through the screen I would give you the very gentlest of pinches and punches.

By Clayton Schiff (and via TIH, along with the rest of this week’s pics)



  • Google DJ: Do kids these days still think of ‘DJ’ as a vaguely-cool and aspirational profession, or is it simply ‘something old people thought was fun in the 90s, when people still went out and one could cling on to the hope that things might one day get better’? No matter, because THE MACHINES ARE COMING and the days when one of us fleshsacks could exchange three hours behind the decks for beer tokens appear to be running out – or at least that was very much the feeling I got from this latest, terrifyingly-impressive, AI music toy from Google, which (and I’m really not exaggerating here) allows you to conjure up a seamless, on-the-fly, machine-generated soundscape based on whatever you type in, one which will change and shift in realtime as you edit the prompts. Which, I appreciate, is possibly a bit hard to get your head around, but I promise it’s incredibly intuitive and makes total sense when you play with it – effectively you have a number of text-to-music ‘tracks’ which you use to specify the type of sounds you want to hear, and these prompts are mixed as-you-listen into a basically-seamless soundscape. This is FCUKING INCREDIBLE – ok, yes, nothing I have made it produce so far is going to make David Guetta tremble with fear in his private jet, but this is…you know what, this produces sounds that are AT LEAST as good as about 40% of the fcuking terrible deep house sets I was compelled to sit through in bars throughout the 00s, and the way you can tweak and shift the tone and style and pace of the mix in whatever way you can imagine is pretty astonishing, as is the fact that, so far at least, I haven’t been able to make it create anything unlistenable (and believe me I have tried). Honestly, this is HOURS of knob-twiddling fun, and may at last mean that we can foresee a future in which hardcore pioneers Ratpack and Nicky Blackmarket can finally take a weekend off, having seemingly been gigging nonstop since 1992. We really are getting to the point where this stuff is GOOD ENOUGH and is going to start getting deployed all over the place, whether we like it or not – buckle up.
  •  Pogichat: After about two years of plaintively typing ‘someone should really make a new tamagotchi-style digital pet with all this new generative AI kit’ like some sort of pathetic, needy child, MY PRAYERS HAVE BEEN ANSWERED! Pogichat is literally exactly what I had imagined – a simple interface in which you’re presented with a…thing (a blob that sort-of looks a bit like a duck if you squint – safe to say I’m not bowled over by paternal feelings of warmth, based on the design), presumably the titular ‘Pogi’, and a series of simple commands which let you interact with it in various ways (feed, play, talk, etc), all of which are mediated by some sort of under-the-hood LLM, meaning there’s a pleasing degree of elasticity in the responses and the interactions – it ‘understands’ what you say to it *(obviously it understands nothing, but you get what I mean), meaning that if you’re a particular sort of digital sadist you can amuse yourself by sending increasingly cruel and pointed messages to your digital charge and watch its mood plummet as you repeatedly remind it of the two-dimensional futility of its digital prison (but know that if you do that I am judging you INCREDIBLY harshly- look at Pogi’s face! Poor pogi!). This is very light and very silly, but it gave me a real ‘you could do SO much more here’ feeling (which is obviously typical of someone who couldn’t make something like this themselves if they tried). See if you can get Pogi to fall in love with you / kill itself (delete per your particular perversions).
  • Make Your Own AI Watch: While we wait for the first of the coming wave of AI-enabled wearables to hit the market and disappoint all the early adopters (inevitably), why not take the open source route and hack your Apple/Samsung/Sony smartwatch so that instead of being a glorified step tracker it instead becomes an ALL-KNOWING AI ASSISTANT???? This is the github page for a slightly-astonishing open source project which promises to let you run an AI off your wrist, with options to pull together all sorts of different bits of kit to spin up your own bespoke digital assistant which will be able to leverage all the sensors and subsequent data collected by your phone to…I don’t know, make all sorts of weird an erroneous inferences about your life. It’s slightly unclear as to what exactly ‘an AI in your smartwatch’ might actually deliver in terms of benefits, but WHO CARES IT’S SO FUTURE AND SCIFI!
  • Bookpecker: Why do you read books? Is it to glory in the beauty of the written word? To enjoy the meter and cadence of language, the feeling of someone else’s thoughts weaving their way through your own? No, of course not, that would be WEIRD – instead, I imagine you read because KNOWLEDGE IS POWER and YOU WANT POWER and as such you grit your teeth and read the books because THEY ARE THE GATEWAY TO SUCCESS. Or at least that’s the viewpoint I imagine the likely audience for Bookpecker has – people who are so BUSY, so VITALLY ALPHA, that their every waking moment is engaged in maximising their ADVANTAGE, and who devour business books inbetween chugging protein shakes and setting up dropshipping/NFT/AI (delete as applicable) businesses. Bookpecker is…I don’t know, I initially thought it was depressing and sad, but on reflection it’s impossible to be miserable about something so utterly idiotic and obviously aimed at people who think Stephen Bartlett is someone worth listening to. You know those self-help and business books that are always on sale at airports and which obviously sell loads of copies despite you never actually seeing anyone reading one in the wild? The ones that tell you that YOU TOO can be a success as long as you, I don’t know, ‘believe really hard’? Well what if I told you that there was a way to get ALL OF THE WISDOM from said books without actually having to wade through the dead-eyed prose? OH HAPPY DAY! Bookpecker does exactly that – there are seemingly HUNDREDS of business-type books (and history books, and biographies, and science books, and basically all of the non-fiction you can think of) on the site, each of which has been reduced from its original length to…FIVE BULLET POINTS! That’s right! You too can get ALL OF THE INFORMATION and ALL OF THE VALUE of, for example, ‘A Brief History of Time’, summarised in a few short sentences (no, really, you can), presumably by an LLM. This would be incredibly depressing were it not for the amusement I’m deriving from imagining the likely target audience for this SPECTACULARLY moronic website.
  • Vids-From-Photos: A brief check-in at the edges of the ‘photo-to-video’ tech pipeline now – this link takes you to a technical paper which, honestly, is all gibberish to me, but which contains half-a-dozen examples of experimental tech which is being used to create lipsynced videos from single photos or illustrations and FCUKING HELL this is incredible and genuinely disconcerting in how convincing it is. The idea here is that you take an audio track, point it at an image of someone’s face and the software will create a lipsynced animation from the photo, complete with some additional (and weirdly-convincing) movements to additional verisimilitude and BOOM, anyone can spin up a genuinely-impressive video of a talking head saying anything they fancy, in seconds. Between that and this week’s ‘hairy chested AI McDonald’s man’ photo I think we’re just about crossing the ‘you really can’t believe a fcuking thing you see online anymore’ rubicon, and I don’t think I like it one bit.
  • A Genuinely Terrifyingly Good AI-Generated Song: Click this link. Leave it open in the background while you read the next section. As you half-listen to it, can you tell it’s an AI-generated track? NO YOU FCUKING CAN’T DON’T LIE TO ME! This is insane – it genuinely does sound like a ‘lost’ 1950s rock and roll track, and the fact that it’s old and a bit crackly masks some of the oddities at the edges, and it’s got…it’s got a tune! And there’s a FCUKING GUITAR SOLO halfway through! Just to reiterate what I said at the top of this week’s issue, it really does feel like we’re in the process of crossing a threshold because, honestly, I am revising my estimates for ‘when the first AI-generated track to receive mainstream radio play is going to hit’ down by about a year.
  • Zaltor: Do you feel lost and uncertain and confused? Do you lack direction and drive? Do you find yourself looking to the future with trepidation and fear, unsure of what path to take through the seemingly-sinister gathering mists of THE FUTURE? Yeah, well, join the fcuking club, you’re not SPECIAL you know. Still, if you’d like some sort of digital Virgil to guide you through all the WEIRDNESS OF THE NOW, perhaps Zaltor will fit the bill – you’ll need to use your phone for this one, but the url takes you to a neat little LLM-enabled ‘Ask The Oracle’-type game, which lets you ask three questions of THE MYSTERIOUS ZALTOR and receive suitably-gnomic responses in reply. Amazingly Zaltor accurately predicted the result of last weekend’s Carabao Cup Final (yeah thanks for that you scrying digital pr1ck) – that said, he also just told me that ‘the team with red and white stripes’ is going to win the FA Cup, so possibly don’t go basing any betting or investment decisions on The Machine’s prognostications. Still, might be fun to spend the weekend relying solely on Zaltor’s suggestions (NB – Web Curios, as ever, accepts not responsibility for anything that should result from you following this evidently idiotic idea).
  • Tasmania: Or, specifically, a nice little promo from the Tasmanian tourist board which also neatly illustrates the fact that, occasionally, there really are great links in Web Curios which really can be used as ‘inspiration’ (ahem) for your own projects. In the first Curios of the year I featured this site, where an artist called Pablo was riffing on the idea of AI art and offering to do drawings based on ‘prompts’ submitted to his site by people around the world – and now that EXACT idea has been lifted, wholesale, in this project – except in this case, the prompts will be executed by artists native to Tasmania, neatly promoting both the region and the creatives working there. In a nice twist, those whose prompts get selected to be envisioned by the artists will (eventually) get the physical work mailed to them, which is a lovely touch, and overall this is a really cute bit of PR for both the place and the people making the work. It seems that you’ll have more of a chance of your prompt being picked if it references Tasmania in some way, but I live in hope that I’ll get lucky and my dream commission ‘ – ‘Mel Gibson being fisted by a wallaby’, since you ask – will be winging its way to me soon.
  • Flip Shop: Are we all going to become influencers? Given the fact that ALL THE JOBS ARE GOING TO VANISH, will we all be reduced from attempting to earn affiliate pennies by flogging leisurewear to our friends and family? Is the global economy going to basically end up being like a massive international version of ‘the art quarter in margate’ where we all move the same tenner around in a neverending circle? It does rather feel like it at times, what with TikTok’s shift to ‘basically being QVC’ and now with apps like Flip, which is, as far as I’m able to discern, ‘TikTok, everyone on there is selling you stuff and is on commission’ – so, er, TikTok, then, except it’s paying new users to sign up as it burns through the first tranche of VC money in search of an audience. There’s a decent explainer you can read about the whole thing here, but you can get a feel for it from this particularly-bleak little excerpt: “Within two days of downloading Flip, I had accumulated around $300 through inviting friends, who then went on to buy something. Over the course of a week or so, I earned another $50 credit by scrolling the endless feed of review videos, making 8 cents here and 50 cents there. Creators earn actual money when they make reviews of products they’ve purchased, accumulating a few cents when someone watches their video or purchases the advertised product. It’s online content creation gamified to its most extreme. Using a referral code, I bought a handful of products that came across my feed via strangers’ review videos: a pack of gel eye masks I’d seen on TikTok, a $29.99 package of protein powder, a “facial steamer,” men’s button down shirts, a Kodak 35mm film scanner. Nothing cost more than $10 or so, after using the 95 percent off coupons.” Does this feel like a healthy response to the slow collapse of the global employment market and the continuing climate apocalypse? I posit that it does not.
  • Digital Frontier: In what continues to be an utterly brutal time for media, it’s nice to be able to link to a NEW MAGAZINE! This feels…bold, given everything that’s going on and the likely commercial trajectory of ‘exchanging words for money’, but I admire their chutzpah and hope. Digital Frontier is, in its own words, “a London-based media and events company bringing a fresh perspective to the transformative innovations shaping our world. We see a need in the market for a serious-minded publication that steps beyond the daily news cycle to produce deeply reported stories on how technology is upending business models and opening new markets. We see huge potential in breaking down the information silos between industries that often ignore each other. The best Digital Frontier stories will connect the dots between innovations being adopted by different sectors to tackle comparable problems.” Which is all great, and more power to them, but I do think that asking £150 a year for a digital-only subscription, particularly when the site currently feels…a bit thin is potentially somewhat punchy. Still, worth keeping an eye on now that Motherboard’s dead.
  • Yolk: Do you remember ‘Yo’? The briefly-buzzy app from…2014?! 2014?!!?>!?!?!??!?!?! TEN FCUKING YEARS??!?! Dear God I just had a moment of genuinely-horrible ‘what the fcuk have I done with my life and why am I still doing it’ clarity, forgive me while I take a second to contemplate the utter futility of everything. Ahem. Anyway, you remember ‘Yo’, right? An app which allowed you to do one thing and one thing alone – send the word ‘yo’ to someone else – and which inexplicably received nearly $3m in funding (never, ever believe that VCs are smart), and which briefly saw a bunch of people at agencies have to answer questions about ‘what is our Yo strategy?’ with a straight face? Well say hello to Yolk, a similarly-monofunctional app which rather than letting you send a single word instead allows you to send…basically what amount to reaction gifs of yourself, like some sort of wordless mummery app. I really wanted to hate this idea and to mock it mercilessly, but, honestly, there’s something really quite nice about the idea of constraining people to communicate wordlessly using facial expressions and gestures and odd, decontextualised gifs of whatever happened to be within their field of vision when they opened the camera app. This is really cute and I cannot say a bad word about it.
  • RubikSolve: You may well think that there is nothing more pathetic than cheating at a Rubik’s Cube – but I say this isn’t cheating, it’s a LEARNING AID, and as such is an entirely-legitimate hack. Input the colour arrangement of a mixed-up Rubik’s Cube and this site will use THE MAGIC OF MATHS to tell you the exact steps you need to solve it in 25 moves or less. Which I am pretty sure says something slightly-amazing about numbers which I am far too stupid to work out – still, if you’d like to become one of those weird savants who can solve any Rubik’s Cube in seconds then this is probably a decent place to start your ‘journey’.
  • Read Cache: Google’s continued efforts to degrade its core search product has seen the ability to retrieve cached pages from search quietly sunsetted in recent weeks, which is a royal pain for researchers, journalists and muckrakers alike. Thankfully someone has cobbled together this hacked solution which resurrects the feature – plug in any url and it will see if there’s a previously-cached version online and pull it for you should it find one; an excellent way of keeping track of online edits, especially when the Wayback Machine occasionally lets you down.
  • The Silk Roads: This is SUCH a nice project, seemingly made by someone who’s been a TRAVEL YOUTUBER (I know, but forgive them) for years and who has built this site, documenting stops along the modern Silk Road route, as a digital record of their journeys. There’s a light ‘choose your own adventure’ vibe to this, with the site offering you a selection of potential waypoints along your journey so that you can explore the different paths one can take across the continent, and there are nice photos and personal anecdotes and generally a lovely feeling of homemade webness (yes, that’s the official term) to the whole thing which is generally really pleasing. ALSO, and this is worth remarking on, it’s VERY un-YouTuber-y and doesn’t appear to be flogging anything or asking you to subscribe, which, honestly, is rarer than it ought to be.
  • WhaleSeeker: Whilst I concede that one of the main overriding vibes of Web Curios is ‘everything is terrifying and fcuked and jagged and technology is driving us all mad and ruining everything’, I like to think I occasionally shine a light on NICE THINGS about the web and tech – so it is with this link, to a project that is using AI not to steal money from artists or to make terrible video or frightening, non-consensual bongo, but instead to SPOT WHALES! – per the blurb, “we leverage AI to deliver better, simpler, and faster marine mammal detection data when and where it matters most.“ I can’t for a second imagine that any of you have any immediate need for an AI-enabled cetacean-spotting service, but in case you do then HERE YOU GO!
  • SuperFastAIImages: I featured the superfast version of Stable Diffusion on here when it launched a few months back, but there’s a slightly-updated version which it’s quite fun to play with – while the quality of the outputs is a long way from bleeding edge, there’s something honestly magical about seeing the image shift and move and just sort of come into being as you type, and I feel like there should be some sort of reasonably-fun parlour game that you can play with this but, honestly, I am far too fcuking tired this morning to think of it and so you put in the effort for once.
  • Image-To-Music: Feed this site an image and it will generate a song that it thinks is somehow related to it – I’m not entirely sure how this works, but I imagine it’s a ‘describe this picture —> tweak that description so that it sounds vaguely musical —> plug that into a song generator and export the fcuker’ workflow of sorts; anyway, I just gave it a photo of myself and now I know what my ghastly features sound like, and I think each and every one of you should do the same because, honestly, it’s slightly unsettling.
  • Celeb Clock: A beautifully-whimsical little project by the ever-excellent Matt Round now – riffing on the now-infamous ‘I spend more time playing an old PC wargame than interacting with my child and I am seemingly entirely unembrassed by this fact’ interview in which Gregg Wallace described his typical Saturday, this site will tell you the time and also explain to you exactly what a bunch of famous are all doing RIGHT NOW, based on interviews they’ve given describing their daily routines. So at 835am, Kim Kardashian is apparently ‘driving the kids to school while listening to a positive podcast’, while Mark Wahlberg is ‘snacking’ – whereas I am approximately a third of the way through writing a needlessly-long newsletter that no cnut in the world reads, so I WIN IN YOUR FACE KIM AND MARK.

By  Stephanie Davidson



  • Galatea: Have…have we all always been insanely-horny for werewolves? WHAT IS IT WITH ALL THE LUPINE BONGO??? I ask because a significant proportion of the ‘literature’ (look, no judging, but I have tried to read some of this sort of stuff and it’s fcuking tripe, in the main) available on this website – Galatea, a place where you can basically get LOADS OF ‘BOOKS’, mainly of the fantasy/romance/erotica stripe, for a fixed monthly fee – seems to fall under the broad heading of ‘submissive woman gets dommed by a man who is also sometimes a dog’ – is…is this what we’re all into? Anyway, the point of this site is not the questionable quality of the collected prose, but the fact that, as far as I can tell, a genuinely staggering quantity of it is being produced using this specific AI novel-writing software – and, judging by the number of works available on Galatea and the seemingly-thriving community of ‘book-lovers’ that has spring up around it, noone seems to care. I just want to tap the sign again (but I promise I will stop soon, because I am starting to bore myself on this topic) – THE AI CONTENT WILL WIN BECAUSE A SIGNIFICANT NUMBER OF PEOPLE HAVE VERY LOW STANDARDS AND SIMPLY DON’T CARE THAT WHAT THEY CONSUME IS, OBJECTIVELY, FCUKING RUBBISH.
  • Doordash Gremlins: A subReddit in which people share images taken of them accepting their food delivery orders (is this a thing in the States, where drivers have to prove they’ve handed over the scran? weird) – pictures in which they look, in the main, a bit feral. We are all basically horrible little raccoons, aren’t we?
  • Steamboat Willie: As seems to be the norm these days, the end of copyright for a whole host of old cultural properties at the beginning of 2024 has so far ushered in a grand total of zero interesting or creative uses of said formerly-copyrighted material – still, this little bit of promo for a French digital studio is rather nice, letting you move an old-school, rubbertube Mickey around the deck of the titular steamboat, collecting musical notes which, once you’ve found them all, ‘rewards’ you with the chance to enjoy the agency’s showreel. Ok, fine, it’s not MUCH of a reward, but the digital work on display here’s really quite nice and it’s certainly more interesting than the inevitable ‘Steamboat Willy Bongo’ that is being made in some miserable basement somewhere right now.
  • Stephen Malinowski: THESE ARE BEAUTIFUL! This link takes you to the YouTube channel of one Stephen Malinowski, who you can learn more about at his site, who’s (as far as I can tell) a musician and music theorist and someone who’s interested in how one can express music and sound visually, and whose YouTube channel is a GLORIOUS collection of animations which accompany various different pieces of music, rendering them visual in a range of glorious shorts. I find this stuff mesmerising – there’s a vaguely-synaesthesiac quality to the way the visuals match the notes, and the creativity and range of different viz styles employed really is hugely impressive.
  • Betterverse: I get the impression that some of you reading this might be vaguely involved in the ‘futures and imagining’ space – you might therefore find this site useful, which collects a whole load of different games and resources to assist in…well, with this sort of thing: “We believe futures literacy is an essential 21st century skill. With this project, we want to give creatives and impact designers give insight in the complexity and potential of futures thinking, provotyping and world building. We want to give them first-hand experience of how to use their talent as a lever, a crowbar with social value. The goal: to stimulate a new generation of architects, designers, copywriters, filmmakers and other makers-slash-thinkers to initiate change.” Potentially useful for teachers and educators, but also designers of all stripes, and indeed for anyone interested in tools and mechanisms to help you explore and imagine different, better futures.
  • Lapse: Another week, another attempt to make the broad idea of ‘a photo app’ cool and interesting again. Lapse has been getting a decent amount of buzz this week, and the idea is nice-if–not-groundbreaking – the idea is that you take a photo with your phone and it won’t show up until…sometime later, removing the instant gratification from digital photography and harking back to an era in which you had to wait WEEKS to find out that you’d wasted £4 and an entire roll of film by taking photos of your thumb. Users can have ‘profiles’ and you can follow your friends, and all your photos get complied into monthly ‘photodumps’ which is a nice automatic album feature which strikes me as quite neat. Basically this does the square root of nothing new, but it’s got a pleasing aesthetic and it’s born out of London, so let’s all be supportive and wish them well (but ffs, iOS-only development is SO ANNOYING in 2024, iPhones are for cnuts as any fule kno).
  • BeScene: Do you want to get into film or telly? GREAT THERE’S AN APP FOR THAT! BeScene sort of self-describes as ‘professional Tinder for people who want to work in moving pictures’, and while that obviously sounds like seven shades of awful it also sort-of makes sense; the ‘swipe/cards’ interface probably makes sense for a talent/contact searching app, and presuming that this gets decent traction it could be a useful way of finding people to collaborate with on AV projects (although I have a sneaking suspicion that if your geography is more Lewisham than LA you might not find quite so many eager partners on the app).
  • The Monthly Tricycle Haiku Challenge: I was not aware that the buddhists had a magazine, and that that magazine was called Tricycle – but they do, and it is! For reasons known only to them, the magazine each month runs a contest for readers (or, presumably, any fcuker who wants to participate) to write the best haiku – the only constraints are the traditional 5/7/5 format and the fact that each month there’s a specific seasonal word that you need to include in your composition (this month’s is the suitably-wintery ‘turnip’, for example). I have a peculiar affinity for the haiku – many years ago I had a job where each morning we had an all-company meeting (a meeting at which it was not entirely-unusual for people to use cocaine as a non-traditional hangover cure – the 00s, they were a time!) and I made it my ‘thing’ to write the meeting notes up each day, which I would always begin with a haiku inspired by something in that day’s papers. My personal favourite was “Welcome Suri Cruise / Real kid or creepy changeling? / Only time will tell” – honestly, apart from the aforementioned drugs issue and the fact that people cried literally every day in the office, often before 830am, I really loved that job. Anyway, I would be genuinely proud if one of you won this contest, so GET WRITING.
  • 100 Cameras: This is SUCH a good gimmick/premise/setup for a documentary – a Japanese series, produced by NHK World, where the whole thing is literally ‘we go somewhere interesting and set up 100 cameras and document LOADS OF STUFF so you can see what X or Y place is like and how it works’ – or, in their slightly less ham-fisted words, “Each episode of this documentary series focuses on a different place of interest. One hundred cameras are installed and left to record, showcasing the habits and behavior of the people they capture. Without the presence of a camera crew, the subjects gradually begin to share glimpses into their lives, and we receive an unobstructed window into personal conversations and real-life events.”. There are only a few shows on the site at present, but the potential in the format is huge and the one I skimmed through – looking behind the scenes at videogame developer Capcom – suggested that the producers get some genuinely-interesting material and insight from the setup.
  • Hiccup: Hiccup is one of the seemingly-endless parade of startups hitting the digital shelves at present which promise to help you ORGANISE YOUR THOUGHTS AND FEELINGS via the magical medium of AI – here’s the spiel, which you may want to take with a small pinch of salt: “Hiccup transcends traditional note-taking and diary apps. It is the Shazam for your brain – a dynamic, intuitive space where you can jot down anything that crosses your mind. From daily reflections to sudden eureka moments, Hiccup is your canvas to paint your thoughts, unfiltered and unbounded. But Hiccup is more than just a passive recipient of your thoughts. Powered by cutting-edge AI, it actively helps you retrieve the right answers and information when you need them. Think of it as having a conversation with your past selves, guided by an AI that understands you. Just write down your thoughts or inquiries, and let Hiccup work its magic, fetching the precise information you seek amidst your vast repository of notes.” Does this sound appealing? I am FASCINATED to see how much this stuff takes off, and how that ends up…affecting things – I think the insane popularity of fitness tracking apps and the like over the past decade or so suggests that we’re very much into the idea of quantifying, managing and optimising ourselves with digital assistance, and there’s no reason to assume that there won’t be a significant number of people who won’t want to extend that to their general, day-to-day thoughts…God it’s going to be fun when the most popular of these services crashes forever in 2029, taking several billion people’s thoughts and memories and notes and ideas with it and leaving a host of people unmoored and alone without the digital Virgil on which they’ve come to rely (probably).
  • The Tartan Register: As a pseudo-Scot, or at least enough of one to have a Scottish surname, I was genuinely embarrassed that this site had to be drawn to my attention by a reader – so thanks Marcelo Rinesi for making me feel inadequate! This is the official register of Scottish tartans, where all new designs must be recorded – here, for example, are all the officially recognised versions of Muir, should any of you for whatever reason fancy ordering several bolts of me to clothe yourselves in.
  • Klemmbrett: Let me for a second peel back the curtain, show you how the metaphorical sausage is made – before it gets turned into the SPARKLING PROSE you are currently reading, Web Curios exists as a series of links chucked haphazardly into a GDoc as and when I find them over the course of  a week. Does that sound like an onerous workflow to you? No, of course it fcuking doesn’t – and yet there are people for whom the act of ‘switching tabs’ is simply TOO MUCH and TOO DISTRACTING and RUINS THEIR FLOW, and it is those people, I presume, for whom Klemmbrett is designed. This is an honestly-slightly-baffling browser plugin that lets you open up a little note-taking window in your browser, meaning you can take notes about anything you’re reading without having to move away from it – which, er, doesn’t really feel like the sort of thing that needs to be coded, frankly, but I am sort-of pleased that someone’s bothered (credit where it’s due, it’s VERY nicely designed).
  • Swimming: Via Giuseppe’s consistently-interesting weekly data newsletter comes this BEAUTIFUL bit of visualisation work – the code it’s built on is by Krisztina Szucs, and it is SO PRETTY. This presents a series of results from the Tokyo Olympics in 2020, and…oh, look, I could try and explain it but it’s simpler just to tell you to click the link and enjoy. Honestly, I could watch these for hours, they are SO satisfying.
  • Amsterdam Typography: I imagine that you can probably guess what this is about, but for the two of you who are inexplicably reading this whilst not being able to understand relatively simple terms like ‘Amsterdam’ or ‘typography’ “Amsterdam Typography is a project by Arno Verweij that explores Amsterdam through the lens of typography. One or more photographs of typography are published on this website every day at 2 pm local time (CET/CEST). The collection currently contains 2110 photographs documenting typography in public and semi public spaces in Amsterdam. You can find all photos via the interactive map that has a list of categories at the bottom.” This has reminded me that I haven’t been to Amsterdam for about 7 years and I really miss it.
  • Pasta Shapes: Via Caitlin comes this micronewsletter all about pasta – sign up and you get a month’s worth of very short (literally 100 words or so) daily emails, each about a different pasta shape. Now obviously as a wop I’m biased, but this is GREAT content and today’s email described orecchiette (objectively the third-best pasta shape) as ‘interdimensional pasta’ which, honestly, made me swoon slightly.
  • Be Part Of A Massive Digital Artwork: Do you run a website? Would you like to use it to MAKE ART? This is a new project by (I think) Chia Amisola (but sorry if I’m misattributing it), which is described thusly: “I’m working on a net art piece about internet territory, cybersquatting, density… I want it to live hosted on friends and strangers sites – as an iFrame embed slowly overtaking the site page.If you fill up this short form, I’ll send you a customized embed that you can paste onto your page to be a part of my piece (being showcased first week of March) – thank you for being a part of it!” Now obviously I have NO IDEA what this is going to entail, but I’ve featured Chia’s work in here loads of times before and there’s nothing about them that makes me think ‘this is going to be a massive malware lol’, so, well, what’s the worst that could happen? Bonus points, millions of them, to any reader who can somehow make this happen on an actual corporate website for the lols.
  • Allen Bukoff: The personal website of artist Allen Bukoff. You know how somehow I feature personal websites that are examples of gorgeous, creative coding? Yeah, well this is basically the opposite of that, and as such is practically-perfect in every way (plus I genuinely enjoy Bukoff’s work – it’s funny and anarchic and silly, and there’s a lovely art movement rabbithole that you can wind up down should you be interested in linkspelunking your way through it. BONUS PERSONAL WEBSITE: this one, by a digital designer who goes by the name of Athena, is very much one of those ‘gorgeous creative coding’ projects I mentioned earlier and, honestly, I could just move my mouse around this one for hours, the fluid dynamic effects here are GLORIOUS.
  • The Riker Maneuver: I appreciate that this is the second week in a row in which I’m sharing a Star Trek-themed link despite my repeated protestations that I have no fcuking interest in Star Trek – I promise it won’t happen again. This, though, is very much worth highlighting – a campaign to have a statue of fictional character William Riker, the bearded bloke from The Next Generation who I’m reliably informed was the source of a few fevered teenage dreams back in the day, erected in the town of Valdez in Canada. Why? WHY THE FCUK NOT! Brilliantly the plans specify that the statue should be designed to replicate a very specific pose for which the characters is apparently famous – I FCUKING LOVE THIS PLEASE HELP MAKE IT A THING. If Slough can have a pub called The Wernham Hogg (no, really) then this feels essential.
  • Weird Fcuking Games: A site collecting descriptions of, and occasionally links to, some weird fcuking games that in many cases you can play online. Some of these have been featured in Curios in the past, but many of them were utterly new to me and all of them are headscratchingly-odd and often pleasingly-upsetting in tone. If you’re interested in speculative/experimental game design then this is an excellent resource to explore.
  • Terramaker: SUCH a great little browsergame, this – a puzzle/platformer where you have to build out the scene as you play to prevent your tiny pixellated adventurer from plummeting to their death. Which I appreciate might not make that much sense but which will become crystal clear as you play, promise – this is a really neat premise, smartly-executed.
  • Brothers: Our last miscellaneous link of the week is a rare one to an actual product you have to pay actual cashmoney for – but, I promise, it really is worth it. Brothers is a videogame from…I think a decade or so ago, which has just been remastered and released on all the current formats. I don’t want to say much about it, or describe it too closely – all you need to know is that it’s a beautiful puzzle game with gentle-but-rewarding challenges to solve, a genuinely-unique control scheme and, honestly, one of the most astonishing bits of emotional storytelling I have ever experienced in a game, ever (I’m not joking about this – when I first played it I properly gasped out loud at a certain point, and this game made me cry like nothing else I have ever played). It’s about 6 hours long, I think, and £15 or so – which I appreciate might sound like a lot, but this really is a rare and beautiful thing and I promise you it is worth every penny.


By  Mr Bingo



  •  Pixel8or: Looping videos of blurry views from the frontseat of a car at night. Which is, I appreciate, very specific and QUITE NICHE, but I find these mesmerising and could quite happily stare at them for hours right now (God I am so sleepy).


  • Eunice Denise: The feed of Eunice Denise, a designer who makes BEAUTIFUL block-prints from LEGO and whose stuff is so nice and generally charming that it made me almost forget how bad I am at arts and crafts.


  • Some Numbers About AI and Jobs: On the one hand, I know that it’s fcuking boring having me stand here every week and shout about how everything is going to get AI’d into oblivion before we know it; on the other, it is increasingly clear to me that, yes, everything is goingt to be AI’d into oblivion before we know it. While the Klarna news was 80% PR puff, it’s also true that the company has not in the past been shy about declaring its desire to MAXIMISE EFFICIENCIES via the medium of tech – and the main link here takes you to an ‘interesting’ analysis of some job numbers over the past few months which does rather suggest that the impact of all this tech is very much being felt already, despite the fact that it many cases it’s not quite fit for purpose yet. The analysis here tracks the change in listings for ‘actual freelancing jobs from Upwork starting from November 1, 2022 (a month before ChatGPT was released) to February 14, 2024’, offering a reasonable insight into how the market has shifted over time since The Great AI Becoming. Now obviously there’s no definite link between The Machine and the changing quantity of job listings, but equally it’s hard not to draw some causal inference in the fact that job listings for ‘writers’ are down 33%. Perhaps even more interest was the growth in listings for graphic designers and visual artists, but the fact that the average price of the jobs was significantly lower – suggesting that we still need people to mop up The Machine’s messes, but the hourly rate for that is significantly less than it would have been for doing the actual work (on that topic, this is a good read about how artists are currently working alongside the tech, and what it’s doing to their practice and earning power). Look, I promise I will shut up about this soon but I challenge you to click this link and read the numbers and not think ‘oh fcuk’, even if you’re not in the immediate firing line – the societal consequences of this stuff are going to be…crunchy.
  • Bye, Vice:If you want proof of the degree to which Vice was a formative influence on the current UK media landscape you need only look to the number of ‘THEY KILLED MY ALMA MATER’ pieces that have cropped up in their dozens across the web – the main link here takes you to one of the best of them, Curios favourite Clive Martin is as-ever very readable as he harks back to the anarchic 00s where seemingly everyone who is now anyone spent some time necking gak and p1ssing out 300 words on why doing MCat was praxis (or something; my memories are hazy tbh), but if you like you could also read Simon Childs at Novara, Sirin Kale at the Guardian, and my personal favourite pick, Karl Bode at TechDirt – all of these pieces basically say the same thing in a variety of different ways, namely that it was the greed and incompetence of ‘the bosses’ what fcuked everything in the end. Which, yes, fine, but I can’t help but feel disappointed at the wafer-thin analysis here, and the fact that the interrogation stops at ‘bosses’ – fcuk’s sake you lot, I thought you were all supposed to be DEEP LEFTIST THINKERS or at least that you’d grown into a slightly more sophisticated understanding of How This Stuff Works, my point being that saying ‘bosses’ feels like you’re letting the very specific category of ‘Venture Capital’ and ‘Private Equity’ off the hook far too easily. Yes, ok, Shane Smith was a greedy pr1ck, but he alone didn’t kill the golden goose – that’ll be the acquisitive vulture capitalists, thankyouverymuch, so can we possibly have some decent analysis of that specific angle, please?
  • The Rentier Economy, Vulture Capitalism and Ensh1ttification: WARNING: THIS IS VERY VERY LONG AND QUITE DENSE. That said, it’s also SUPER-INTERESTING, and contains some of the best and clearest explanations of why and how private equity ruins everything by design – I can’t pretend this is anything other than a bit of a slog to read in places, but it feels both relevant and important in a year in which we can expect to see the effects of this sort of financial hollowing out writ large across all sorts of different sectors (not to mention that it’s exactly this sort of capital that is going to drive the too-early-adoption of AI as a cost-saving measure wherever possible).
  • 100 Things You Can Do: Look, I’m not here to bully you into DOING STUFF – god knows that I’m hardly a bastion of personal achievement, unless you count spaffing out over a million words onto the web in the past decade (and I really don’t) – but seeing as this is semi-officially THE YEAR OF THE SMALL AND PERSONAL INTERNET I thought you might appreciate this nice list of ideas for personal digital projects that you might want to experiment with should you have a site of your own to build on – and, honestly, why not? Make a website! Experiment! Play! LEAVE A MARK ON THE DIGITAL WORLD BEFORE EVERYTHING GOES TERMINALLY TO SH1T!
  • Gemini & Video: I will definitely stop going on about Google’s AI stuff soon – it feels a bit like I’m doing their PR at the moment, which is deeply unpleasant – but there’s a bunch of interesting stuff that people are learning you can do with the latest Gemini update which are worth being aware of – this blogpost by Simon Willison demonstrates how scarily good The Machine’s ability to parse information from video is, here used to extract the titles from the spines of books featured in a quick few seconds of video. The potential use-cases for this are hugely-interesting, and if you’ve got a massive library of video just sort of sitting there then it’s worth having a think about what fun things you could get The Machine to do with it (if nothing else I can foresee a boom in AI-written novelisations of films, etc – but hopefully you can come up some less spirit-destroyingly soulless use cases).
  • AI & Productivity: If you are interested in – or, for professional reasons, have to feign interest in – the ways in which generative AI can be used in the workplace RIGHT NOW (not to replace people, honest guv, just to make you more ‘efficient’ (lol it is always to sack people)) then you might want to subscribe to this newsletter which is being produced by the Civic AI Observatory,  “an initiative by Nesta and Newspeak House to support civic organisations plan and adapt to the rapidly evolving field of Generative AI. We focus on immediate practical insights on AI for digital leads – case studies of civic applications, examples of digital strategies and organisational policies, and the impact on the job market – as well as developing communities of practice for specific domains.” If you’re the sort of person who slavishly reads ALL THE AI BITS in Curios then this might not tell you anything new, but presuming that the vast majority of you aren’t that particular sort of masochist then you might find this genuinely helpful.
  • Giving The Machine A Body: One of the most interesting areas of enquiry around AI at the moment is the series of questions around the extent to which any concept of AGI can meaningfully exist without any sort of physical embodiment – this piece asks SO MANY INTERESTING QUESTIONS about what happens when you put an LLM inside a physical object, in this case various forms of robotics, and how that changes the way both the LLM and the robot operate, and the extent to which embodiment may or may not lead to a step change in the development of what we might reasonably term ‘understanding’ in The Machine.
  • AI Food and Ghost Kitchens: This one’s been doing the round for a few weeks, but this is a decent summary by 404, which highlights the growing trend of dark kitchen restaurants – a logo, a menu and two minimum wage workers assembling burgers in a darkened shipping container on an industrial estate of the A127 – getting their food imagery generated by AI to save money, and the weird and otherworldly dishes that get advertised as a result. Which is sort-of funny, but also a little troubling if, I don’t know, you’d like to have at least a passing idea of what the fcuk you might be about to order.
  • Ukraine Two Years On: A superb piece in the LRB summarising the current state of the conflict in Ukraine and offering a sobering assessment of the likely direction of travel for the next stages of the conflict. For something so long and so serious this is surprisingly readable and, as ever with James Meek, superbly-written – it also does a really good job of explaining the state of play to someone, like me, whose appetite for reading daily frontline dispatches is pretty much zero. It’s quite hard to read stuff like this and imagine anything other an evential Russian victory, by attrition if nothing else: “Modern armies are organised in a pyramid of units: several soldiers make a fireteam, several fireteams make a section, several sections make a platoon, several platoons make a company, several companies make a battalion, several battalions make a brigade, several brigades make a division, several divisions make a corps. But at every level, specialists and managers should swell the numbers: planners, administrators, gunners, missile and drone operators, medics. It’s here that a potentially fatal gap has opened up. To use a civilian analogy, the Ukrainian army is like a mid-sized construction company that has spent ten years building rural housing estates, then expands overnight into building cities, massively increasing the number of labourers, but without adding town planners, architects or engineers.”
  • Luxury Beliefs Don’t Exist: You may over the past few years have heard some of the world’s worst people using the term ‘luxury beliefs’ – things that rich people can afford to care about that disproportionately fcuk poorer people, things like drug decriminalisation or trans rights, that type of thing. This is a patient, coherent and well-structured article that neatly explains, point-by-point, why these arguments are disingenuous and don’t really make sense – I’m including this not because I think any of you need convincing, but because I thought it was a really good example of how to rebut a series of lines of argument, and a nice bit of philosophical reasoning which is unusually-user-friendly and nowhere near as self-satisfied as the vast majority of philosophy writing is.
  • Smoggy Delivery: A brilliant – and shocking – investigation by Rest of World which saw the publication fitting driving gig workers in a selection of cities across South Asia with air pollution sensors as they went about their daily tasks, monitoring particulate and pollution levels the riders are exposed to and finding that, in cities like Lahore, New Delhi and Dhaka, workers are breathing air that is killing them, all the time. It’s not entirely surprising – after all, ‘cities in South Asia are insanely polluted’ is not new news – but the extent of this is jaw-dropping. “The data revealed that all three workers were routinely exposed to hazardous levels of pollutants. For PM2.5, referring to particulates that are 2.5 micrometers in diameter or less — which have been linked to health risks including heart attacks and strokes — all riders were consistently logging exposure levels more than 10 times the World Health Organization’s recommended daily average of 15 micrograms per cubic meter. Manu Sharma, in New Delhi, recorded the highest PM2.5 level of the three riders, hitting 468.3 micrograms per cubic meter around 6 p.m. Lahore was a close second, with Iqbal recording 464.2 micrograms per cubic meter around the same time.” Still, THINK OF THE HOCKEYSTICK REVENUE CURVES!
  • How The Rich Breathe: As a neat counterpoint to the above piece, here’s the other end of the wealth/life expectancy spectrum – this piece looks at the increasingly-elaborate air filtration systems being installed in apartments worldwide by the super, super rich, because why would you want to breathe pleb air when instead you can have every cubic centilitre filtered thirty times and imbued with the gentle scent of ylang ylang (probably)? This is totally linked to the mad ‘I want to live forever’ movement – there is something SO unpleasantly, horribly dystopian scifi about the contrast between this stuff and the gig drivers that were I reading this in a draft novel or script I would probably make some scribbled margin notes to the effect that it’s all a bit on-the-nose – AND YET HERE WE ARE!
  • Airfoils: Probably the best creator of interactive digital explainery things in the world right now (look, it’s a hotly-contested category, don’t look at me like that), the incredibly-talented Bartosz Ciechanowski has made another of his long, involving and utterly brilliant explainer articles, this time attempting to demystify the frankly-baffling miracle of flight to the payperson; specifically, how airflow and the shape of a plane’s wings allow the craft to take to the air. Honestly, I can’t stress enough how incredible this is – it’s clearly-written (and I say this as someone who is borderline-subnormal when it comes to their ability to understand physics beyond very basic principles like ‘gravity’), it’s *interesting*, it’s even occasionally gently-amusing, and all the interactive bits are SO clear and so well-made and so satisfying – honestly, I am slightly amazed that the New York Times hasn’t offered this man a ‘name your own price’ deal to be head of interactive, he really is that talented. BONUS INTERACTIVE SCROLLYTHING!: this is the SECOND best interactive graphical explainer thingy of the week, in the Financial Times, all about microchips, and it is also very good indeed (but Bartosz wins because he is just one bloke).
  • Meet The Family: I didn’t want to include this, I really didn’t, but since reading it my mind has kept coming back to it – not because it is particularly interesting, or funny, or smart, or well-written, but because it is one of the few things that I have ever read that have made me think ‘actually, you know what, there are people out there who are more online than I am and I think they might be genuinely unwell’. This is the first paragraph – I can assure you it doesn’t get any less terminally-online from hereon in. Please can one of you attempt to come up with some sort of comms campaign or brand framework using this, and present it with a straight face? Come on, it’ll be funny (until you look up and see everyone nodding): “First, the Internet made Daddy. He was strapping and benevolent, and he looked out on his kingdom from the eyes of Pedro Pascal, Oscar Isaac, and Idris Elba. Then it made Mother — a taciturn goddess in human form, inclined to take the shapes of Cate Blanchett and Greta Lee — and rather than standing by Daddy’s side, she soon upstaged him. (She couldn’t help it: She was born to slay.) When Babygirl came in the shapes of Paul Mescal and Cillian Murphy, they proved happy to follow in their parents’ footsteps, with a youthful gait slowed by melancholy. And finally, the 30-Year-Old Teenage Girl arrived, little bows already fastened to her hair. She kept her distance from the others, awestruck and unbearably horny for them.”
  • Localising Like A Dragon: A lovely article about the unique challenge in translating a videogame – specifically the latest iteration of the Japanese ‘Yakuza’ franchise (now called ‘Like A Dragon’), a series of games which can best be described as ‘very, very Japanese’ and which feature all sorts of very culturally-specific gags and references which give each game it character and which must be an absolute bgger to render in English. This is a charming read for anyone interested in language and translation – and, as an aside, I can’t recommend the latest LAD game enough, it is genuinely charming and even someone as miserably cynical and sad inside as me has been thoroughly won over by it; seriously, it makes me SMILE and you honestly have no idea how fcuking hard that is these days.
  • The Sierra Network: A rare example of AN OLD ARTICLE now – ordinarily Curios only brings you the freshest ish (internet/race, etc etc) but I happened to stumble across this piece from 2018 this week and it is SO INTERESTING (er, if you’re interested in the history of the web and online communities and gaming on the web) – it’s the story of how US gaming company Sierra basically invented mass-market online gaming in the 1990s, and what’s perhaps most remarkable about this (other than the fact it’s all so long ago) is how much of the experience and what they were trying to do has, albeit three decades on, basically become reality.
  • Utter Filth: A reader writes! From John Ohno “Since you covered Smitten in this issue, it reminded me of a similar project I did for NaNoGenMo back in 2015 for a very different purpose: to produce a novel-length sex scene that is as silly and gross as possible (using a large collection of unusual euphemisms). Here’s the output I generated back the; the actual code is in a template language called GG that I invented, but if I were doing it today I’d probably just use tracery. People who are interested in just seeing the euphemisms out of context can check out the source code:” This is a quite dizzying procession of filth, varyingly nonsensical, disgusting, disturbing and weird, and the very definition of ‘a challenging w4nk’ (should you succeed, please don’t feel the need to inform me).
  • Hanging With The Trumpettes: I appreciate that as we inch closer to November and the possibility of That Fcuking Man getting into the White House again becomes ever more likely (after last time I am making NO PREDICTIONS) the whole ridiculous Trumpian circus will become significantly less funny…but right now it’s still far enough away that I was able to laugh (a lot) at this superb piece in the FT, by Jemima Kelly, in which she spends some time with the Trump fans at Mar A Lago – the miserable dark heart of this, for me at least, was the extent to which none of the people here have to care one iota about the consequences of their vote.
  • Brighter Than A Cloud: I’ve been lucky enough to never have experienced a migraine and as such I simply have no frame of reference for the sensations described in this article, but I found the descriptions and depictions here of what it’s like to experience the condition simultaneously beautiful and horrifying, and they had the very peculiar and not-entirely-pleasant effect of making me be VERY AWARE of my brain and skull and eyes when reading, which you may or may not think of as a positive. Anyway, this is a fascinating and extremely-well-written piece about how migraines are rendered in art, and the opening para gives you a good feel for the style here: “How to describe a scintillating scotoma? It’s one of the most common symptoms of a migraine, but unless you’ve had one, it sounds unreal. A scintillating scotoma is like a barbed ripple in the pool of sight. It’s a skeletal Magic Eye raised up from the flatness of the world. It’s a glare on the tarmac as you drive West at sunset on a rain-slick freeway—only when you turn your head, it’s still there, so you have to pull over, close your eyes, and wait out the slow-motion firework working its way across your brain.”
  • Meeting The Whales: Our second cephalopodic link of the week! This is WONDERFUL – honestly, I didn’t think I wanted to read a very long bit of speculative writing about what it might be like if humanity developed the ability to communicate with whales, but this is FASCINATING and clever and touches on so many interesting topics (language! The mind/body distinction! Animals and their relationship to us! The very nature of ‘intelligence’!) and is weirdly heartwarming in ways I can’t quite explain.
  • Generation Gap: This is by Sarah Moss, it is only three paragraphs long and I think it might be perfect. I mean it.
  • My Good Friend: Finally this week, a gorgeous short story (not so short) by Brazilian writer Juliana Leite – this is about friendship and life and family and secrets and all the good stuff, and it has that very specific tonal lightness that I associate with (well-translated) South American fiction, and this is, honestly, like taking a small soul bath.

By Mark Badger


Webcurios 23/02/24

Reading Time: 36 minutes

Gah! I have a call in 24 minutes and I am still in my pants and need to wash! Gah!

Apologies, you didn’t need that image – but then again, none of us needed the sight of our elected representatives competing to see who could demonstrate the most nakedly-self-serving and venal behaviour while ostensibly pretending to give a fcuk about the deaths of thousands of people, and yet we all got that anyway, so frankly you can quit your whinging and be grateful for the links and the absence of my sub-Marina-Hyde ‘satire’ in the upfront.

[NB – non-English people, I promise it gets less obscenely-parochial in a few short paragraphs, don’t worry]

I am still Matt, this is still Web Curios, and you’re probably wondering how the everliving fcuk venture capital keeps getting away with this sh1t and if I’m honest I am wondering that too.

By Julia Maiuri



  • Laika13: Do you have kids? Great! I hope the fact that you’ve condemned at least one other person, possibly more, to THIS FCUKING EXPERIENCE is one that you’re comfortable with, and you can sleep at night! Anyway, if you do and if they are of a certain age then you will almost certainly have grappled with, or be feeling guilty about, the question of whether kids should have unfettered access to smartphones and social media, and What Exactly All This Screen Stuff Is Doing To Young Minds – very much something that’s front of mind and media in the UK after the murder of Brianna Ghey and the subsequent conviction of the two kids who killed her, and an issue that’s been front-and-centre in the UK press (the same UK press which is, oddly, seemingly unwilling to question the extent to which its…occasionally questionable coverage might have in some way contributed to the murder of a trans kid)…you don’t, obviously, need my opinion on this, and so I’m not going to give it to you, but I figured you might be interested in this project which is both ‘semi-interesting bit of social commentary/AI experimentation’ and ‘one of the weirder bits of digital promo for an insurance company I’ve ever seen’. Laika13 is a project which ‘imagines’ (though looking around, you don’t really have to imagine) what a 13 year old kid raised exclusively on a diet of social media and ONLINE LIFE might be like – and then creates a chatbot of said kid, which journalists and interested parties can request access to, so they can see what sort of a MONSTER results from this sort of ‘raised by digital wolves’ upbringing. “Laika is an AI teenager raised solely on social media. Her personality, ideals, and opinions are 100 % shaped by the content and climate of popular digital platforms. Through her, we can observe and understand the potential risks of consuming too much social media, without exposing real kids. Laika is used for mental health research and education. For ethical reasons, Laika isn’t available to everyone. However, researchers, educators, and journalists can request to chat with her. Laika gets her knowledge from social media and may therefore exhibit controversial or harmful opinions spread on the platforms. Länsförsäkringar and the parties involved distance themselves from Laika’s views and values.” This is SO ODD – the fact that they have bothered to make this but then limited access to it to journalists who, unless the media in Sweden works VERY differently, strike me as being unlikely to be hugely-interested in a rudimentary chatbot modeled on a stroppy teen, and I simply don’t understand how this promotes an insurance company (do they offer a policy that hedges against the possibility that your kid becomes a TikTok-addled shut-in? I am guessing they do not), and I don’t know what it’s trying to prove or demonstrate…Still, for MILLIONS OF JOURNALISTS who I know read Web Curios every week, why not take a look? If you can get past the incredibly-weird ‘it’s PR for an insurance company!’ angle you might be able to eke a commission out of this.
  • Unganisha: A bit of a pivot now, and what I hope is a pleasing antidote to all of the general digital disquiet which runs through the rest of Curios – animals! Nature! The gentle sound of the wind caressing the savannah! Unganisha is, as far as I can tell (sorry, the site’s in German and hence I’m relying on Google translate and my cursory skimming of the copy) a WWF conservation initiative taking place across Kenya and Tanzania, and this site collects information and video from the various initiatives across both countries and their borders, and the website effectively exists as an overview of the project, its scope aims and achievements…ordinarily, if I’m honest, I tend to be left a little cold by this stuff – partly because I’m joyless, partly because it’s hard to get a true appreciation of the majesty of the African plain and the wildlife and the light and sense of space when you’re sitting in a small, slightly dark flat in a part of London so far North it’s practically-Scotland, but I really enjoyed this site, which is beautifully designed and really slickly-made, combining video, photos, 3d map data to tell the story of the conservation work in unusually-rich fashion.
  • Smitten Stories: Occasionally I get emails from people which make this whole, pointless, pyrrhic endeavour almost worthwhile (note the ‘almost’) – so it was this week, when I opened my Special Curios Inbox and found a message from one Shivani Gorle, who wrote: “A little something to perhaps feature in Web Curios: we (a culture writer and coder couple) built an erotic story generator over the weekend where you can create custom kinky stories featuring you and your lover (or anyone!) Smitten is our attempt to see how AI can improve intimacy, aid personal expression and offer a no-judgment space for sexual fantasies.All you have to do is input your prompts on characters, setting and action, and you can be as explicit as you want to be.” HOW DO I LOVE THIS LET ME COUNT THE WAYS!!! Firstly, anything at the confluence of ‘slightly-shonky experimental digital stuff’ and ‘bongo’ is very much my vibe; secondly, there is something SO PLEASING about knowing that in some small way this newsletter has found THE PERFECT AUDIENCE whereby people tell me about stuff like this – THANKYOU! Anyway, I did as asked and gave this a go – in the spirit of enquiry, I gave it a…er…*variety* of different scenarios and combination of types of mucus membrane to smush together, and…you know what, it wasn’t bad! I mean, look, full disclosure, I personally can’t quite get beyond the fact that the words here are just probabilitysmushed by The Machine and as such it’s not likely to ever going to form part of my erotic life (ask me again in a few years when I’ve been single for a while and have forgotten what the touch of another human is like) (also, sincere apologies for introducing the concept of the authorial ‘erotic life’ to the Curios experience, never again I promise), but the filth it generates is…genuinely-filthy, and it is good at picking out the specific kinks and scenarios you specify, and, honestly, I LOVE THE FACT THAT THIS EXISTS! Please give it a try – if nothing else you can use it to create explicit fanfic featuring literally anyone you know doing anything you want them to, so why not give that a try and send your friends a bespoke bongo story ALL ABOUT THEM (please under no circumstances do this unless your friends are a significantly more forgiving bunch than I would be in those circumstances).
  • Ergoquest: As the Vision Pro hype starts to stabilise slightly, I’m starting to see videos of people using them where they basically just sort of lie catatonically, supported by a mountain of pillows and cushions as they try and find an optimal position in which they can sit for two hours straight with a telly strapped to their face without creating significant lumbar problems for themselves. A combination of VR tech and the continued promise/threat of THE METAVERSE (it hasn’t gone away, you know) means that there’s definitely a market for the sort of computer setup that will make it comfortable for people to sit for hours with some not-insignificant hardware attached to them, which is where the frankly-bonkers offerings at Ergoquest come in – I don’t really want to describe these too much, but instead urge you to click right in and look at the photos (and the pricing!) and then take a moment to imagine a) how big your house would need to be to fit one of these fcuking things in it in the first place; b) exactly how your partner, whoever they might be, would react were you to suggest that you might want to invest in one of these for the study. These are partly marketed as a solution for people with severe back issues and the like, which is obviously a fine and reasonable market to serve, but I remain convinced that they sell the vast majority of these to middle-aged men who were influenced a bit too much by The Lawnmower Man 30 years ago.
  • Practice Interview: Another week, another raft of ‘not going to exist in a year or so’ speculative AI-based startups, building a service layer on top of someone else’s tech stack and, presumably, hoping to make it rich or cash out before the bottom falls out of all these things entirely. This one is a nice use-case for the tech – Practice Interview, as you might expect, lets you, er, practice a job interview with an AI, chatting to it like you would AN ACTUAL PERSON and then being rated on your performance and responses to questions. I wouldn’t, obviously, suggest that you use this – it’s a desperate attempt to charge money for something you could literally hook up yourself for free with a tiny bit of effort – but it’s a decent example of a genuinely-useful usecase for this sort of thing (just feed the GPT app your job spec, then get it to ask you interview questions and grade your answers) and yet another example of simple-but-potentially-fun things you can do with this stuff beyond ‘making terrible images and unfunny copy’.
  • Kin: We’re all going to get digital twins or assistants, aren’t we? Not soon, obviously, but it strikes me that there are a significant (and likely to grow) number of positive (oh, ok, ‘positive’) use-cases for the idea of having a digital representation of yourself which can be used for, I don’t know, the completion of mundane online tasks (‘task your digital twin with doing your tax return – it has the legal right!’, etc etc). Anyway, while we wait for that sort of mildly-disquieting future to manifest itself (hang on, have I just manifested something? IS THIS HOW IT WORKS?) we have ‘Kin’, a prototypical and mildly-unsettling (to me at least) product which effectively offers itself up as your AI emotional support coach – you talk to it, you tell it about your life, and it is ALWAYS THERE to offer you support and guidance and counsel (whether or not it makes sense to entrust any aspect of your life to the probabilistic burblings of a jumped-up Casio is as-yet uncertain). The big gimmick, per the site, is PRIVACY – Kin promises everything is local and it never stores your data, and that as such you should feel comfortable telling it EVERYTHING – the site is significantly less forthcoming on any useful, practical details like ‘how the fcuk does this work?’ and ‘what is it built and trained on?’, but, well, who needs to know stuff like that? This is still pre-alpha, but you can sign up to the waiting list if you so desire – interestingly, if you do so, it asks you what about the service appeals – the first two options are something like ‘never judges me’ and ‘always listens’, which is both heartbreaking and I think a neat encapsulation of the sorts of people who are going to see themselves exploited left, right and centre by companies attempting to sell them solutions to their perceived social problems. I know, by the way, that I am fcuking boring on this, but can I once again take a moment to tap the ‘HOW FCUKING WEIRD IS IT GOING TO BE WHEN EVERYONE IS ASKING A MYSTERIOUS DIGITAL COMPANION ON THEIR PHONE FOR ADVICE AND EVERYONE HAS A DIFFERENT ONE AND NOONE KNOWS WHICH ONE ANOTHER PERSON HAS OR WHAT THEIR MYSTERIOUS DIGITAL COMPANION IS TELLING THEM TO THINK OR DO? VERY FCUKING WEIRD INDEED!’ sign.
  • Samurai: One of the great defining features of our age, I think, is the rise of the ‘hack’ – the shortcut, the ‘cheat’s way’, the ‘secret trick that noone’s telling you about that allows you to skip the queue/effort/entry requirements for X and will grant you access to the secret club full of the pretty and rich and successful that you’ve always known existed!’ – and Samurai is kind of an ur-expression of that. “LEARN MORE BY READING LESS!” screams the miserable tagline, and that’s the premise here – it’s an AI-powered summarisation tool which basically combines those ‘read it later’ apps with the sort of joyless, functional misery of the sort of services that existed in the 80s which offered to sell you summaries of the world’s best business books as two-page pamphlets that told you ‘ALL YOU NEED TO KNOW’. One the one hand, this is sort-of funny; on the other, a combination of the terrifying infodensity of the now and the even-more-terrifying infodensity of tomorrow, and the human race’s seeming wish to just sort of ‘phase out’ the written word by 2045, means I can see this sort of thing becoming pretty ubiquitous pretty soon. Anyway, given the fact that YOU are currently engaged in skim-reading a weekly 9,000 word newsletterblogtypething about ‘stuff on the internet’ I’m going to guess that you’re perhaps less bothered by reading and prolixity than Samurai’s target audience might be – otherwise, though, sign up for the waitlist and know that I think less of you.
  • The Dirty Protest: When was the last time an online petition made a blind bit of difference to anything? OH THAT IS RIGHT IT NEVER HAS! Honestly, one of my biggest bugbears in campaigning is when people spend time, money and resources on collecting signatures online – THESE THINGS ARE NEVER BINDING! NOONE HAS DO DO ANYTHING, EVER, JUST BECAUSE SOME PEOPLE PUT THEIR NAMES ON A WEBSITE! Still, I shouldn’t be mean – this is a GOOD PROJECT and a GOOD CAUSE, and timely and zeitgeisty what with UK comedian Joe Lycett having recently done a TV show pointing out that the UK’s waterways are increasingly full of sh1t. Should you wish to protest about this, I would suggest first and foremost stopping paying your water bills – they’re not legally allowed to cut you off! – on the grounds that the companies are not in fact providing the services that we are paying for (I personally think you could make it annoying enough for them to leave you alone, but, equally, I am not a lawyer and you should probably not take my advice on this!), but you could also sign this online petition against the despoiling of the global water table which, in a CLEVER CREATIVE TWIST, will have every name on it physically printed out using ink that contains actual sewage. DO YOU SEE? DO YOU SEE WHAT THEY HAVE DONE?!?! Once it reaches 1m signatories it will be taken to the European Parliament – I, er, have my doubts that that is going to happen, but put your name down in the hope that you can contribute to a large roll of (hopefully-recycled) dried woodpulp can be roundly ignored by Brussels in a few months’ time.
  • Giga: A small, palette-cleansing browsergame made for O2 in France – it’s basically ‘Tempest’, and it’s approximately as challenging as blinking, but it’s VERY FAST which makes it a fun distraction for about 5 minutes while you wait for the kettle to boil.
  • Online Rulers: A big caveat to this – I HAVE NOT TRIED IT AND I HAVE NO IDEA IF IT IS ACCURATE. Still, I very much like the slightly-odd digital/analogue nature of this, which is a website designed to basically turn your phone into an accurate ruler for measuring and marking. NB – Web Curios accepts no responsibility for any death, injury or significant structural damage that results from using this.
  • The TikTok Short Film Competition: Now in its third year, TikTok is once again running a contest for filmmakers on the platform – this year’s it’s opened up to North America too, so RIP the number of entries, but if you fancy competing against THE WORLD to see who’s the best at making short films (according to whoever’s judging this) then you might find this interesting. This all ends up with the winning entries (across directing, script and overall best short categories) going to Cannes (no, lol, the GOOD Cannes!), which is admittedly pretty cool.
  • 84-24: Are you one of those people for whom Macintosh products were and have always been PART OF WHO YOU ARE, even when they were beige and uncool and confusing (‘what are these weird computers with the even weirder mouses and the terrible graphics, and WHY ARE THERE NO GAMES ON THEM?) and who has a tattoo of the logo and that sort of thing? GET ANOTHER FCUKING OBSESSION THEY ARE JUST MACHINES! Ahem. But, also, you will probably adore this genuinely-beautifully-made site which basically celebrates an old Apple and the process of restoring it. Such nice webwork, lovely scrolly animations and a real sense of passion for the kit and the project make this a charming little site. Made by one Michele Giorgi, who’s obviously very good at this stuff.
  • A Year of Cartier: Ordinarily when I feature luxe websites in here – certainly in recent years, at least – it’s been to laugh at them, to point and prod and their odd metaversal ambitions and to question why exactly spending all of 80 seconds in a poorly-designed, shonkily-rendered representation of a CREATIVE ATELIER would be likely to induce me to drop five figures on a handbag. BUT! I confess to…actually quite liking this site by Cartier, which highlights a bunch of projects that the house undertook last year and which, honestly, is…really interesting. I say this as someone who is down to his last two pairs of trousers (the others have too many holes in them to be viable without arrest) and who last looked in the mirror on Tuesday and whose approach to fashion, design and style might best be described as ‘frightened and suspicious’, but there’s loads of genuinely quite cool insight into the design and manufacturing process over several dozen different areas of the brand’s work, and there’s something nice and gentle and…elegant about the design, and, unusually for these sorts of things, there’s actually quite a lot to explore, and at no point did it feel like I was about to be shaken down for a £600 keyring at any point. WELL DONE, LUXE WEBMONGS!
  • Robin Rendle: Robin Rendle is a web designer and writer from the UK, who apparently now lives in San Francisco (I am not stalking him – it literally says this on the landing page of this site). This is his personal website, which is presented as a series of cards and I LOVE THIS AND I WANT MORE SITES BUILT ON THIS PRINCIPAL PLEASE. Oh, and seeing as we’re here, BONUS IMPRESSIVE PERSONAL WEBSITE!: this is a gorgeous little 3d environment by Mike Fernandez, where you can explore his career to date by wandering around a little mediaeval townscape (though be warned, I did get stuck on the well and have to reload).
  • Inheritance: It’s been far too long since I’ve had cause to feature a good ‘interactive documentary website thing’, so I was thrilled to find this this week (and surprised to discover it wasn’t, for a change, made by NFB Canada, who for 10+ years have been the undisputed champions of this sort of medium) – obviously you’re free to approach Curios however you like, and I’d never be so gauche as to suggest what you should choose to click on, but can I make a special request that you take 10 minutes at check this out? It really is gorgeous – it’s a companion piece to a series of documentaries about the Lockerbie bombing of the 80s, and focuses on the memories left behind by Ken Dornstein’s brother David who was killed in the attack, and it uses old objects and memories and voice over and video and it is, honestly, really really beautiful.

By Asger Carlsen 



  • The Dark Forest Anthology of the Internet: A caveat here – this is a physical book, which you have to order and pay for, and I have not yet done that and as such I have no idea if it is any good or not. BUT! I am on the mailing list for it for some reason (GDPR be damned!) and it features work by all sorts of people whose writing and thinking I have featured here over the years and who are all loosely sort-of affiliated with the wider “‘small/tiny/cosy/insert your own twee signifier here’ web” movement, and the description – “This is a book about how to survive on the internet. It’s about the cozy web, the dark web, the dark forest, the clear net, the dark net, and a new social world emerging around us. This is the Dark Forest Anthology of the Internet.” – really interested me. It features a selection of essays and thinking about the web and where it goes and what it is and what it was, and if you’re interested in the (admittedly quite w4nky) questions of ‘whither the web and the people on it in the mad uncertain days of AI and post-social media?’ then you might well think spending £30 on this limited edition tome might be worthwhile.
  • Netflix En France: For those less linguistically-blessed than I am, that means ‘Netflix in France’ – you’re welcome! While it may be clear to everyone that we have come to an end of a specific era in media, specifically the end of the era of ‘free money’ (but sadly, I fear, not the end of the era of ‘genuinely terrible morons sitting at the top of these companies and making awful decisions’), noone appears to have told the people behind this excellent, lavish and sort of magically-pointless bit of webwork for Netflix France, which basically seems to exist as a sop to the French government and tourist board for letting the company film shows within their borders. This is, basically, a bunch of not-particularly-in-depth ‘tourism guide’-type content, all themed around various French Netflix shows that have been shot in France, featuring GORGEOUS video and basically showing all these gorgeous locations off to their very best – still, if you’ve been really getting into, I don’t know, “Lupin X Marie Antoinette” (I don’t have Netflix and know nothing about any of its French shows, can you tell?) and want to plan a journey based on ICONIC SCENES from the programme then, well, ENJOY!
  • Password Basket: Shamelessly lifted from last week’s B3ta, this is a genuinely brilliant little game which helps you generate a new, secure password each time you need one, and which is so good it ought to be bought wholesale by AN Other online security business looking for some easy promo. Look, I know that there is at least one person reading this who works in a skullfcukingly-tedious branch of comms and who has been waiting YEARS for me to feature something in Curios that’s appropriate for creative thievery – NOW IS YOUR MOMENT!
  • Oops Busted: IMPORTANT CAVEAT TO THIS LINK: I am posting this here because I am reasonably-confident that noone reading this is actually going to use it. Please do not use it. ANYWAY, now we’ve got that out of the way, welcome to what I am 100% convinced is the most morally-bankrupt link of the week – I’m going to hand over the description here to the devs, from a Reddit post: “OopsBusted is a unique digital platform designed for those curious or concerned about their partner’s activity on dating apps. In an age where online dating is ubiquitous and the lines of fidelity can sometimes blur, we provide a discreet and efficient way to uncover the truth. How does it work? Simple! You provide the name and location of the person you’re curious about, and our platform does a sweep of popular dating apps to see if they have a profile. Think of it as a helpful tool to either quell your fears or confirm your suspicions—all done discreetly and respectfully. But OopsBusted isn’t just a tool; it’s a community. We’re here to discuss everything from relationship advice and digital dating trends to ethical considerations when using technology in our personal lives.” Take a moment to consider that, and think about the implications – a service that lets you provide a subject’s name AND PHOTOGRAPH, and which uses that information to stalk them across dating sites…you can see how that’s perhaps not ENTIRELY safe? I am genuinely astonished that this exists – the only silver lining is that I have strong suspicions that the ‘AI tech’ under the hood here is largely rubbish and won’t work, given I imagine all the dating apps have reasonable guardrails to prevent exactly this sort of thing from working, but, honestly, this is literally a ‘want to stalk anyone in the world and harass them with ‘romantic’ proposals? GREAT!’ service, and that doesn’t really feel ok. In the unlikely event that you happen to work for any of the major dating apps can you please reassure me that this is just a scam to con stalkers and potential-rapists out of cash? Thanks.
  • Don’t Look Down: A subReddit dedicated to sharing videos and photos of VERY HIGH PLACES. I am not particularly afraid of heights – per Sir Terry, it’s the grounds that kill you – but when I found this the other day there was a video on the top of the page that featured two people jumping off a waterfall a la Butch Cassidy and they jumped and the angle panned down…and down…and down…and they kept falling, and basically my stomach ended up somewhere underneath Bounds Green tube. It’s ALL like that, so, well, enjoy!
  • 38 North: Are YOU fascinated by North Korea? Are YOU anxious to keep up with Kuddly Kim and his Krazy Kapers? Well you may well enjoy 38 North, in that case, a site seemingly dedicated to ALL THINGS North Korean (from a ‘what are they up to?’ point of view rather than a ‘wow, look at the kooky dictatorship!’ perspective) and which might be useful if for whatever reason you need to have a vague idea about how long it’s going to be til the world’s most famously-mad regime has another conniption.
  • Flirt WIth Emma: Earlier this week this app was called ‘Flirt with Los’ – now it’s called ‘Flirt with Emma’ – I think, though, the premise is the same, a sort of art-game-app-thing, which plays on the general concept of the online dating app by giving users the opportunity to date ‘Los’ (and now ‘Emma’), which basically amounts to a few limited interactions each day where you can send messages to a static image of this stranger…and that’s sort-of it, except there’s a real person behind this (maybe even two) as you can read in this article explaining a bit about the project, and I think it might be a bit more interesting and involved than it otherwise looks.
  • My Boyfriend: Would YOU like to contribute to the next edition of a magazine featuring writing from new and emergent writers? GREAT! My Boyfriend is a seemingly-ongoing project which will in each edition solicit submissions on a single theme or topic – next up is “My Boyfriend Is A Virgin. Send us short stories and poems which interpret the theme of “virginity” either in the literal or abstract. We especially appreciate absurd, voicey, and experimental works. For this issue, we are not looking for pieces that explicitly reference the mag’s name or that contain a boyfriend character. 1500 word limit. Deadline April 15.” Sound interesting? GO!
  • Join The Mars Living Experiment: OK, before you get too excited I feel compelled to tell you that this opportunity is only open to US nationals what with it being a NASA initiative – still, for the two of you reading this on the other side of the Atlantic WHAT AN OPPORTUNITY THIS IS! “Crew Health and Performance Exploration Analog (CHAPEA) is a series of analog missions that will simulate year-long stays on the surface of Mars. Each mission will consist of four crew members living in Mars Dune Alpha, an isolated 1,700 square foot habitat. During the mission, the crew will conduct simulated spacewalks and provide data on a variety of factors, which may include physical and behavioral health and performance” – and they are now accepting applications! Look, you may have things like ‘a family’ or ‘commitments’, but the next programme doesn’t start until next year so you’ve loads of time before that to divest yourself of any and all responsibilities so you can go and live in a simulated hostile environment for a year, drinking distillate of your own p1ss and eating powdered icecream (probably).
  • TrudyTube: I’m always something of a sucker for personal quantification projects, particularly when combined with nice design and visualisation – this is a site in which someone called (I presume) Trudy maps all the songs she listens to, when she listens to them and the context in which she’s so doing, and I LOVE IT IT IS WONDERFUL, like a sort of emotional audio relief map of the day – you can hover over the tracks to hear them, click them to be taken to the whole song, explore the changing patterns over different days…honestly, the only way this could possibly be improved is if there were a geo layer over the top so you could see whether / how geography affects style/vibe of song, but I appreciate that there are very good privacy and safety reasons for ignoring this request entirely. Anyway, this is GREAT and I would really like someone at Spotify to read this and request it as a product feature please (LUKE THIS IS FOR YOU).
  • The 2024 Webring: This feels like it will be a link that will neatly divide the readership between THE OLD, for whom the concept of a webring is familiar and comforting and oddly-Proustian, and THE YOUNG, for whom it will ins…actually, no, hang on, there is no way in hell that ANYONE reading this fcuking thing is under 30, so let’s assume that we all know what a ‘webring’ is and move on. “This website contains links to 13 single serving sites, connected as a webring. The websites take their starting points in Wikipedia articles linking to the Artificial intelligence page. Next to each link, there is a link to a promotional or explanatory TikTok. The SSS:s were made in February 2024 by the first year students in the Interactive design course at the Visual Communication program at Beckmans Collage of Design in Stockholm, Sweden. The course is supervised by senior lecturer Peter Ström.” SO MANY FUN LITTLE WEBSITES! I honestly think there’s something rather lovely – and due a sort-of reappraisal or comeback – about the idea of the webring, a small, tightly-curated network of interest-connected people or pages, free of algorithmic mediation, a sort of digital desire path through websites…does this make sense or am I just w4nking on? It’s the latter, isn’t it?
  • The Best Videos Of The Year: Or at least, the ones Vimeo selected as the best videos of last year. A couple of these I had seen before (a couple were featured in Curios, I AM SUCH A GOOD CURATOR LOVE ME ACKNOWLEDGE MY SUPREMACY), but most were new to me, and there’s a nice mixture of animation, documentary, music video and short film to explore for the visophiles (is that a term? It ought to be) among you.
  • Alps Roads: After last week’s links to that twisty roads website, here we are with yet ANOTHER link for the mesh-driving-glove-owners (I may mock you, but also I spoil you – feel the push/pull of the abusive relationship!) – DO YOU LIKE ROADS? I am going to suggest that however deep your love for tarmacadam runs it runs nowhere near as deep as that felt by the administrator and owner of this singular site, dedicated to chronicling all the roads that this person has ever visited (I am not, I don’t think, exaggerating). You want photos of minor trunk roads in Nevada? GREAT! Want some inexplicably-blurry photos of some road signs in Saudi? Er, why? BUT GREAT, HERE YOU ARE! Anyway, I love the fact that this person really enjoys roads and wants to celebrate them via the medium of an increasingly-sprawling single-focus web presence, so well done, anonymous road enthusiast,.
  • Clove Garden Recipes: One of the great complaints of the modern age – no, not that one. Or that one – is the weird effect SEO has had on online recipes and the way it’s led to food blogs being cluttered messes of personal writing when all the hungry, lazy chef wants is THE FCUKING RECIPE (but, equally, if you employ one of those ‘just give me the recipe’ Chrome extensions then you’re the monster – look, I don’t make the rules here, that’s just how we’ve decided things work). Clove Garden is a VERY old website which has seemingly been around since…2004, I think? Anyway, I think it spun out of a general sort of health/wellness interest (I am a bit scared to click on the ‘philosophy’ section in case it turns out to be a haven of weird fashiness tbqhwy) but the main draw here is the ‘Recipes’ section which features over 1000 different dishes and…THEY ARE JUST RECIPES! No anecdotes, no chat, just ingredients and method. It’s obviously important to caveat this in a few ways – firstly I have no idea if any of these are any good; secondly, it’s an American site which means that all the recipes in question use their preposterous measurement conventions (‘CUPS’ IS NOT A PROPER MEASUREMENT FFS); thirdly, it’s an American site which means that I can’t promise that half the recipes won’t be ‘a cup-a-soup and a block of velveeta’. Still, er, ENJOY!
  • The Google Blobs: Back in the day I remember feeling a genuine sense of…minor shame? Christ, how pathetic…but, anyway, yes, minor shame at how rubbish the Google emoji on my crappy Android phone were compared to the LOVELY AND SHINY Applemoji on other people’s iPhones. I’ve since come to terms with my own pathetic device-based status anxiety, and with the Google Blob emoji style, and I got a proper small nostalgiapang when I found this site, which collects the original designs and animations and makes them available for use in Discord. BRING BACK THE BLOBS, basically.
  • Matchonix: A fun little ‘match three shapes’ game with a couple of nice twists and a semi-realtime angle that makes individual matches short and snappy rather than an infinite timesink.
  • Flip: Another tiny game made in V Buckenham’s forthcoming ‘Downpour’ tiny game engine, this is an excellent example of the sort of small, silly, pointless things that I am excited to see people making with the kit. Can you get 10 ‘heads’ in a row when flipping a coin? CAN YOU??? This is obviously very silly and pointless, but it’s also annoyingly really fcuking compelling – it’s also a nice illustration of the simple way in which Downpour will let you combine elements, and I am genuinely quite curious to see gets made.
  • Squeezy: A word game! I know, I know, but this is quite a nice variant on a theme – there are five words, and five letters; each letter can be inserted into one of the existing words to create a new word – but which letter, into which word, and where? Not particularly difficult, but a pleasing way of starting the day while you chase The Fear away.
  • Borg Remastered: Finally this week, another one of those bits of webwork that makes me slightly staggered at what is possible now vs what was possible even a decade ago – and a link which I think it’s statistically probable will make at least one of you ecstatically happy. Do YOU like Star Trek? Do YOU wish that you could experience what is effectively a full-length interactive film featuring AN ACTUAL PROPER STAR TREK ACTOR and two hours of all-new, TV quality Star Trek FMV action? Do these words mean anything to you (because, honestly, they mean the square root of fcuk all to me)? “In the midst of a Borg invasion ten years after the Battle of Wolf 359, Starfleet Cadet Qaylan Furlong is given an opportunity by Q (John de Lancie) to go back in time and prevent his father’s death in the historic battle.” Do they make you think “OH GOD THE BORG, THE GREATEST OF ALL THE STAR TREK VILLAINS!”? If the answer to any or all of these questions is ‘yes’ then welcome to the best link of the year so far – this is a full, playable, in-browser port of a 1996 videogame, from the era in which people thought ‘interactive films’ were the future of entertainment, and you can experience it all through what I imagine is some pretty-impressive in-browser wrangling, with a really slick and very Star Trek-y interface…look, I have to confess here that the meeting point of ‘Star Trek’ and ‘Full-Motion videogame that is basically an interactive TV show’ is a place I have literally no personal interest in whatsoever, and as such I only gave this 15m of my life, but it’s quite an incredible bit of webwork and deserves a click even if you would rather apply papercuts to your eyeballs and then rinse them in lemonjuice than admit to watching a second of Trek.

By Dadu Shin



  • Retro Lesbians: You don’t need me to explain this to you, do you? Totally SFW, at least from what I’ve seen.


  • The Wonder of Soil: I had to do some proofing this week for an Italian academic’s newly-written paper about soil health (summary: wow, that was a whole new thing that we’ve managed to make a mess of which I had no idea about but which now I will add to my list of ‘vaguely disquieting things I know about the planet!), and I discovered this Insta feed which is dedicated to promoting, er, soil health, and look, it’s not exactly thrilling, but I thought it was important and so, er, here it is.
  • Piedras Tirar: A Spanish-language Insta feed which seemingly exists solely to collate and share videos of people lobbing big stones off things. As far as I can tell this is entirely-benign rather than some sort of semi-rural terrorism, and as such I feel reasonably comfortable linking to this – they accept submissions from around the world, so if YOU want a video of you lobbing a rock off the side of a cliff to be shared with a global community of 1.1m people then, er, here!


  • Good Writers Are Perverts: We kick off with an essay whose presentation I appreciate might get on your tits a bit – SORRY! – but which I humbly suggest is worth persisting with because I adored the argument it makes and, personally, feel it quite strongly (just turn off your volume when you’re reading it, because the sound effects are annoying). The central theme of this essay is – per the title – that all writing worth reading comes from a place of ‘perversion’ or ‘fetish’ – not sexual, not erotic, not even physical (although it can and often is born of all of these different sorts of ‘perversion’), but more speaking of a peculiar and perhaps-ostensibly unhealthy relationship with a topic or subject or idea or THING, and that without that ‘perversion’, that unhealthy fascination and that desire/need/compulsion to get *inside* the thing, you don’t get the same quality of writing. I don’t know about you – I don’t! I promise! – but this rings true when I think of the authors I like best on any given subject or theme, any style, and realise I like them because of their perversions. Some authors are just LANGUAGE perverts, some are style perverts (Martin Amis, to use but one example, was very clearly a sentence pervert, amongst other things), I am (and this feels very weird to write down and articulate, but I think this is a safe space and it’s probably not a secret by now) a web pervert…EMBRACE YOUR PERVERSION AND REVEL IN IT! ROLL AROUND IN ITS FILTH! Ahem. Anyway, I loved this and I think it’s brilliant, and I think lots of you will too. BONUS PERVERSION! I think this widely-linked essay, about sex and physicality and body horror and the links between all of them, is an excellent example of this – the authorial perversion here isn’t the sex so much as the willingness to get into the viscera, for example…you’ll get what I mean, I think, hopefully.
  • The State of the Culture: One of the most-shared essays of the past week (excluding those about book reviews, divorce or being scammed out of $50k, none of which we are doing in here because, honestly, life is TOO SHORT) was this one, by Ted Gioia, on where HE thinks we are as a culture. Now I’ve been reading Ted’s newsletter since it started a few years back, and have featured his writing a few times here, and I broadly like it, but I have felt he’s perhaps been getting a BIT self-satisfied at times, and this piece continues that trend – that said, it also feels RIGHT in an unusually-accurate way, and also like it might be a helpful way of framing certain questions and considerations about The Culture and The Content, and as such I’ll forgive the slightly-annoying fogeyish tone of the second half (lol, like Ted gives a fcuk). The central premise here – and, honestly, you can get away with only taking this one lesson from the piece – is that our current era prioritises ‘distractions’ over ‘entertainments’, and this distinction is a meaningful one when considering the cultural marketplace and all the things that flow from it. I mean, it’s hard not to argue – there are many other things I could have linked to as ‘illustrative examples’, but I thought this Guardian article, about the surprising market for ‘games’ that are literally just ‘something to do with your eyes and hands while you wait for your cells to start doing weird things and the cancer to come’, worked best.
  • Google Gemini Advanced: I don’t mean to do PR for Google, but it’s worth mentioning that you can get a two-month free trial of its ‘Gemini Advanced’ LLM which imho is very much worth having a play with – its ability to parse and fillet REALLY LONG AND BORING DOCUMENTS is genuinely transformative, and you can force it to provide you with on-page examples from a PDF to limit its propensity towards hallucination, which starts to feel like a genuinely-useful thing.
  • Why The JobsPocalypse Won’t Happen: I concede that I have spent a lot of time over the past year or so being a miserable fcuking Cassandra about AI and how it is going to fcuk SO MANY OF US when it comes to our ability to earn a crust from our pointless whitecollar skills in the near future – so here’s an alternative perspective, from someone who thinks I am a moron who worries too much. This piece, by David Autor, effectively predicts that AI will, rather than eliminating huge swathes of white collar buswork and replacing them with….nothing!, the tech will instead usher in a better, freeer era characterised by human expertise and intuition guiding machine labour in perfect, symbiotic harmony! To quote the author, “The unique opportunity that AI offers humanity is to push back against the process started by computerization — to extend the relevance, reach and value of human expertise for a larger set of workers. Because artificial intelligence can weave information and rules with acquired experience to support decision-making, it can enable a larger set of workers equipped with necessary foundational training to perform higher-stakes decision-making tasks currently arrogated to elite experts, such as doctors, lawyers, software engineers and college professors. In essence, AI — used well — can assist with restoring the middle-skill, middle-class heart of the U.S. labor market that has been hollowed out by automation and globalization.” Look, you’ll have to read the whole thing and make up your own mind, but I will respectfully say that this is another one of those bullsh1t utopian pieces written by someone who I am reasonably-convinced doesn’t have the faintest fcuking idea how mechanical and non-thinky a vast swathe of the current Western job market is, or indeed how many spaces are going to be available in this glorious future he imagines for the ‘insight-powered decision makers’ he envisages. Because I guarantee you the answer isn’t ‘billions’. As a brief, real-world counter to this, I had a meeting this week in which the client, someone working for the massive, multinational FMCG giant that isn’t P&G, basically said ‘so what we need is a tech stack that will do 70% of what we currently employ Publicis for, but for 10% of the cost’, just in case you want a more practical and grounded example of where this is going in the short-to-medium term.
  • Why Sora Still Doesn’t Understand Anything: AI curmudgeon Gary Marcus gives a good, short explanation of why anyone claiming that last week’s carefully-curated tech demos of OpenAI’s new text-to-video product Sora show that The Machine is starting to gain anything resembling a meaningful ‘theory of the world’ is a fcuking idiot – this is useful from the perspective of grounding the debate slightly, but it doesn’t change the fact that 3s video clips for small online ads are not going to be created by people any more in a year.
  • Making an App With GPT: Matt Webb – whose AI Poem Clock is NEARLY FUNDED with a few days to go, so well done Matt – writes a useful little blog about how he made a totally pointless mobile app, entirely coded by GPT; now it’s important to note that Matt obviously does know a BIT about coding and as such it’s relatively simple for him to see where the errors are, etc, but this is generally a really good note explaining how you really can use these things to bring your ideas to life (with a bit of effort).
  • Why the Games Industry is so Fcuked: An interesting overview of the current malaise affecting the videogames industry which, despite the fact that more people are playing the things than at any point in their history, is seeing studios shrinking or shutting down at a rapid rate as yet another sector discovers that, maybe, perhaps, the people at the top are not in fact business visionaries but are instead greedy morons like the rest of us. There’s a lot in here, and it’s quite ‘inside baseball’, but I think there are probably one or two potentially-useful parallels to be drawn with other industries that are also going through somewhat parlous times.
  • The Death of Independent Digital Publishing: To be honest, given this week’s media news I could probably have cut the ‘independent’ term from the headline – still, this is a really interesting piece (if an incredibly frustrating and slightly-depressing one) on how a combination of AI, scraping and outright lying means a familiar collection of URLs dominate Google rankings for basically everything, regardless of the query in question. The article’s written by a couple who’ve been doing the content marketing/SEO game for a while and who have increasingly realised that the game might be up, because it’s simply too easy for site’s with existing PageRank supremacy to spin up any old sh1t in seconds and immediately dominate the seach rankings for basically anything you fancy. I appreciate that this is a slightly-tangential point, but with the entirety of the VICE back catalogue being killed and sites shutting down and going zombie left, right and centre, it does feel rather like we’re not just approaching a future in which we’re drowning in AI content slurry but that we’re actively encouraging it. WHY DO WE HATE WORDS SO MUCH?
  • Right Wing Italians and Fantasy Literature: I rather enjoyed this Economist piece, not least because it told me something I’d never really clocked about the Italian right before – although, now I think of it, I did clock the ‘Atreyu’ conference name last year and raised an eyebrow; anyway, this is an enjoyable article about the reasons why there’s a slightly-unexpected affinity between 20thC fantasy fiction and Giorgia Meloni and her arm-twitching chums.
  • 764: Given its demise, possibly the last new Vice dot com url I am ever going to feature in Curios – RIP lads, you basically started losing it when you left Canada but I will always remember the borrowed air of cool I felt in 2000 or so thanks to being familiar with your output – but it feels like quite a VICE story, combining ‘really unpleasant sex stuff’ with ‘crime’ and ‘messed up kids’ and ‘the internet’. The piece is a really quite impressive piece of longrunning investigative journalism which, over the past year or so, has involved infiltrating and investigating online spaces connected to a group called ‘764’, which, long story short, is comprised of people who get off on making other people do humiliating or harmful things to themselves on camera as a power fetish thing. OBVIOUSLY this is all really horrible and shocking and gross – equally, though, I think this is excellent reporting of an obviously-horrific topic, which goes out of its way at all times not to sensationalise or exaggerate or pretend this is anything other than an INCREDIBLY NICHE phenomenon. Basically, parents, DON’T READ THIS AND GET FREAKED OUT. But, equally, probably a good idea not to let your 13 year old have unlimited Discord access, eh? BONUS ‘BAD INTERNET’ CONTENT: this is an interesting NYT investigation into ‘disgusting men seeking out people posting frankly ill-advised photos of their young kids on Instagram’, which, again, is horrible and creepy and troubling, but which to which, once again, my immediate reaction was ‘much as I hate them I don’t think that it’s the platforms that are the problem here’.
  • JD x MBS: I don’t quite know what I was expecting to read in a Vanity Fair article extolling Johnny Depp’s growing ‘bromance’ with definitely-not-murderous head fe the House of Saud MBS – maybe I shouldn’t have been surprised that a magazine whose raison d’etre is seemingly to tongue the sphincters of the rich and famous to a highly-reflective sheen applied a less-than-critical eye towards the relationship between a fading Hollywood star and a man who’s plainly stated that he wants to make the country he runs a ‘cultural superpower’, but my jaw did slightly drop at various points throughout this piece as it variously glosses over some of Depp’s travails and, more seriously, the whole ‘potentially murderous and not-undespotic regime’ thing. I mean, look, this para is a decent example: “Depp, who did not recognize himself in the tabloid coverage of the Heard trial, was beginning to question the Western narrative about Saudi Arabia. The crown prince said the world had unfairly tarnished him as a bloodthirsty dictator in the vein of Saddam Hussein. This was Saudi Arabia’s greatest moment, he told Depp, a major transformation perceptible even on a monthly basis, if people would only bother to visit.” Only a cynic would ask “so, troubled and increasingly-unbankable and famously-financially-incontinent filmstar, what first attracted you to become the convenient Hollywood figleaf for a man whose wealth is simply immeasurable?” – but thankfully Bradley Hope at Vanity Fair is no such cynic, and the question goes unaddressed.
  • Can Saudi Buy Soccer?: Think of this as a companion article to the last one (and don’t be put off by the headline, it’s written by the reliably-excellent Oli Franklin-Wright rather than a know-nothing yank (I jest, I jest, please let me have my lazy national stereotypes they are all I have left) and is a suitably-wide-eyed and slightly-baffled look at the ostensibly-insane project to make a desert nation one of the world’s footballing capitals. This is in parts very funny, but it’s a less-miserably-cynical piece than I would have written and much better for it (there are (multiple) reasons why I am not a journalist).
  • Vialli: Another piece of writing about football, and one which is in Italian – I think Google Translate will do a decent job on this, though, so feel free to dive in regardless. This is a BEAUTIFUL piece of writing remembering Gianluca Vialli and his career, and his impact on the city of Genoa where he’s remembered as a native son for his years at Sampdoria, and if youre either a football lover, or someone who remembers the Football Italia years on Channel 4, or simply if you enjoy a beautifully-written tribute, this is a treat. Grazie Irene!
  • Ahab’s Leg: Unexpectedly one of my favourite pieces of the week, this is a WONDERFUL bit of obsessional research which is far more interesting than it ought to be, particularly for someone who’s never read Moby Dick and, if I’m honest, is unlikely ever to bother (I think it’s important to know and acknowledge one’s limits) – you may be aware that Captain Ahab is one-legged, having lost a limb to the titular white whale, but did you know that at no point in the text is it specified which of his legs he is missing? Adam Mellion knew, and this knowledge vexed him – and so he decided to work it out. This is a two-part essay (the second is here), and while I appreciate that several thousand words about searching for clues as to whether a fictional character was missing their left or right leg doesn’t SOUND compelling, well, it is great and funny and interesting, and will leave you feeling like you DEFINITELY know enough about Moby Dick to avoid ever having to read the whole thing.
  • Stop Letting Famouses Write Children’s Books: This is written by Phil Womack, who writes books for kids and who is, perhaps not unjustifiably, a bit annoyed about the fact that approximately 96% of shelfspace at attention (and subsequent sales) in the kids books market is devoted to the output of celebrity authors (WALLIAMS YOU CNUT) and how that doesn’t necessarily seem fair or ok. I am including this mainly because it made me laugh a lot, partly because it is true that the market is preposterously-skewed in favour of the already rich and famous who, and partly because it obviously really annoyed David Baddiel, who bothered to respond to it by pointing out not-at-all-pettily that Womack is himself married to some sort of mittelEuropean princess and is therefore himself not exactly a stranger to privilege. Deliciously petty (although you’d think Dave, with ALL OF HIS SMARTS, might have been able to see that that’s not really a meaningful equivalence), and very fun.
  • The Rise of the Woman Butcher: I adored this piece, all about how the traditionally-masculine world of butchery is slowly, in a few places, beginning to open up to women, and how the trade works, and about the weird poetry of cutting meat (I know that that sounds weird but some of you will understand – er, anyone?) and there is some beautiful writing here about blood and meat and death but also about society and gender and history and, honestly, this is superb.
  • Shifting Baselines: About climate change and alzheimer’s and death and forgetting and accepting new normalities that relate to the old ones in ways we didn’t ask for and don’t necessarily want or like. I found this almost unbearable in places, but that’s about me rather than the quality of the writing, which is beautiful.
  • I’m A Fan: Finally in this week’s longreads, a review which is more than a review and which still works if you’ve not read the work it’s addressing. I read and enjoyed “I’m A Fan” by Sheena Patel – this is a piece of writing about the novel by Zarina Muhammad at White Pube, who didn’t like it and who writes about it in this piece which is sort of a review and sort of a meditation about the things the book raises but, mainly, a fcuking GREAT piece of writing about race and femininity and anger and England and the limits of SPEAKING ONE’S TRUTH and I thought this was brilliant and the best thing I have read all week.

By Erik Sandberg


Webcurios 16/02/24

Reading Time: 35 minutes


(Presuming, of course, that you do in fact consider continued existence to be a general positive – I’m currently ambivalent)

It’s a lovely day here in London and I would quite like to spend at least some of it not staring into the digital abyss – so you’re not getting an intro this week, and instead we’ll pile straight on into the links and the pictures and the songs and the good stuff so YOU’RE WELCOME YOU INGRATES.

I am still Matt, this is still Web Curios, and you are beautiful, no matter what they say, words won’t bring you down.

By Kevin Horan



  • The Encyclopaedia Automatica: Have you noticed it yet? The gradual erosion of information integrity slowly beginning at the edges of our field of vision, the slow creep of words and images that look at first, cursory glance like they make perfect sense but which on closer inspection reveal themselves to be merely sense-shaped? WELCOME TO THE CONTENTPOCALYPSE! Oh, ok, fine, I am once again being a bit hyperbolic and a touch alarmist – equally, though, stuff like this seems to be happening more and more often and it doesn’t feel like a positive development. Still, let’s ignore the pollution of our information ecosystem and instead explore the world of experimental AI content generation, courtesy of the Encyclopaedia Automatica, an interesting project which looks to build a parallel Wikipedia as a joint man/machine effort – the idea being that it combines the direction and guidance of a human editor with the magical ability to spaff out infinite copy of an LLM. So anyone can create an article, spin it up with GPT and then use prompts to tweak it to ‘perfection’ – change the tone, add more depth, etc etc – and the whole thing is basically an art experiment project to scope the limits of utility of an LLM as a knowledgebase. As you’d expect, the articles in here (of which there are a surprising number) have the classic GPT-generated flavour of *feeling* like they are telling you something but leaving you post-reading feeling oddly empty and more stupid than you were before you started, which, one might argue, isn’t exactly the ideal reaction to a knowledge Wiki, and there’s part of me that worries slightly that this gets big enough that the…less-critically-aware just start using it as a Wikipedia alternative. Still, if you’ve ever wanted to spend a happy five minutes cajoling a machine to imagine the history of, I don’t know, the pessary, then you will enjoy this very much.
  • The Grannies: I am SO happy that this is now online – this is a documentary film (presented on a neat little website) which was presented as part of the Now Play This festival at Somerset House in London a few years back, and is all about the experience of a group of friends playing Red Dead Redemption multiplayer together and discovering the weird, liminal, broken spaces that exist at the edges of the game maps, where the normal rules of the digital environment stop applying and everything becomes surreal and slightly dreamy…Honestly, I appreciate that what I have describes sounds…less-than-compelling, but if you have any interest in games, the idea of digital ‘spaces’ as being meaningful in some way, or just of travelogues in general, this really is lovely – sit with it for 30 minutes, I promise that you will enjoy it more than you expect.
  • Fun AI Video Manipulation Stuff: If you are ANXIOUS TO LEARN about the new OpenAI text-to-video model Sora (what is WRONG with you?!) then you might want to skip to the longreads section – this is instead some experimental tech from TikTok, which looks like allowing for impressively-granular degrees of control when applying animation layers to static images. Click the link and see for yourselves (no really, do, it’s super-impressive) – basically though, this lets you select ‘areas’ of an image to animate, which then enables you to create specific, guided movements, in a way which is presumably easier to control and limit than simple prompting. I have been slightly astonished at the pace of development of this sort of tech, and in much the same way that ‘low-end logo monkey’ is sadly not really a job anymore I am pretty confident that ‘low-end video editor’ is equally going the way of the dodo in ~24m or so.
  • SecondSoul: I am not, it may surprise you to learn, a particularly committed theologian, but a decade or so of Catholic school, the whole ‘being half Italian and spending a lot of time in Rome’ thing and a potentially-ill-advised bargain made with the devil aged 17 means that I have a passing acquaintance with the concept of the ‘soul’ – and I am pretty sure that there’s no way in which it’s compatible with a company whose strapline is, and I quote, “Monetize your community with your AI clone”. Just take a moment to read that back again – MONETISE YOUR COMMUNITY WITH YOUR AI CLONE. God, it just SCREAMS soul, doesn’t it? Anyway, this is a terrible company with a terrible product that, God willing, will die on its ar$e – it’s also, I think, a precursor of Things To Come. The idea, as you may have been smart enough to work out for yourselves (well DONE!), is that using this platform you can create bots of yourself, which you can then deploy on Telegram, to ‘interact with your community’ – the idea being that people will pay actual cashmoney to chat with your AI avatar, while you kick back on a  beach somewhere raking it in from the passive income. Which, obviously, LOL, but also I can 100% see this sort of thing taking off amongst kids who need a new hustlehope to cling to now that the ‘creator economy’ bubble has finally been revealed to be a gigantic lie.
  • Open Souls: Seeing as we’re on ‘souls’, I can’t quite tell how sincere this is, but, well, it’s the Twitter account of “a group of insane devs who truly believe they can give AI souls”. There’s a Discord you can join, should you be so inclined – I only found this at about 643am this morning and as such haven’t had a chance to dig around, but if any of you know ANYTHING about this I would love to learn more.
  • Put Your Voice To Work: Following on from the ‘create a digital slave and make it toil for you!’ link above, this is another service along vaguely-similar lines – London-based ElevenLabs, which has managed to maintain its industry-leading position in AI voicecloning over the past year or so, is now offering you the opportunity to create and monetise your own AI v/o artist – create a clone of your dulcet tones and you can make the model available for others to use, getting a cut of the fee every time they do so. On the one hand, this is probably a no-brainer for anyone currently making a living from voiceover work – I mean, you may as well, right?; on the other, it does rather feel like a naked attempt to get a lot of pro-quality training material for the model (cynical, moi?), and I have…significant doubts about the likely demand/supply ratio for voice models and the resulting monetisation opportunities that will in fact result. Still, LET’S ALL MAKE DIGITAL SLAVES OF OURSELVES!
  • Pint Prices: It’s slightly terrifying how quickly Londoners have become inured to the now-insane prices in pubs – “ninetythree quid and a pint of plasma for a half of overcarbonated p1ss that tastes, inexplicably, of grapefruit? Make it two, barkeep!” – but should you wish to attempt to FIGHT BACK against the madness then this website, which maps the price of a pint across the capital, might be useful. I can’t vouch for how up-to-date this is, or how accurate, but it might be useful.
  • Lovely Interactions: This is SUCH a nice piece of webwork, and a really lovely calling card for the digital agency in question (Off Brand, apparently) – basically it’s a little game where you have to identify five different types of interaction that you, the user, can undertake with the site, and for each one you find you’re rewarded with a really satisfying little animation and sound effect; this is very simple but SO nicely-made, and communicates the joy of a nice piece of UX/UI really effectively.
  • Barasol: This feels a *bit* like a site that was hacked together as part of some sort of joke, a digital response to ‘what would happen if you created a website that offered the opportunity to explore some incredibly bargain-basement travel options?’, but, equally, I think there’s something potentially quite fun about where it might take you (or, alternatively, something potentially INCREDIBLY DANGEROUS) – Barasol does a very simple thing, namely running searches for flights on Ryanair AND the cheapest available Airbnbs in a given location, thereby offering you the cheapest possible travel options to any given destination. Which, on the one hand, GREAT! But on the other, if you have ever a) travelled Ryanair; or b) stayed in a cheap, sketchy Airbnb then you will know that the potential for this to go very sideways very quickly is…not-insignificant (I have stayed in two spectacular Airbnbs, fwiw – one which was, quite literally, a poorly-converted garage made of breeze blocks which had a hotplate, a tiny fridge and, inexplicably, a shiny black plastic toilet; the other was literally a windowless basement accessed via a floor hatch in the owner’s actual flat. Let me know if you want details of either!).
  • Frame: I’ve been amused to read the reports of early Apple Vision Pro adopters taking the devices back this week upon realising that they don’t actually need or want a massive, heavy, face-mounted home cinema rig – still, I remain convinced that some sort of augmented glasses-type revolution is coming in the not-too-distant future, and stuff like this rather reinforces that. Frame is, basically, a revamped Google Glass – the specs, available for pre-order and apparently shipping in April, look a lot like the Snap Specs from a few years back, and will feature a combination of different AI tech to enable image recognition, realtime translation, chat with an AI assistant, and all the other stuff that three years ago would have sounded impossibly scifi and which we’re now just all sort of like ‘wevs’ about (genuinely mad, that, by the way). I am skeptical about the user experience with these – and indeed for the company’s ability to make the featureset available without a not-insignificant additional subscription to the various AI services that you’re using (OpenAI, Whisper, etc) – that said, I think these are also open source-ish, meaning that enterprising enthusiasts will have rehacked them within minutes of receipt so that they are instead running a homebrew version of LLAMA trained on 4chan or something. I don’t think I can stress enough how deeply, deeply weird everything is going to get when everyone has their own AI stack embedded in their wearables – AND NOONE KNOWS WHAT THAT IS OR WHAT IT CAN DO OR WHAT IT IS TELLING THEM. Anyway, if you want to look like a colossal pr1ck come April and have everyone in your life treat you with immense suspicion every time you wear the damn things then, er, preorders are open!
  • Somnivexillology: I don’t dream. Or rather, I probably do but I don’t remember them – thanks to decades of weed abuse I basically fall into a coma, and whatever weird pirouettes my subconscious chooses to undertake while I’m passed out remain forever mysterious to me (apart from rare occasions when I have to go cold turkey, at which point my sleep becomes like some of the more overwrought bits of Fantasia). Which is by way of unwanted, unasked for and largely-uninteresting preamble to this subReddit which features people sharing examples of flags that they have seen in their dreams. Personally the idea that people not only dream with vivid enough specificity to conjure up recognisable flags, but also that they can remember them upon waking, boggles me entirely, but for all I know you’re all similarly occupied at night and your dreamscapes are neverending parades of ships’ masts fluttering colourful standards as far as the eye can see. Anyway, you can read a load of anecdotes about these dreams, along with seeing illustrations of the imagined flags in question – if you want a flavour for the vibe here, this is pretty illustrative: “I had a dream where there was a new Hotel Transylvania movie but where Vlad Dracula managed to get Vampire Transylvania as smth like Liechtenstein mixed with Kosovo and with Moldova and it was named Vampire Kingdom of Transylvania, it was a semi-constitutional monarchy with Vlad Dracula as the king” – SERIOUSLY THOUGH, WHO DREAMS LIKE THIS?!?! Is it…is it all of you? Am I missing out?
  • Have A Good Today: Everything is hard and – not to be a downer, but it’s important to be honest and I like to think of myself as a Realistic Friend – it’s not going to get any easier. Which is why I think it’s important that every single person reading this, all thirteen of you, click this link and make this site your new homepage, because I guarantee that, while it won’t actually make anything better, being confronted with a small, slightly-garish animated gif wishing you a good day every morning will slightly take the edge off The Fear. If noting else it will give you a GREAT collection of graphics for the next time you decide to cosplay as a grandmother on the internet.
  • Panorama: This is a nice idea – it’s a bit slow and a bit clunky, but at least one of you can definitely steal this idea as pitch-filler. Panorama is a Google Maps/text-to-image mashup, which basically lets you use AI to modify Google Streetview in interesting visual fashion. Reimagine the street on which you grew up as a dystopian hellhole (I grew up in Swindon, no reimagining necessary lolzzzzzzzzzz), see what the view from atop Christ the Redeemer would look like were Rio underwater, turn Manhattan into a Barbs’ paradise, etc etc etc – there are a million-and-one different ways you could use this for campaigns, so I won’t insult you by suggesting any (do your own work ffs).
  • Arvind Sanjeev: I came across the site of Arvind Sanjeev via his prototypical design for an AI synthesiser – which you can see here, it looks LOVELY and is (another) great example of the fun things that you can do when you combine generative AI with physical creation (WHY AREN’T MORE PEOPLE PLAYING WITH THIS STUFF WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU ALL?!?) – and I am linking to it because a) they make loads of really interesting stuff and it’s worth having a poke around the site as there’s some really smart thinking on display; and b) I al SO IN LOVE with the minimalist photo on the homepage and the way it changes as you scroll in and out (try it, honestly, it is beautiful and I lost a couple of minutes to just zooming in and out on it just now). Oh, actually, while we’re doing ‘personal websites that I think are gorgeous’, here’s another one by Rauno Freiberg which is equally-gorgeous.
  • VIRL: Whilst I’m obviously a desperately cynical and jaded creature who long since lost the ability to feel anything approximating ‘joy’, I confess to continuing to feel a genuine sense of thrilled curiosity at all the different, interesting, terrifying things that we are on the cusp of being able to do thanks to The Machine – witness, for example, the theory behind VIRL, which builds on some of the work from last year around creating AI ‘agents’ and letting them loose in a simulated environment, to see how they would pursue goals and develop social bonds, etc. This is now all open source – you can get the code here, which means that ANYONE can now start to spin up their own modeled simulations USING ACTUAL REAL WORLD CITY DATA, which is frankly insane. It’s a bit hard to get your head around, but, basically, imagine that there’s a rough ‘digital twin’ of the world being created, using actual map data and images tagged to locations, to create a digital environment which tracks the real one – now into this world, anyone can drop AI agents, give them specific motivations or goals, AND SEE WHAT HAPPENS. Honestly, just typing this stuff is giving me proper, brainfizzing futureoddshocks – I can’t stress enough quite how astonishing the potential and theory here is, and if you can be bothered to wade through the *slightly*-techy explanations on the site then you will start to get a glimpse of some really quite astonishing potential just around the corner (and some obviously-terrifying implications, fine, but let’s not dwell on that right now).
  • Lina: Do you believe it’s possible to scry the very depths of someone’s soul based on a half-ar$ed doodle? Do you think that the best way to REALLY understand someone is to pay incredibly close attention to the stuff they scribble in the margins? Are you happy to entrust that INCREDIBLY IMPORTANT analysis to The Machine? Er, great! Lina sells itself as an AI art therapy app, and will basically tell you your personality problems to seven decimal places based on its ‘analysis’ of one of your drawings. This is, honestly, almost impressive – total b0llocks, marketed as ‘insight’, with in-app purchases! Based on this I am slightly amazed that noone’s attempted to launch a ‘Phrenology, but AI!’ startup (I am willing to sell this AMAZING CONCEPT for a low six-figure sum, form an orderly queue).
  • The Tearing Curtain: Without a shadow of a doubt the most satisfying bit of code I have seen in YEARS. Honestly, click the link and play with the curtain – it will make you feel like a cat faced with a particularly-wiggly piece of string (trust me, that will make sense, promise). I strongly believe that ALL websites ought to have something like this hidden on them somewhere as a gentle stress reliever.

By F Scott Hess



  • Tangara: When my brother killed himself, I got his iPod – there is something genuinely…odd about a device being able to tell you exactly what the last songs someone listened to before they topped themselves are, let me tell you – but it bricked itself years ago and I’ve been mp3less ever since. I am sorely tempted, though, by the Tangara, a fully-funded project (which still has about a month to go) which will later this year ship an MP3 player which, basically, is like the original iPod but with a bunch of quality of life updates, It features the gorgeous scrollwheel – still one of my favourite interfaces ever (what, you mean you don’t have ‘favourite interfaces’? weirdos) – it’s open source, and highly-moddable, meaning you should be able to keep it going pretty much forever by swapping out the battery when it carks it. It’s not the prettiest device in the world, fine, but the sense of nostalgia this stoked in me was such that I can overlook the shonky aesthetics.
  • The Album Cover Bank: ALL OF THE NIGERIAN ALBUM COVERS, EVER! This is a wonderful repository of design and musical/cultural history – from the blurb, “Cover Bank is a digital archive of 5300+ Nigerian album covers from 1950 to date. It provides a unique view into the evolution of Nigerian music. At its core, the archive is a research project that hopes to establish the history of Nigerian graphic design. Through this website, we hope to highlight cover artists as important cultural producers. Cover Bank is also a platform for design and storytelling inspiration. Our goal is to become a valuable tool for artists, enthusiasts, educators and researchers of all kind. The archived is built and maintained by wuruwuru, a collective for independent creators in Lagos.” Even better, all the albums (or at least all the ones I’ve clicked on) link to Spotify, so you can listen to any whose aesthetic takes your fancy (I was so taken by the artist name ‘Lifesize Teddy’, for example, that I am listening to them right now – it’s pretty good!).
  • Sabio: I can’t vouch for how good this actually is – and, personally-speaking, I would trust any ‘AI powered fitness coach’ about as far as I could throw an actual, IRL fitness coach (to be clear – that is no distance at all) – but I think there’s the kernel of a clever idea in here. Sabio basically lets you hook your Strava data up to some sort of ‘AI’ (no clues on whose tech this is using, but let’s assume it’s GPT-3.5-level), which will then give you personalised fitness recommendations and the like based on what the app tells it – so, in theory, it will adjust your regime based on the sort of workload you’re putting yourself through already and adapt based on your performance. I have…doubts about the efficacy and value of this stuff, but it’s an nice example of the ‘pipes’ theory of AI utility (er, that’s something I just made up, to be clear, rather than an actual theory) whereby it’s often more useful to think of ‘what data sources can I give to The Machine and what might it be able to do with them?’ rather than just thinking about prompts, etc.
  • Creative Fest: A *lovely* YouTube channel which mainly features really fun little making/crafting/science-y projects that you might want to experiment with – this feels like the sort of thing that might be WONDERFUL for a very particular type of child, although perhaps my saying that simply indicates how little I know about children and what they might or might not be into in 2024. It’s all very homespun and a bit shonky, and I really love it for that – also, the videos are wordless and faceless, and I don’t think they are North American, which is another reason to appreciate them (sorry, North Americans, but we’ve had quite enough of you for the past few centuries).
  • Carl’s Friends: I appreciate that for the vast majority of you ‘sourdough starters’ are a conversational theme which you’ve long since confined to the Bad Memory Oubliette that is ‘The COVID Years’ – but I am SO THRILLED that this exists that I absolutely must share it with you. Would you like to receive a sample of sourdough starter that has been going for NEARLY 200 YEARS?!?!?! Of course you would, you’re not made of stone! Carl T Griffith, after whom this site is named, died in the early-00s after a life apparently characterised by generosity – Carl apparently gifted samples of this sourdough starter, which had been in his family since the mid-1900s, to everyone he met, and since he died a group of people have maintained his legacy via this site, where you can find instructions on how to order your own sample of INCREDIBLY OLD BACTERIA for practically-free. Honestly, this is SO LOVELY, and were it not for the fact that I don’t think I could cope with the guilty of receiving and then promptly-killing a near-bicentenarian organism I would totally get involved with this myself.
  • Chronolog: Via Kottke comes this excellent site which has apparently been going since 2017 and which exists to let anyone post timelapses of a specific location, tagged to a map, to help environmentalists and researchers develop an impression of how a given area is changing over time. This is a really nice idea – anyone can apply to get a physical ‘mount’ sent to them, which they can then put up in the location in question; passers-by are encouraged to take a photo using the mount (which ensures each image captures the same field of vision) and then upload it to the site using a QR code; each image is added to the timelapse, creating a crowdsourced record of how the landscape changes and evolves over time. This is a North American project and as such the locations being captured are overwhelmingly in that geography – there’s obviously one set up near Oxford in the UK, but I want more please thankyou.
  • Entrances 2 Hell: “A constantly updated catalogue of entrances to Hell in and around the UK“ – this is obviously a joke, given the fact that the UK *is* Hell, lol!, but it’s quite a funny one and I admire the long-running commitment to the bit on display here.
  • Stickers To Manage Replies By: This feels very much like an artefact of an era or two ago, when people still actually shared stuff on social media and Twitter was still alive – I won’t say ‘good times’, because, honestly, lol, but there’s a certain degree of masochistic nostalgia attached to the memories. Anyway, Dan Hon has designed these stickers which are conveniently available on Flickr and which you can append to your social media posts for added clarity – they say things like ‘This is an observation, no reply necessary, no need to help’ or ‘Do not reply to tell me to use Open Source software’, and Dan was apparently motivated to make these because of A Particular Type of Person he’s finding a lot of on Mastodon, and if you want a decent reason why that platform is never going to be anything other than a niche concern then, well, here you are.
  • Florence As It Was: I confess to not really liking Florence very much as a city – yes, it’s beautiful but it’s all too white and, honestly, Rome’s just *better* – but I did rather enjoy this project, a joint venture between a bunch of US academic institutions and the University of Florence. “ “Florence As It Was” has as its mission the gradual reconstruction of this major cultural center, one structure at a time, city block by city block. Paintings produced by artists during the early period that feature buildings constructed before 1500 – including those that no longer survive – have been used to recreate the exteriors of churches, municipal offices, and city gates. Using extant architectural evidence, documents, art images, and contemporary representations, we will build a three dimensional model that will allow viewers to circumambulate a structure, venture inside it, and see stitched onto its walls and furnishings the images that once adorned it. Embedded into this reconstructed structure will be texts –in their original language with English translations –that help explain how and why a specific object looks the way it does, why a specific artist was commissioned to produce it, and/or the motives behind its commission from the vantage point of its patron. Literary passages, tax records, even musical performances will be accessed through clicks on ‘hotspots,’ allowing writers and notaries and musicians to speak for themselves. Hyperlinks to other reconstructed buildings will allow us to make connections, literally, to other spaces and the people who occupied them.” This is an ongoing project and as such very much incomplete, but there’s something lovely about the fragments of history you can explore already, and the way it stitches together maps and imagery, and any art historians or simply Fans Of Florence will rather enjoy stepping back in time.
  • I Have No TV: I have to give a big upfront caveat here, in that I have watched literally NONE of the content on this site and can’t therefore promise you that it’s good rather than, I don’t know, being seventeen different shades of whackjob conspiracy content. That said, the potential here is vast – I Have No TV is a site which exists to pull together ALL OF THE FREE DOCUMENTARIES on the web – you can search them by theme, or title, or just pick a title at random, and there are apparently over 4000 on the site for you to choose from…I just hit the ‘random’ button and got sent to watch something called ‘My Love, Don’t Cross That River’ which according to the short blurb is “a story of a couple in South Korea who share intimate moments after 76 years of marriage” and now I am crying, so thanks a fcuking lot ‘I Have No TV’.
  • Moonlight World: This is a fun idea – whilst I personally have no truck with Tarot and the occult and all that jazz – although, and apologies for the diversion here, but I did once have my cards done at a small esotericists in Covent Garden c.2003 (I was with a friend, she was into it and insisted I get mine done too) and despite the fact I was very much dressed like a 15 year old boy from 1994 (muchlike today, in fact) the reader accurately guessed that I at the time worked in politics, which honestly scared the sh1t out of me – I understand that All This Occult Stuff is quite popular these days, and it’s entirely possible that many of you live your lives by the Major and Minor Arcana. Moonlight World is on the one hand a company flogging online tarot readings, but it’s also offering ‘digital tarot spaces’ for free, meaning if you want to conduct a reading for your friends you can use their ‘virtual tarot room’ to do so, complete with digital cards and some quite nice animations. This is rather nicely done, and a smart bit of promo for the main business imho.
  • SandCastle University: I don’t know what you do for a living, but I am going to guess, based on your readership of this newsletter, that most of you have the sort of stupid, made-up, largely-pointless sort of white-collar, early-21stC media-or-’creative’-adjacent jobs as I do (genuine apologies to any readers who actually do make the world a better place on a daily basis via the medium of their toil – sorry to lump you in with me and these other useless cnuts!) – the sort of job that it’s famously impossible to really explain to your parents. Spare a thought for the people who founded ‘Sandcastle University’, though, who presumably at some point or another had to explain to their parents that they were jacking it all in to become, er, professional sandcastle building trainers – although on the flipside this does appear to be their actual job now, meaning they probably win. Sadly I think this is a solely US concern, but if you happen to be in North America and want to pay to have a bunch of people teach you how to, er, build better sandcastles, then MERRY FCUKING CHRISTMAS. I am not sure why, but I think there is something ASTONISHINGLY BLEAK about professionalising and monetising the act of ‘playing in sand’.
  • Film Secession: Very much one for the serious cinephiles amongst you, this – you have to pay to get access, the whole thing being subscribers-only, but read the description and see if it sounds like it might be up your street: “The singularity of cinema lies in its unprecedented capacity to transform the energies of the other arts into an integrated audiovisual experience. This synthesis makes cinema particularly engaging, immersive, and resonant, although, precisely because the constituent elements are organically fused together, it can easily be taken for granted. Film Secession creates new ways of exploring the ideas and artistic currents that have shaped different filmmakers, periods, and art forms. Subscribers will discover nonlinear pathways through the histories of the arts, be able to watch rare films provided by the world’s preeminent studios, production companies, and archives, and have special access to events held worldwide.” Does that appeal, or does it sound achingly pretentious and a surefire way to destroy the magic of an artform? YOU DECIDE!
  • Curated Design: SO MANY DESIGN EXAMPLES IN ONE PLACE! Searchable, filterable and INSANELY VOLUMINOUS, this is a wonderful resource for anyone who needs inspiration or examples or just a bit of a creative nudge.
  • Flaming Hydra: While 2024 sets to be yet another nadir for most media organisations, and the collective Big Beasts of publishing compete to see who can fcuk up the most spectacularly, there are interesting shoots of recovery and germs of alternative models – 404 Media this week announced that its in the black after only 9 months, the Patreon-funded YouTube gaming channel Second Wind seems to be going from strength to strength, and now there’s Flaming Hydra, which might not end up working but which, I think, has a really interesting model behind it. “We’ve invited several dozen noted writers and artists to join us, for a total of 60 members. Each member agrees to contribute a minimum of one original piece per month to an ingenious, brief and captivating daily newsletter, in exchange for an equal share of the subscription proceeds, payable monthly. Flaming Hydra members retain the rights to their work absolutely. Subscribers to Flaming Hydra will receive articles and essays, comics and criticism, humor, literature, photos, and reviews, with surprises each weekday. Because there are a lot of us, only a small amount of work is required of each member. We’re sharing audiences, work, and resources, so that all can benefit and thrive.” It’s worth checking out the list of contributors who’ve signed up – it’s a really impressive selection of names, and if they all commit to this for the long-term then it stands a chance of thriving, I think. Subs are about £2.50 a month, which feels…reasonable, I think, so if you can afford it and like the concept it could be one to try out.
  • No Vehicles In The Park: Have you ever had to think about community rules and boundaries? Anyone who’s ever been in a position of moderator responsibility ANYWHERE knows that it’s a peculiarly-horrible role, mainly because it is SO FCUKING HARD to set working rules and principles that do what you need them to. “Nonsense!”, I hear you scoff, “you’re a moron, Matt! I could totally come up with a set of universal principles to mandate accepted conduct on a theoretical social platform!”. To which I respond “well try this little game and see how you get on then, mr fcuking big boll0cks” – honestly, this is SUCH a clever and nicely-made exploration of how community moderation works.
  • Periodic Tables of Almost Everything: Would you like a Pinterest board collecting hundreds of different images of different periodic tables, displaying information about EVERYTHING YOU CAN IMAGINE (apart from chemicals, as that would be BORING and TRADITIONAL)? YES OF COURSE YOU WOULD! I genuinely have no idea why people have made all of these things – WHY DID ANYONE FEEL THE NEED TO BRING A PERIODIC TABLE OF HARRY POTTER INTO EXISTENCE, WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU??? – but (aside from that specific Potter-y example) I am happy that they exist.
  • Hurt Party: I’ve featured one of Amy Baio’s card game Kickstarters in Curios before, and this is her latest – Hurt Party sounds like a genuinely fun little game, perfect for quick sessions over drinks, in which players compete to offer the best, sincerest apologies for slights delivered. It’s about halfway there with a month to go, so there’s a good chance it will get funded, and if card games and light roleplaying are your thing then you will enjoy this I think.
  • 500 Meals: This is the photo website of one Jack Baty – or, specifically, the part of it on which Baty for reasons known only to him, documents 500 meals he has eaten over the course of (more or less) a year. I LOVE THIS SO MUCH – honestly, there’s something sort of brilliantly-deadening about seeing one of the essential elements of life laid out so baldly, so unsentimentally, so…poorly-lit. Also, I do slightly worry that Jack might not be getting as much fibre as he ought – is…is it good to eat that much meat and eggs? I am not sure it is. Anyway, this is a GREAT project and I am honestly tempted to replicate it (I won’t, but the temptation is very real).
  • Part-Time Hermit: This is quite remarkable, and oddly-beautiful – were I a less miserably-cynical person, who has dust where their soul should be, I might even say ‘almost spiritual’ (but I am, so I won’t). This is the YouTube channel of (I think) a Portuguese Friar, who spent a year living as a hermit in Italy, and who is releasing a series of videos documenting his experience, and, honestly, they are BEAUTIFUL and peaceful and even I found myself slightly-mesmerised by…look, there’s no other way of saying this and so apologies for the hokiness here, but by his sort of ineffable peacefulness…each one is about 40 mins long, but give ‘January’ a try and see how it grabs you, you might be surprised.
  • Fartographics: FREE COMICS! Specifically, free comics from a bunch of young Croatian artists who are publishing their work as a collective under the charming ‘Fartographics’ brand. There are two editions online so far, each helpfully translated into English for the non-Croatian speakers, and they’re available for free (though you can chuck them a quid or two by way of thanks should you feel so inclined), and there’s a really nice mix of art and narrative styles on display here which are worth exploring.
  • Lemmings: Taking up the coveted ‘game at the end of Curios’ link this week is this ABSOLUTE GIFT of a link. Are you English? Did you grow up in the 80s? Did you or anyone you know have a computer on which to play games? GREAT, in which case you will doubtless be familiar with Lemmings, one of the first genuinely brilliant puzzle games whose simple premise (‘help all the lemmings get from one end of the level to the other without them all dying in a variety of comedy slapstick ways’) masked level design of quite fiendish complexity, and whose titular characters are one of the most incredible examples of ‘how to design an iconic character with approximately 9 pixels’ work you will ever see. Honestly, I can’t stress enough how AMAZINGLY GOOD this game is – if nothing else you all need to play it at least once, because the small vocal sample you hear when you set the ‘Armageddon’ command, whereby all the Lemmings explode after a short countdown, is honestly an audio tic that soundtracks my internal monologue EVERY FCUKING DAY and has done since approximately 1991 when I first played this.

By Amy Sherald



  • WebCam Tears: Videos of people crying to webcams. Absolute, 100% pure digital ART, this one.
  • Pog-A-Day: This is now-defunct, and hasn’t been updated for about 7 years, but, well, WHAT A LEGACY! SO MANY POGS!


  • Chocolate Bob Ross: Genuinely-horrible AI-generated imagery and animation, in the classic ‘plastic body horror’ style – these are properly unsettling, in a good way.


  • The World in 10 Years: On the one hand, all attempts at predicting the future are doomed to failure and ridicule – on the other, if you restrict your futuregazing to the short-ish term, you might occasionally hit upon something accidentally-prescient. In that spirit, then, have this FASCINATING bit of work pulled together by the Atlantic Council’s Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security, which last November asked 300-odd people in government or civil service or academia or the private sector for their thoughts about the likely shape of the world in a decade’s time – it, er, may not wholly surprise you to learn that the projections aren’t wholly rosy! It’s a lot more interesting than that, though, promise – although it’s a *bit* US-Centric for my tastes, and I think that skews some of the projections here (I don’t, for example, think that anyone in the world outside of some VERY optimistic people in San Francisco think that America is going to be the global tech leader in 10 years time), there’s a lot of really interesting speculative thinking (and only a very small bit of it is about AI, promise). This came via Sentiers, by Patrick Tanguay, which continues to be a superb resource for smart, interesting thinking about potential futures and systems.
  • AI and Planned Economies: NO WAIT COME BACK I PROMISE THIS IS INTERESTING! Erm, ok, fine, it’s an academic paper and it’s also QUITE dry, but I promise that the questions it asks around computerised central economic planning, and how we might possibly expect AI to impact the discipline, are fascinating – it is VERY TECHNICAL in places, and I confess to skipping over the sections that contain equations, but there’s a load of fascinating sections which address the potentially-unknowable ways in which AI might choose to administer an economy if granted autonomy and a clear directive. Can…can anyone hear the sound of the paperclip machine firing up?
  • Hello Sora: So overnight OpenAI announced it’s forthcoming text-to-video model – it’s not in the wild yet, so all we have to go on is their blurb and the obviously-cherrypicked examples of the model’s outputs, but it’s safe to say that based on these and the general spec (vids up to a minute long, style transfer, animate stills, etc etc) that the people at Runway and the rest are probably feeling a bit assailed right now. It’s worth taking the time to read through the various capabilities they outline on the page and looking at the sample vids embedded throughout – obviously all of this needs to be heavily caveated with ‘don’t believe the hype, or at least don’t wholly believe it’, but there are some hugely-impressive outputs on display here, not least in terms of the ability to maintain object permanence and to deliver reasonably-lifelike human movement. It’s impossible to tell whether we can expect the improvements to continue arriving at pace with text-to-video, but the difference in quality between this and what was being churned out by Runway even as recently as ~3m ago is startling, and if it continues like this then MY GOD is YouTube going to be absolutely ruined in a couple of years. BONUS TTV CONTENT: this is a decent enough overview of the current state of the market (as of yesterday, at least), pulled together by the awful cnuts at A16Z.
  • Preferable Future Habitats: As a general rule I don’t find AI-imagined futurescapes particularly interesting or worthy of scrutiny, but I was amazed by how…incredibly soothing I found this visual essay, in which Pascal Wicht explores some urban design and architecture ideas using Midjourney…I don’t know exactly why, but the combination of visuals and words here is soothing to an exceptional degree, maybe because some of the urban imagery imagined by The Machine in this piece is oddly reminiscent of an area of Rome near where I lived, and there’s something lovely and conversational about the way Wicht talks you through his thinking and what each image prompted him to consider in terms of design and planning.
  • Pluralistic AIs: Yes, ok, fine, it’s an academic paper but I promise that it’s a (mostly) readable one, and it’s pretty short, and the questions it raises – about a new way of thinking about AI alignment more connected to the concept of ‘pluralism’ in political thinking. Here’s a summary – this, honestly, is a really interesting series of potential principles of setting guidelines around model performance: “In this piece, we propose a roadmap to pluralistic alignment, specifically using language models as a test bed. We identify and formalize three possible ways to define and operationalize pluralism in AI systems: 1) Overton pluralistic models that present a spectrum of reasonable responses; 2) Steerably pluralistic models that can steer to reflect certain perspectives; and 3) Distributionally pluralistic models that are well-calibrated to a given population in distribution.”
  • AI Is Coming And Noone Cares: Last year the artist Fred Wordie launched a project called ‘Dear AI’ (which I featured in Curios, as it happens), a piece of ‘design fiction’ which presented “a ‘speculative’ company that allowed users to generate personal letters and send them as faux handwritten cards. It told of a near ‘future’ where Generative AI would further erode what it means to be human. Like many of my Design Fiction work, I chose to place it in front of the public as if real, with little context” (I, er, didn’t clock it was a spoof – I AM A MORON AND I AM SORRY). Wordie expected it to elicit a wave of commentary about dehumanisation and the insertion of the machine into personal relationships…and it didn’t (except from me, obvs). Instead, people are using it (and occasionally complaining to Fred that it doesn’t work properly) – because, it turns out, NOONE ACTUALLY VALUES THE PERSONAL AT ALL. I can’t stress enough how important this ‘insight’ is, and how much it ought to inform your own personal perspective on the likelihood of The Machine eating everyone’s jobs.
  • Nozick and the Hedonism Machine: Robert Nozick was very much one of the Bad Old Guys when I was doing political theory – seriously, have a read of his thinking about intergenerational responsibility if you want a chilling example if very smart selfishness – and it was nice to be reminded of the fcuker’s name this week in this piece, all about the question of whether, given the opportunity, we would strap ourselves into The Machine were it able to gift us a sensory experience indistinguishable from real life. Nozick famously argued that we would not – that there is a specific value that we ascribe to ‘real’ experience which a simulation cannot replicate – but this article does a decent job of presenting some decent counterarguments; I don’t know about you, but based on some light observation of ‘how the world seems to be going’ I’m personally betting against ol’Bobby on this one.
  • Why Social Is Dead: Yes, I know, you have read enough ‘social media is dead!!!111eleventy’ articles to last you a lifetime. I KNOW. That said, I can recommend adding this one to your repertoire – it makes the standard arguments, but I really like the way it couches them in market-based terms, specifically when it comes to the ‘over time, everything becomes broadcast media’ trend – this is a nice, cogent and eminently-sensical explanation: “Social as a model works when people have about as much to offer as they want to receive along a given axis. But no trait is distributed uniformly; there are are outliers in the nice-to-look-at, nice-to-listen-to, nice-to-read, nice-to-get-stock-tips from axes, there’s a population that can offer a respectable performance with these traits, and there’s a substantial majority with below-mean performance. So, over time, most platforms end up with a more consolidated list of suppliers and a dispersed set of consumers.” Basically speaking, you could subtitle this ‘why statistical distribution and probability mean that the creator economy was always a total fcuking lie’. If you want a more-anecdotal, less swivel-eyed-rationalist (sorry, but it’s true) take, you could read this piece in Dazed instead, which basically tells the same story via a series of personal anecdotes – the same point applies, though.
  • Evidence Maximalism: Or, “how the infinite quantity of information now available to anyone about anything has turned every single person on earth into one of those weirdos with the photowalls and the red string”, or “with enough datapoints you can prove literally anything”. The whole piece is good – Charlie Warzel is always readable – but the central premise is neatly encapsulated as follows: “all of the information online—news, research, historical documents, opinions—has conditioned people to treat everything as evidence that directly supports their ideological positions on any subject. He calls it the era of “evidence maximalism.” It’s how we argue online now, and why it’s harder than ever to build a shared reality.”
  • Noone’s Reading Anymore: This week’s ‘man, this really has been EVERYWHERE’ essay is from Slate, and is basically a teacher bemoaning the fact that none of his students appear capable of, or willing to, read anything longer than two pages of text in a critical or close manner – obviously I’m not a teacher (lol thank God) and I can’ only speak to my own experience, but IT’S NOT JUST KIDS, IS IT? I can’t tell you the amount of times in the past few years when I have done work for people and had them complain that the output runs to several pages of text – LOOK YOU FCUKING MORONS SOME THINGS SIMPLY AREN’T PARTICULARLY COMMUNICABLE VIA TRIANGLES AND ARROWS, AND SOME THINGS SIMPLY DON’T WORK AS DIAGRAMS, CAN YOU NOT TRY FCUKING READING YOU FCUKING LAZY CNUTS? Ahem. Your regular reminder that I’m available for freelance engagements, and am often described as ‘a pleasure to work with’.
  • What’s The Face Computer For?: As mentioned a bit earlier on, there’s been a flood of people who bought the Apple Vision Pro taking it back to stores as they realise that what they have actually bought is a piece of speculative technology with no practical purpose whatsoever – I’m still broadly bullish on AR/XR/WhatevR, but I think we’re a good few years away from the tech being small and lightweight enough to encourage the sort of mainstream adoption that will lead to the development of mainstream usecases.
  • The Robot Travel Agent: Or, “how people are turning to GPT to plan holidays and the like” – or “how to guarantee you’ll have a mathematically-average experience when you travel”, depending on your point of view. This piece features a selection of people waxing lyrical about how good GPT is at spitting out travel itineraries and planning trips – which is particularly interesting given the forthcoming likely release of AI ‘agents’ into the wild in the next year or so, but which also sort-of completely fails to acknowledge the massively-problematic elephant in the room here – to whit, because of the probabilistic nature of LLMs, when you ask it for suggestions like this IT IS GOING TO GIVE YOU THE MOST AVERAGE ONES. Which means that if everyone starts using these systems for these purposes, you can expect all the joyful side effects of TikTok tourism (endless queues! Price hikes! Environmental degradation! Really angry locals!) to expand exponentially. There is a CAMPAIGN IDEA buried in this for the right travel brand imho.
  • Recruiting With AI: This piece is all about how some companies have started using software by a company called Paradox AI as part of the employee screening process, and how that means prospective workers are being asked to undertake surreal, AI-generated personality tests whose answers (again assessed by AI) will determine a candidate’s suitability or otherwise for a given role. This is darkly-fascinating – the implication is that this is all black box stuff, so only the AI ‘knows’ what personal qualities some of the questions relate to, and how it scores them, and how that links to overall suitability, and that as such we’re in the process of handing over control of quite important things (cf, for example, ‘employment’) to  systems that operate in ways we simply cannot understand in any meaningful way. Does that sound good?
  • The GenZ Bone Spreadsheet: I have a sneaking suspicion that this is one of those trend pieces where it’s not actually a ‘trend’ at all – just because half-a-dozen sociopaths are doing something does not a ‘trend’ make, after all, although obviously it depends on who exactly said sociopaths in fact are – but I would be curious to hear whether any of you know of anyone who’s doing this; the ‘this’ in question being ‘keeping a spreadsheet tracking everyone you fcuk, ever, along with helpful notes to remind you of the experience’. Look, I’m not going to judge, but it’s important to remind you that the first person I ever heard of boasting about this sort of quantitative approach to life was one Milo YIannopoulous, and we all know how HE turned out.
  • AI Tablets and Educational Advantage: This is not wholly surprising, but it’s interesting to see it playingout already in real life – this is Rest of World on the scramble amongst Chinese parents to help their kids succeed in the already-ultracompetitive scholastic environment by ensuring they have access to the best AI-augmented learning assistants. If you don’t think a significant proportion of future social opportunities will be determined by the calibre of Machine Assistance you can afford then, well, you’re significantly more optimistic than I am (also lol, have you literally not been paying attention to ANY of the past century?!).
  • The Pope’s AI Advisor: A gorgeous profile of Paolo Benanti, the Cardinal who advises the Pope on matters pertaining to AI (and who, in the article’s most interesting casual asides, appears to have an interestingly-close relationship with Microsoft – honestly, fcuk my personal ethics and the rest, I would honestly give me right fcuking kidney to get a gig flogging AI solutions to the Holy See) and whose story of arriving at the faith is genuinely lovely.
  • Ricky Gervais: You will doubtless have opinions on Gervais and his humour and his standup, but regardless of what those opinions are I can highly recommend this review of his current ‘work in progress’ show in London – Rich Johnston at comics website Bleeding Cool does a really good job of unpacking why, to his mind at least, Gervais’ ‘edgy’ work doesn’t quite have the hard work underpinning it to make it justifiable. This really is a good piece of writing about comedy, and it’s a far more positive and balanced review than you might expect given the short explanation I’ve just given you.
  • The Trump Emails: This is LOVELY – a close stylistic reading of Donald J Trump’s campaign emails and their…unique style and cadence. “Where does one even begin? I guess we might as well start with the e-mail’s inexplicable ransom-note-style font decisions. Why is YOU capped but not italicized, whereas WE is capped and italicized? Why is the first paragraph bolded (and in red type), whereas the second is not? Why is “corporate death penalty” both scare-quoted and italicized? The typographical chaos mimics the legal, political, and psychic chaos in which Trump operates; and yet his relentless energy seems to emerge from this very chaos, as he paranoically and insistently narrates his woes in a kind of stream of consciousness, by turns slinging mud at the so-called haters, proclaiming his perseverance, and flattering and wheedling his supporters. He is Jesus on the cross, but he will survive!” This is honestly glorious, and I would personally happily read a close analysis of the differing styles of e-campaigning employed by the Tories and Labour in the hopefully-imminent election here in the UK/
  • Dr Alex Comfort: You will of course know the name from THE JOY OF SEX, a book whose title and homely illustrations of bearded 1970s coitus are weirdly familiar to seemingly everyone, despite the fact that I don’t think I’ve ever actually seen a copy of it in the wild, but you probably don’t know what a genuinely bizarre and polymathic person Dr Comfort was – this is a lovely profile in the LRB, effectively a review of a new biography of the man, and it is FULL of great details about his incredibly polymathy and commitment to alternative lifestyles – I loved this particular paragraph especially, with its uniquely-British combination of low-grade kink and very brown sadness: “And so the three of them entered into a secret arrangement where Comfort spent weeknights with Henderson and came home to his wife and Nick at the weekends. As Laursen concludes, ‘it was really a fairly ordinary affair, confined to a London flat and clearly destined to make all three participants unhappy.’ It was sustained not by a ‘commitment to some radical ideal of open relationship’ but by the participants’ Englishness. In Sex in Society (1963), published when the affair was a few years old, Comfort argued that monogamous marriage is best for childrearing, but that it was certainly possible to love more than one person at once, and that adultery could be a useful ‘prop’ to keep a married couple ‘on their feet’. Conveniently for him. At the time, Comfort took pride in his arrangement, which persisted for more than a decade. Not until 1994 did he admit to a journalist that ‘it didn’t work very well,’ and that both women were ‘in eruption the whole time’.”
  • Somewhere There’s Cheese: This is an essay written in tribute to the Aardman Animations classic ‘A Grand Day Out’, which first introduced the world to Wallace and the dog Gromit, and, honestly, it may be my favourite thing of the week – the love for the animation is palpable, and I promise you that you will find yourself actually, properly smiling as you read this. Really, truly wonderful writing by Zoe Kurland that communicates the very particular magic of the characters and the style quite perfectly.
  • The Sensitivity Reader: Our final longread of the week is a gorgeous and beautifully-crafted short by Andrew O’Hagen in Granta – I don’t want to spoil anything, so just trust me and read it (please).

By Jill Mulleady


Webcurios 09/02/24

Reading Time: 35 minutes

In the 90s, did people in the US have to suffer through endless coverage of David and Victoria, their courtship and their eventual nuptials and the outfits and and and?  Presuming that the answer to that question is ‘lol no you fcuking loser’, can someone please tell me why the fcuk it is that we are now being pelted with news about The Singer and The Meathead and The Big Match? Is it not enough that the world has to suffer the mediatic – and economic, and political, and environmental, and social – fallout from The Next Most Toxic Election Since The Last without also having to feign interest in this latest iteration of ‘entertainment industrial complex power couple’?

Yes, I am old and tired, why do you ask?

Look, I have nothing against Taylor Swift and those who love her; I have little to no opinion on her pituitary paramour. I had rather hoped, though, that the global media era of the web might free us slightly from American cultural hegemony; no such luck I suppose.

Anyway, GO 49ers.

I am still Matt, this is still Web Curios, and yes, I am exactly this fun in person.

By Mark Beyer



  • Momentary Lapse in Memory: I appreciate that beginning a largely-frivolous weekly compendium of digital ephemera with what is in effect a war memorial is…perhaps not the happy-go-lucky opening that many of you might have hoped for. Still, this is a really rather beautiful piece of webwork and the way that it presents narrative and memory is, I think, genuinely powerful and affecting – from its description, “Momentary Lapse in Memory is an interactive digital environment concerning the memory landscape of the 1999 NATO bombing of Yugoslavia. It investigates the impact of ephemeral factors on the archival practice. By doing so, it makes space for the mechanisms of both memory and its transmission, to steer and sway. It makes way for the unreliable.” Click through from the homepage and you’re presented with a slightly-abstract roomscape comprised of individual elements, each of which is a fragmentary memory of the experience of war drawn from anecdotes and memories of those who lived through it; some of the memories lead you to other ‘rooms’ within the site, with their own objects and recollections attached to them, and as you explore you build a picture of the people whose experiences are being tapestried together to create this fragmented, partial, imperfect and intensely-subjective account of the experience through the eyes of those who lived it. This is gorgeous, honestly, and I think the slight lack of polish and obviously-homespun nature of the whole thing makes it rather special.
  • Antonymph: I only realised when I came across this link earlier this week that I haven’t seen a good ‘I made a needlessly-involved and possibly-overengineered website as a sort of interactive promo for my new record!’ website in AGES – thank goodness, then, for this one, which I warn you has a *small* chance of doing very annoying things to your browser but which I encourage you to take the risk with because it is rather a lot of fun (although if you’d rather not take the risk you can also see a screenrecording of the experience on YouTube, you COWARD) and, I get the impression, is also *quite* an impressive bit of codewrangling (if you’re the type to be impressed by that sort of thing – I, obviously, remain stonily unmoved, mainly because I couldn’t code my way out of, or indeed into, the proverbial paper bag). Basically – and without ruining too much of the surprise – this does a lot of really very impressive things with popup windows to create a surprisingly-complex multipart , animation-type experience to accompany the track ‘Antonymph’, which as far as I have been able to tell is itself some sort of fan anthem for the My Little Pony (Friendship Is Magic) fandom…to be honest it was perhaps best if I didn’t tell you that, on reflection, so try and forget that specific detail and enjoy the website, and then try and think of the last time you saw anything this digitally-creative being produced for commercial reasons and cry slowly as you realise that corporatism is the enemy of beauty.
  • The New Search: CHANGES ARE COMING! Much as might want to sit here, Cnut-like (no, that’s not a spoonerised swear, that’s a reference to the sea-defying medieval monarch, do keep up), denying the inevitable, it’s clear that search is due a massive upheaval – everyone seems to have finally realised that Google has fcuked its core product and that information discovery is increasingly-broken, the ubiquity of generative AI is increasingly seeing it baked into everything, regardless of whether or not it makes things better…and at the confluence of those two trends we have a wave of new players attempting to DISRUPT SEARCH! Exciting times (not really, but let’s pretend)! One such company is Arc, who I’ve featured in here before a few years back for their Chrome-competitor browser and who have now launched a new search app (iOS-only at the moment) which is a glimpse at the future of search and…I hate it! It’s possible of course that my visceral reaction was borne of my crippling Fear Of Change (why must I leave my comfort zone? There’s a reason it’s called a ‘comfort zone’! It’s nice here!), but it’s hard to see any ways in which the benefits here outweigh the not-insignificant media literacy and ecosystem disbenefits. Basically the way this works is that every time you run a search the browser effectively spins up a new webpage and populates it with crawled, summarised information that it believes best answers the query you gave it – so rather than being delivered a selection of results and using your nous and judgement and critical faculties to determine which source best serves your purposes, you’re instead spoonfed a load of information which is presented as The Answer. But how does it decide which sources to use? And which to prioritise? And how to avoid ingesting and using all of the terrible junk content that’s already proliferating across the web? And, er, what happens to all the websites whose search traffic, and as such ad revenue, is going to tank when we all decide that we’d rather have the machine summarise everything for us and that as a result we are never visiting a news homepage ever again? These are all excellent questions (well done Matt! Have a biscuit!) to which Arc offers minimal answers because, well, disruption! Casey Newton had a decent writeup of why this feels so…icky – I don’t know, maybe I feel this personally because I am still trying to cling to the vanishing concept of ‘exchanging the written word for money’ and things like this remind me how stupid that is and how I should probably just suck it up and get that HGV license now.
  • Whop: A neat segue (SEAMLESS) from the last link into this one – Whop (it’s a peculiarly-horrible and weirdly-00s name, imho) is attempting to set itself up as a sort of ‘Etsy for the grift economy’ (and guys, if you happen to see this and want to use that tagline yourselves then let’s talk!). Do you have a ‘get rich quick’ scheme? Do you have a SUREFIRE WAY to beat the odds on the horses? Do you know the secrets to creating a guaranteed £10k pcm in passive income in HOURS? NO OF COURSE YOU DON’T ALL THESE THINGS ARE LIES! Except you wouldn;t know that by looking at the homepage of Whop, where a bunch of people are offering a wide selection of services for a monthly subscription fee – this feels very much like a marketplace for people who looked at the Tate ‘Hustler’s University’ and thought ‘you know what, I can totally rip that sort of thing off and find my own coterie of desperate, delusional young men to fleece!’. Offerings run the gamut from ‘Crypto Guides’ to access to ‘trading communities’ where presumably the idea is that you’ll get access to all sorts of AMAZING INSIDER STOCK TIPS (I am always interested in the idea that if one had access to said AMAZING INSIDER STOCK TIPS one wouldn’t make use of that intelligence to become plutocratically rich on the markets overnight but would instead selflessly sacrifice that potential gain in exchange for a mere $39.99, payable monthly) to betting strategies newsletters…this is so OBVIOUSLY scammy, and so obviously aimed at a particular type of young man who’s been fed the ‘you need a lambo or you’re noone’ guff of the modern grift economy, and, honestly, it’s just slightly sad to see. Welcome to the future, in which the only way we can afford the nutripellets is by flogging nonexistent training courses to other desperate mooks in an endless circlejerk of grind!
  • Special Fish: Oh god this is lovely – Special Fish is…what is it? A digital noticeboard? A hyperminimal social network? A forum? Online graffiti? IT IS ALL OF THOSE THINGS! The site is “a community site for publishing poems, journals, logs, and lists”, and anyone can log on and create a small page which they can use to share…whatever they like really. The site is VERY minimal, with no imagery and just simple HTML, but on the homepage you can see a tapestry list of all the different people who have created a small space here – click through on one and it will take you to their small space, which might contain a slightly-gnomic line of prose and no more, or which you might find is a reasonably-exhaustive interrogation of someone’s cultural obsessions. There is something beautiful about stepping from profile to profile, a bit like wandering through an infinite, sparsely-furnished series of interconnected rooms (yes, fine, but as previously-stated it is MY newsletterblogtypething and if I want to use pretentious and not-entirely-successful analogies then, well, I WILL) and, like all my favourite sites, feels not-unlike wandering through a bunch of strangers’ heads (but quietly, on tiptoe, so as not to disturb them).
  • Retire Big Oil: I don’t mean to blow my own trumpet (insert your own hackneyed urban legend about Prince here), but those of you who pay close attention to what I write here each week (please, it’s too painful, don’t) may remember about a year or so ago I mentioned that anyone expecting the Labour party to in any way stick to the environmental policy promises it was making was almost certainly in for an unpleasant surprise – AND LO, IT CAME TO PASS! Anyway, this website has nothing to do with that – but it does feel like an appropriately-impotent response to the whole ‘it does rather feel like none of the people with the material ability to unfcuk this whole environment thing are actually willing to take meaningful action’ thing. In the US, as in the rest of the world, a significant proportion of investment into the oil and gas sector comes from pension funds, and, not unreasonably, there’s a growing movement to encourage people to get their employers to consider where exactly pension pots are being invested and, where appropriate, to get said pots moved to funds whose interests are a bit less environmentally-disastrous. What do you think the best way of raising awareness of this would be? Would it be a lobbying campaign? Physical protests? A bit of XR-style direct activism? NO YOU ARE WRONG THE ANSWER IS IN FACT POSTING AN AI-GENERATED IMAGE OF YOU ON A PROTEST MARCH! Yes, that’s right, the central ACTION this campaign is asking US citizens to take is for them to upload a photo, which via the MAGIC OF AI will become an image of them marching in a suspiciously-clean-looking protest against BIG OIL. This is so, so odd – the execution feels like something from 20 years ago when we were all naive enough to believe that the mere fact of PUTTING SOMETHING ONLINE would magically change the world (RIP Twibbons, you achieved so much), not to mention the fact that asking people to feed their faces to an AI image generator is something of a no-no from a privacy and security point of view. Still, as we all know from all the ‘post a photo to show you care’ campaigns of the past couple of decades, they ALWAYS work (you will of course remember how we used to have ‘racism’ before the storied ‘black squares on Insta’ campaign of 2020), so we can look forward to this being sorted by Q3. WELL DONE EVERYONE!
  • Mixtape Garden: Ooh, this is really nice – create an account and you (or anyone else – it doesn’t HAVE to be you, but, well, why shouldn’t it be?) can create a mixtape of upto seven tracks, pulled from YouTube, with accompanying notes; if you like you can leave the mixtape unfinished and let other users tracks to it, but when it hits 7 songs in total it will be compiled into a single mix and made playable from the site’s homepage, turning it into a living, growing home for seven-song musical journeys guided by strangers. SUCH a lovely idea, this, and worth bookmarking as there’s something really nice about having human-curated playlists to listen to (Jesus, I just read that back and WOW is that a bleak little closer, sorry everyone).
  • Goody2: This is a project by Brain, a ‘collective’ whose work I can best describe as ‘MSCHF, but derivative and not as good’ (sorry, but it’s true) – Goody2 is “a new AI model built with next-gen adherence to our industry-leading ethical principles. It’s so safe, it won’t answer anything  that could be possibly be construed as controversial or problematic.” This is SATIRE – the gag here is that the machine won’t answer any of your questions because it’s been guardrailed into uselessness – but I am not totally sure what it’s satirising (the concept of AI safety? LOL!) and, well, it’s not a very funny gag. Still, er, here!
  • Cry Me A Cockroach: As we approach this year’s celebration of cheap chocolates and petrol station carnations, are you still struggling to come to terms with a past love? Do you still bear the scars of a breakup? Do you want to RIP THAT BSTRARD’S HEART OUT, EAT IT AND THEN SH1T IT OUT AGAIN!?!?!??! I mean, perhaps you should just let it go – but, failing that, why not take advantage of this seasonal promotion from San Antonio zoo? “Symbolically name a roach, rat, or veggie after your ex or not-so-special someone and San Antonio Zoo will help squash your past, a true heartbreak healer, by feeding your selection to an animal resident.” On the one hand, you are actually condemning a living creature to death in service of this gag – on the other, they’re getting fed to other living creatures, so it’s probably morally-neutral.
  • The Cursed Library: A nice little show-offy bit of webwork by Belgian digital studio Epic, this is a simple-but-cute bit of digital storytelling – click the link, explore the CURSED LIBRARY and find the stories that are hidden therein. This is basically just a case of clicking the various hotspots, fine, but the art direction and sound design are really rather nice, and I would be interested in seeing a whole animation or slightly-expanded game done in this visual style because it’s pleasingly-distinctive, a nice mix of kids’ storybook and digital. So, er, can one of you commission them to make that, please? Ta.
  • Art Remix: A nice toy from Google Arts & Culture, this lets you take classic artworks from its scanned collection and see how you can use generative AI to change specific elements of them, letting you explore the nature of prompting and do stupid things like add a fcuktonne of frogs to Monet’s waterlilies.
  • Enhanced: THE DRUGLYMPICS ARE HERE! You may have seen the reports about this this week, suggesting that Web Curios’ favourite vampire plutocrat tradcath sociopath Peter Thiel (one week, I promise, I will get through an entire edition without mentioning that fcuking cnut) was one of the backers of a new athletics event which, rather than attempting to weed out competitors juicing their bodies with hormone supplements and the like, actively encourages the ingestion of performance-enhancing substances to see exactly how far human bodies can be pushed. The website is, sadly, a bit more sober than I might have hoped – although I do feel like opening the whole thing with the legend ‘Backed by the world’s top venture capitalists…’ in 2024 isn’t perhaps the flex said VCs think it is (lads you may not have noticed but your track record is at-best patchy and EVERYONE THINKS YOUR CNUTS) – but what I find interesting about it is the way in which it intersects with certain specific strains of right-wing thinking (‘limitless potential!’, ‘don’t let the petty, small-minded administrative bureaucrats and pencil pushers stop you from becoming the ultimate version of yourself!’), as well as what sort of insurance they plan to have in place for when someone’s heart inevitably explodes as they try and deadlift a lorry while having just ingested three times their own bodymass in creatine powder.
  • Drawzer: Would you like a website that does NOTHING ELSE but spit out whimsical, random drawing prompts such as “A bashful lion marching at a creepy carnival.” at the touch of a button? YES YOU WOULD! This feels like something that it would be interesting to hook up to a bunch of different image generation AIs to create an automated pipeline of images, not least as it would act as a neat way of tracking comparative model performance. Er, anyone? No, ok, fine.
  • Rank A Day: OH THIS IS WONDERFUL! Is there any joy more human, more PERFECT, than being presented with a ranked list of things and going through it with increasing irritation at the IDIOCY of your fellow man and the APPALLING BANALITY of their taste? No, there is not, and thanks to this site you can enjoy that feeling EVERY DAY! Every 24h the site will offer you a selection of things – oscar winning films, say, or the best NFL team – and ask you to pick your top 3; do so, and you’ll be shown the overall results, so you can see what the rest of the world has determined is THE BEST THING in a given category and get really angry about it. I stumbled across this on a day when the question was in fact the one about ‘Best Picture’ winners and got so annoyed at the fact that Lord of the Fcuking Rings was top that I had to make a calming brew and have a small pace around the kitchen – honestly, it’s PERFECTLY irritating.
  • The Big Plastic Count: This is A) not really a web thing tbh; and B) very much UK-only; apologies for the anglocentrism, but it’s a good project and might be the sort of thing that any anglos with kids might want to get involved with.”Count your plastic for one week – 11-17 March 2024. For one week in March, thousands of schools, households, community groups and businesses will be coming together to count their plastic waste. And we want you to join them. Almost a quarter of a million people took part in The Big Plastic Count in 2022. Together we revealed that almost two billion pieces of plastic packaging are being thrown away a week. This year you can help build even more evidence to convince UK ministers to lead the way at the global talks that could finally phase out plastic pollution for good.” Look, I know, but you have to hope that stuff like this might make a difference to something somewhere because otherwise we might as well all just set fire to everything.
  • Redpop Apples: I am not quite sure how I came across this website, but I have some questions; the main question being WHO THE FCUK WROTE THE COPY HERE AND WHY IS IT LIKE THIS? The homepage hits you right away with ‘WELCOME TO A NEW POP SWEET APPLE!’ and doesn’t really calm down from there; the apple is a ‘she’, apparently, and “you immediately understand she’s born and raised where the best apples grow, in the hands of farmers who take care of the fruit, with great experience.” I know that apple cultivation is a genuinely-multi-billion-dollar industry and that the marketing of new varietals is a serious business, and so I don’t imagine that the…very particular style of writing here is an accident, but I am genuinely baffled as to why it mimics the cadence and rhythm and vocabulary of translated-to-English Japanese, or the cutesy-anime-uwuu vibe of the whole thing…I appreciate that this is VANISHINGLY unlikely, but should anyone reading this know anything about the ‘why’ of this then I would love to hear about it.

By Timothy Lai Hui Ming



  • Book Cover Review: Via Good Rishi, this is a lovely project dedicated to, er, reviewing book covers. Which, frankly, feels like something that should have existed already but I am glad that David Pearson and others have decided to make this. Each ‘review’ is a 500 word essay about the book, its cover, how the two relate, and whatever else the writer fancies dropping in – there are a bunch on there already, and you could spend a very pleasant 20 minutes leafing through the various covers and the thoughts they inspire. Gorgeous.
  • News Poetry: You know how I was talking earlier on about THE FUTURE OF SEARCH and how that’s basically going to involve information being packaged and fed to you by The Machine? Well, now imagine that, but for news – and that the package you’re being fed is POETRY. Really, really bad poetry. Well done! You’ve just invented NewsPoetry, which manages to fail both as a poet AND as a means of effectively conveying useful information! I am being unfair here – this is obviously just a hacked-together bit of fun and isn’t meant to be anything more than that. I think, as far as I can tell, there’s a semi-automated ‘New York Times headlines’-to-GPT-to-website pipeline that throws these together each day, and, per usual with your standard LLM-text, the ‘poems’ it throws out are execrably bad – today’s opens with “Hey, Biden cleared of documents case / But concerns arise, memory’s embrace / Retaining material, after VP reign / Sharing with a ghostwriter, memory’s strain.” which once your eyes have stopped bleeding you will agree is NOT GOOD; still, it’s sort-of fun in a pointless gag way – I now want to see someone crowdfund a Matt Webb-style digital display that shows ONLY that day’s NewsPoem because, actually, that would basically be ART.
  • Road Curvature Atlas: Given the proportion of you I believe to be middle-aged men, stereotype dictates that I must ALSO believe that a significant number of you are the sort of middle-aged men who get REALLY enthused about driving and cars, and for whom the prospect of a pair of mesh-backed gloves, a droptop, a curving mountaintop road and an end to the curse that is your male-pattern baldness is basically nirvana – DRIVING MEN, THIS WEBSITE IS FOR YOU! Brought to me by Giuseppe, this site serves a single purpose – it “helps those who enjoy twisty roads (such as motorcycle or driving enthusiasts) find promising roads that may not be well known. It works by looking at the geometry of every road segment and adding up how much length of the road is sharp corners, broad sweeping curves, and straight areas. The most twisty segments can then be viewed on the web or downloaded as KML map files that can be viewed in Google Earth.” This is very clever, and there’s something pleasingly-geeky about the maths behind this, and I love the fact that this project has apparently existed in some form since 2009(!) – Adam Franco (for it is his website), whoever you are I am genuinely impressed by your 15 year dedication to the beauty of curvy roads.
  • The Atlas of Intangibles: This is one especially for the Londoners, although as a project it stands alone – a lovely project by Priti Pandurangan, in which they attempt to apply layers of connection to walks they take through the city. Sounds, bits of urban infrastructure, signs of the city’s decay, marks and scars and signs and graffiti, spotted as Pandurangan walked through Canary Wharf or Ravensourt Park or along the South Bank, all arranged along mapped routes or visualised as a series of connections…there is something genuinely gorgeous about the way in which these disparate little datapoints and observations are weaved together into a strange sort of narrative of the physical, and while I appreciate I am making something of a pig’s ear out of describing this I really do hope you’ll forgive me and take the time to click, because this is charming and such a novel way of considering the urban space we find ourselves surrounded by.
  • The Carnivore Bar: Do you find that your HARDCORE LIFESTYLE and the IMMENSE PHYSICAL DEMANDS you place on yourself require you to ingest VIOLENT AMOUNTS OF PROTEIN? Are you saddened by the fact that the current range of protein products currently taking up approximately 70% of all cornershop shelving (seriously, WHO IS BUYING ALL THESE PROTEIN BARS AND WHAT IS IT DOING TO THE NATION’S BOWELS?!?!) don’t, as a rule, contain MEAT? Well the carnivore bar is for you! Beautifully, the website’s homepage screams ‘’nutrition without compromise’, presumably for all those people who think ‘ingesting something that wasn’t once able to draw breath’ is some sort of pathetic cuck move.
  • Postcard Models: Would you like a small online shop where you can buy a variety of small, perfectly-formed models of quaint English houses? GREAT! These are cute, everyone loves miniature stuff (EVERYONE, it is the law), and these are almost insanely-cheap, with kits to build your own version of a rickety wooden lighthouse starting from a mere £15. COME ON YOU SAID YOU WERE GOING TO GET A HOBBY.
  • The Library of Congress National Jukebox: Oh my word what a resource this is. From the blurb: “The Library of Congress presents the National Jukebox, which makes historical sound recordings available to the public free of charge. The Jukebox includes recordings from the extraordinary collections of the Library of Congress National Audio-Visual Conservation Center and other contributing libraries and archives. Recordings in the Jukebox were issued on record labels now owned by Sony Music Entertainment, which has granted the Library of Congress a gratis license to stream acoustical recordings. At launch, the Jukebox includes more than 10,000 recordings made by the Victor Talking Machine Company between 1901 and 1925. Jukebox content will be increased regularly, with additional Victor recordings and acoustically recorded titles made by other Sony-owned U.S. labels, including Columbia, OKeh, and others.” Everything I have clicked on this site has been great, and I just soundtracked the writing of this and the previous link with this EXCELLENT song from 1908.
  • Style Hunter: Potentially very useful for those of you who have to wrangle images for a living, Style Hunter is a Chrome extension which lets you click on any image on the web and generate another image, based on your probe, which mimics that style – so, for example, you might see a painting by Egon Schiele and think ‘ooh, I wonder what it would look like if Egon had drawn a portrait of Barry Chuckle?’ and in a few short steps you will be able to find out. Truly, the future is amazing.
  • The Brutal Web: A directory of websites developed in the ‘brutalist’ style of webdev, which I remember being particularly fashionable circa 2014-16 – per the blurb, “Web Brutalism is one the most ‘true’ design style that prioritizes functionality over form and effectivity over aesthetics. It comes from the French phrase ‘béton brut’, which translates to ‘raw concrete’. Some people call brutalism ‘ugly’ and ‘gloomy’, but it’s just a matter of taste. Beauty hides behind roughness. In some ways, Web Brutalism is an ancestor of web design — insofar as the sites of the web 1.0 era took the form of their function. After the surge of interest in 10th decades the style’s been forgotten a little bit. This gallery serves as a reminder as to how of Web Brutalism’s raw unpolished beauty and new forms.” Useful should you be considering a minimal design template for anything you’re working on, or just if you want to spend some time browsing some really stark pages (also, quite a few of the linked examples are genuinely fun, like this one).
  • Comics Devices: Do you or anyone you know like drawing comics, or want to get into drawing comics? GREAT THIS ONE IS FOR YOU THEN. This is “a library of visual-narrative devices that are specific to the medium of comics, furnished with definitions and examples by contributors. It is a practical, accessible resource for creators, teachers, editors, scholars, critics, readers, the curious, the open-minded, and anyone with an interest in comics…The primary purpose of the library is for creators to use as a learning resource and reference tool, regardless of professional level. It is curated by an active creator with more than 10 years of experience and 1000s of comics pages under their belt, and contains contributions by fellow creators from various and diverse places in the industry. It aims to provide clear and practical language without being bogged down by jargon.” This is such a wonderful, and generous, resource.
  • Zuckerbackerei: A baking blog! Just like it’s the past or something! This is in German – I KNOW! HOW RUDE! – but it translates beautifully via Google, and whilst you might come for the cakes (the cakes look great, I keep meaning to make the maple syrup and tahini ones) there is also a weekly rambling ‘a bunch of stuff I found interesting this week’ roundup which is honestly GREAT and has given me a whole load of brand new interesting links (most of which seem to be in English) each time since I started reading it a few weeks back. This is by one Jana Wiese, and it’s really really…nice (which I know sounds like faint praise, but it’s not meant as such in this case).
  • All of Jay Rayner’s Restaurant Reviews, Mapped: I don’t know if you’re the sort of person who reads and enjoys restaurant reviews, but I very much am, and Jay Rayner, who writes for the Guardian, is one of the UK’s best; some kind soul has undertaken a massive labour of love and mapped every single one of the hundreds of reviews that Rayner’s done over the years, meaning you can bookmark this and have a reasonable selection of potential places to eat wherever you may end up visiting. Except Grimsby – there is nowhere nice to eat in Grimsby (NB – look, I’m sorry if you read this and you’re from Grimsby but I have been there and this is a fact).
  • All The Design Images: Or, to give it its official name, VADS (my name is better) – VADS is ‘a national collection of over 140,000 images from over 300 art and design collections across the UK, which are freely available for non-commercial use in education. The images cover the broad range of the visual arts including applied arts, architecture, design, fashion, fine art, and media’, and if you’re in need of visual resources or inspiration or just want to look at a bunch of really cool stuff, this is ACE.
  • The Free Internet Library: I love this – not so much because of the texts that are here collected and made available for free download (a weird and eclectic collection running the gamut from the Whole Earth Catalogue to some literature on the history of the Palestinian state, to a book about critical meme reading), but because of the general ethos underpinning it: “After starting several brands and doing massive amounts of research, we ended up collecting so much information that became incredibly useful to us, and we wanted to create a system to help better distribute what we’ve got and spread it as far as we could. What started in a small apartment bedroom is now a full-functional studio, and we owe a lot of that to our community and the research we’ve done.” MORE PROJECTS LIKE THIS PLEASE – it’s nice that we all ‘make content’ all the time, obvs, but occasionally it’s also nice when people do/make things that are just, well, kind and helpful.
  • Lists: ‘A collection of shopping lists to choose from’, reads the short site blurb – I don’t know about you, but I find there’s a certain beauty in this sort of hypermundane snooping, and something oddly-personal that you can scry inbetween the notes reminding you to buy eggs, bread and toilet paper.
  • Spock Logic: Would you like a YouTube channel whose sole purpose is to provide a series of short lessons on the principles of logic, delivered to you by the animated Mr Spock from the 70s Star Trek cartoon? OF COURSE YOU WOULD YOU ARE NOT A FOOL! There are about 70 of these, part of a project that’s seemingly been running for 10 years (!), and basically if it’s on this list of logical fallacies then you can expect to find it here – this is, honestly, a really good way of getting your head round certain principles and I personally wouldn’t mind it if the creator of these couldn’t also see fit to get Spock to explain, I don’t know, why everything is so hard and why we can’t just stop.
  • All Of The Space Pictures: Not ALL of them, obviously, but NASA does a daily ‘here’s a picture of space’ on one of its websites, and this is the archive of all of them, going back to 1995(!) when they first started posting them, and this gives you HUNDREDS of nebulae and galaxies and star systems and the like to click through and gawp at (or, if you were so minded, to train an SD instance on so you can spin up your own infinite machine-imagined space infinities, should you wish to do so).
  • Rising Up: This week’s EXCELLENT BROWSER GAME comes in the shape of this really nicely-made and reasonably-shiny Streets of Rage clone, complete with a decent chiptuney soundtrack (though still not a patch on the original’s, obvs) – play a mild-mannered office drone driven to breaking point by a printer malfunction, smashing and kicking your way through swathes of other office drones in what ends up being a surprisingly-cathartic and fun beat-em-up which took me right back to spending a worrying amount of time in what were, in retrospect, some pretty seedy Italian arcades playing Final Fight.

By Daniellle Roberts



  • Erik Wakkel: Erik is a medieval book historian at The University of British Columbia, Vancouver. He posts images of medieval books. You don’t really need to know much more than that, to be honest, but it’s worth digging in and having a bit of a scroll as the images of individual tomes and pages are accompanied by notes that are genuinely-interesting (trust me, I am not normally enthused by the mere fact of ‘old’).


  • Jean Jacques Balzac: The first of several Instas this week which came to me via the wonderful Things Magazine, Jean Jacques Balzac’s feed is described as ‘wrong architecture illustrations’, and I can’t really do better than that, sorry. These are ODD, in a good, non-obvious and slightly-unsettling way.
  • The Tube Map: I am slightly astonished that I have somehow avoided featuring this over the years, but, well, I CANNOT POSSIBLY SEE ALL OF THE INTERNET (however much of my life I waste by attempting to do so) – still, here it is now, an Insta feed dedicated to all things tube map-ish, including old maps, modern riffs on the classic design (including the annoyingly-good Samsung activation currently live in some London stations), and assorted tube-related ephemera.
  • I Don’t Give A Seat: Photographs of the upholstery used in the world’s public transit systems. You may not think this is going to be your latest source of sartorial inspiration, but, honestly, some of these absolutely slap and I would totally wear some of these fabric designs as flourishes on tshirts or somesuch (on the other hand, I dress like an increasingly-skeletal tramp, so perhaps don’t take my opinion too seriously).
  • Avenrood: Just photos, often featuring street furniture and the shadows it casts. I really like the style here, simple though it is.
  • Tiny House Perfect: An Insta account which shares the sort of propertybongo typical of the platform – all tiny, perfectly-formed dwellings with impossibly-well-arranged interiors and a perfectly-cosy aesthetic – except all the houses here are by AI, which means they all look superficially like places you could live until you look a bit closer and notice that the ceiling clearance on the first floor is apparently slightly less than three feet, or that there appears to be a portal to the infinite in the garden. I found this via this piece in the NYT, which I thought interesting about the ways in which the subtle – and unheralded, given a casual observer could easily think these were real – introduction of these aesthetics to the platform which serves as probably the biggest mass-market determinant of aesthetic culture on the planet might affect what we start to see around us in coming years.


  • That Essay About Self-Promotion: This has been EVERYWHERE this week – Rebecca Jennings writing in Vox about the slightly-relentless misery of ‘always having to promote yourself and your brand in the 24/7 horror of the hustle economy’. I feel slightly odd about this – personally-speaking, as I think I might have mentioned before, I find ‘effort’ to be vulgar in the extreme and as such find the idea of promoting myself or anything I do immensely gauche (THIS is the reason why Curios isn’t immensely popular; nothing to do with the dogsh1t writing, length and increasingly-oppressive air of existential despair!); on the other, I am very aware that I have certain privileges that enable me to take this grossly-high-handed attitude and as such I probably don’t have the right to comment. The degree to which this has been shared suggests it resonated widely, and it feels emblematic of the very particular sort of horror I feel when I log onto LinkedIn each week to post a link to Curios (to an almost-entirely uninterested audience, let me be clear) and I happen to see the main feed and it’s just full of people I mostly only vaguely-know all desperately performing SUCCESS, all jazzhandsing and prancing and capering and BUILDING THE BRAND and it sort of makes me want to cry, particularly when you know a bit more about the individual in question and you know that the performance is strained to breaking point. How have we ended up here? I mean, loads of reasons, but once again I place a significant degree of blame at the door of the CREATOR ECONOMY (or at least the specific idea of it that was (mis)sold to the world over the past 10 years) which told everyone that all you needed was a brand and a perspective and the ability to SH!T OUT CONTENT and you too could be a one-person media empire – as a companion piece to this one, can I recommend you also read this post by Joan Westenberg who calmly and clearly lays out in stark economic terms exactly why the idea of a content-based ‘creator economy’ is, and always has been, total fcuking bullshit from a pure economics point of view.
  • The New Google AI: It’s not called Bard now (good, that was a genuinely sh1t name), it’s called GEMINI, and as of yesterday it’s live everywhere – the standard free version is GPT-3.5 level, but Google now gives you the option of paying them a monthly stipend for access to the BIG MODEL, and this is perennial Curios favourite and AI Virgil Ethan Mollick with his initial impressions of how the model works and what it’s good for and how it compares to GPT4; it’s worth reading to get the full rundown, but the short version is ‘it’s probably comparable to GPT4, mostly, but you probably don’t need a subscription to both of them’. SEMI-RELATED LINK: someone on Reddit posted what they claim is the underlying set of training instructions baked into ChatGPT; it’s interesting not least because it’s literally just a set of pre-prompts, and does rather give the impression (accurately) that noone really knows what the fcuk is going on with this stuff or how it works.
  • Trend Trends: I featured Matt Klein’s ‘digest of all the trend reports’ last year – this is a piece in which Klein reflects on what he learned doing the same exercise again this year, namely that (and this may not shock you) nothing really seems to have changed over the last 6 years. There are a variety of explanations for this which Klein neatly runs through, but I liked his conclusion – that this sort of indicates that perhaps we should STOP LOOKING AT FCUKING TREND REPORTS AND DATA and instead perhaps just try doing weird, interesting stuff because a) why the fcuk not, it’s not like it matters so you might as well have fun; b) everyone is VERY FCUKING BORED of culture basically having stagnated for 6 years, so anyone doing anything different will inevitably stick out; and c) also everything is so utterly grim right now, at least in the UK, that anything advermarketingprish that is genuinely fun or surprising will get cut-through because (I can’t believe I am saying this) people really could do with a bit of ‘surprise and delight’ (LOL!) right now.
  • Herman Miller’s Identity Guidelines: I don’t as a general rule tend to include links to things like corporate brand guidelines, let alone corporate brand guidelines for a firm that makes office furnishings – AND YET! I expect that more than one of you reading this has at one point or another had to write brand guidelines or, heaven forfend, a BRAND BIBLE – this is a genuinely good example of the genre, clear and clean and pleasingly un-w4nky, and I love the fact that it’s a simple-but-effective website rather than a massive, unwieldy PDF that no fcuker is every going to open. WELL DONE, FURNITURE MONGS!
  • They Solved The Scrolls: I know that it’s not really cool to talk about AI in a positive sense, but I am a 44 year old man and ‘cool’ is a concept with which I have no truck whatsoever – this is AMAZING. I featured this project in Curios last year – a challenge asking researchers to try and decipher the text written on ancient scrolls using AI technology – and it’s been won! Honestly, it’s hard to overstate how remarkable this is – they have managed to read text from sealed scrolls buried under lava 2000 years ago! This is astonishing! – but it’s worth clicking the link and having a read about how it was done and what they found.
  • AI Comes To Maps: Sorry, it feels like I’m including an awful lot of Google product news at the moment – apologies, not trying to PR them, it’s just that they’re releasing a lot at the moment and, being Google, it’s likely that this stuff will have IMPACT. The AI integration to maps will basically allow users to ask natural language queries and get answers crafted by AI based on Google Maps data. So, for example, you might want to find the best place to practice figging in Berlin – ask the map and it will analyse reviews, opening times, likely footfall and all sorts of other gubbins and provide you with the perfect recommendation for ginger-related fun. Which is both really useful and a good reason to make sure that, if you’re involved with businesses that depend on footfall, your Google Maps listing is up to date and well-reviewed because this is the sort of thing that could really fcuk people. As ever with this stuff, there is literally NO INFORMATION WHATSOEVER about how the data sources are weighted, and nothing whatsoever about how businesses can ensure that The Machine is taking them into account when serving up reccs…this feels like a win for convenience, true, but like it might have…one or two unintended consequences for the retail and restoration industries.
  • The Bill Gates of India: I’m running the original headline here – I personally have no opinion on whether or not Nandan Nilekani is in fact ‘the Bill Gates of India’ – but to be honest the most interesting thing about this piece are the plans Nilekani outlines to digitise small vendors across the country in order to broaden their markets (and, as a side effect, so that Nandan Nilekani can become even more violently wealthy). “What it intends to do is forever alter the life of people like the pineapple vendor I noticed outside Nilekani’s offices, his produce stacked by the dozens in neat rows atop a creaky pushcart. For now, his business relies entirely on face-to-face transactions—a form of commerce unchanged in centuries—and he likely earns no more than $25 a day. “If someone in the neighborhood wants a pineapple, why can’t he order it?” Nilekani asks, envisioning a future in which customers can summon the pineapple man with a few taps on their phone, substantially increasing his business. Then, as Nilekani understatedly put it: “He can sell more pineapples.”” I don’t know about you, but when I read this particular paragraph I had a very strong ‘hang on, aren’t there lessons we perhaps should have learned about unintended consequences that we might want to draw on before attempting to ‘disrupt’ an economy of over a billion people?’ – still, Nandan knows best.
  • AIdvertising: Sorry. Thing is, though, this really is about using AI for ad placement, so TECHNICALLY the appalling pun was justified. This is a piece about new ad placement services which let ‘creators’ sell real estate within their videos, which is then dynamically filled with an advertising image inserted dynamically by AI – which is all sorts of smart, and works as follows: “Advertisers use Rembrand’s marketplace to connect with more than 1,000 creators from agencies it works with. Creators upload their videos to its platform and receive them within 24 hours with the product placements. Rembrand has someone check for quality and someone else for how the brand appears. Then creators upload the clips and eventually get paid from the brands based on video views.”  I can’t help but tie this back to the first article about HUSTLE AND GRIND and imagine a world a year or so hence when literally EVERYONE is adding this sh1t to their social output because why not earn a few pennies off an affiliate link – just like is already happening to a lesser extent? We…we do realise that all this isn’t going to do much to achieve the whole ‘smaller carbon footprint, less consumption of pointless crap, less waste and landfill and seas full of plastic’ thing we’re all supposed to currently care about, right?
  • The Apple Vision Pro W4nkers: This isn’t my observation, but it made me laugh – have you noticed how all the videos of people using the Apple Vision Pro in the wild are of men. Men, alone? MAKES YOU THINK, DOESN’T IT??? Anyway, this is an excellent piece which collects a bunch of videos of people looking like d1cks while pinching thin air – you might also enjoy this one, about the collective sadness of the men who bought a £3500 home bongo setup only to find that Apple won’t let them play VR bongo on it.
  • TikTok Slang: About 7 years ago, my girlfriend decided that she was going to ‘bring back’ the word ‘groovy’, and started dropping it into conversation here and there at work and in social situations. Whilst I don’t want to ascribe too much influence to her lest her head swell, there was a moment of genuine amazement when I witnessed someone spontaneously say it to her a couple of years ago – so basically if you hear anyone say ‘groovy’ in modern times it’s because of her. FACT. Anyway, that has very little to do with this article, which is about the current vogue for attempting to invent viral neologisms on TikTok in the hope that you can, I presume, spark a week’s worth of thinkpieces and desperately-tryhard reactive brand content. IT’S GOOD TO HAVE AMBITION KIDS.
  • Poogle Maps: On the one hand, that’s the second near-unforgivable pun in this week’s longreads and I am once again SORRY; on the other, read this article and tell me that they missed a trick (also, this is a story on Australian website crikey, and if you can’t rely on the Aussies to make a good toilet gag then I fear for the fate of the world. frankly). My not-particularly-funny wittering aside, this is actually an interesting bit of journalism that reveals quite an interesting and potentially-dangerous security exploit achievable via Google Maps – if you’re considering a pivot into ‘burglary’ as a career, this could be the most useful thing you read all week.
  • Muslims in Italy: An excellent piece in the FT about the current realities of Muslim life in Italy, a country whose birthrate has been declining for decades but which is still too racist to come to terms with the fact that it needs immigration to survive (sorry, any Italians who are reading this, but you know it’s true) – the statistic that the country has only five visible mosques despite a muslim population of nearly 3m is STAGGERING, and made me realise that I am only aware of a single one in Rome which is insane for a capital city.
  • Finding The Air Cannon: This is, fine, not a sparkling piece of prose or a super piece of journalism, BUT it is possibly the most satisfying example of creative problem solving I have seen in ages and it pleased me immoderately. Imagine this scenario: “The use of agricultural air cannons south of Corvallis has been extreme this month. Farmers with field crops are often beset with Canadian Geese overwintering in the Willamette Valley. To scare the geese away, they frequently use propane air cannons on timers. Starting on January 5th, an air cannon began firing every two minutes all day and throughout the night. My sleep and that of many neighbors was disrupted for nearly a month.” Now, how would you go about locating exactly where the offending air cannon is? READ ON! Also, as a bonus, the person who wrote this and runs the blog on which it’s hosted also has a hobby/sideline in drawing some of the most incredibly complex mazes I have ever seen, check them out.
  • The Internet Amnesty: I rather enjoyed this essay, arguing that, except for in exceptionally-egregious circumstances, perhaps we ought to just stop excoriating people for stuff they did or said online in the past – instead, the author argues, “My counter-proposal, option two, is that we declare a blanket amnesty for everything unless it’s abominable. Somewhat creepy behavior plausibly the result of misjudgment? Amnesty. Rape someone? No amnesty. Do a dodgy paraphrase for convenience. Amnesty. Steal a manuscript from another scholar and publish it under your name? No amnesty. Improperly make expense claims? Amnesty. Embezzle millions from your not-for-profit? No amnesty. My general position is that in the internet age, you should set a very high bar of wrongdoing, and not pursue anything that falls under that.” That seems…fair?
  • Argyle, Explained: Argylle is a film whose existence I am only aware of in the context of its marketing stunts – in fact, in an even odder and sense, I am only aware of it because of REPORTING ABOUT its marketing stunts rather than seeing any of said marketing for myself. Anyway, I am obviously never going to watch it but I genuinely enjoyed this long, convoluted (by necessity) attempt to explain and unpack WHAT THE FCUK IS GOING ON throughout the movie, though all its apparently neverending metafictional twists and turns…this is very entertaining, not least because of the very clear sense the author gives that despite how much is evidently GOING ON in the film they are also tremendously bored throughout the whole experience. I wonder whether this is going to have a small Morbius moment, or whether there’s something too fundamentally distasteful about the combination of Matthew Vaughan, the Kingsmen franchise and an aggressive pseudo-ARG around it to make it even an object of memetic ridicule.
  • Is Pregnancy A Disease?: DON’T SHOOT THE MESSENGER I AM ONLY QUOTING THE PAPER’S TITLE! This is, fine, a bit of a gag (LOL ACADEMIA SO FUNNY!) but equally is a really interesting exploration of the taxonomy of health and philosophy of language, and it’s worth reading the abstract in full because this really is deeper than your initial ‘no, lol, fcuk off’ response might have led you to believe: “In this paper, we identify some key features of what makes something a disease, and consider whether these apply to pregnancy. We argue that there are some compelling grounds for regarding pregnancy as a disease. Like a disease, pregnancy affects the health of the pregnant person, causing a range of symptoms from discomfort to death. Like a disease, pregnancy can be treated medically. Like a disease, pregnancy is caused by a pathogen, an external organism invading the host’s body. Like a disease, the risk of getting pregnant can be reduced by using prophylactic measures. We address the question of whether the ’normality’ of pregnancy, its current necessity for human survival, or the value often attached to it are reasons to reject the view that pregnancy is a disease. We point out that applying theories of disease to the case of pregnancy, can in many cases illuminate inconsistencies and problems within these theories. Finally, we show that it is difficult to find one theory of disease that captures all paradigm cases of diseases, while convincingly excluding pregnancy. We conclude that there are both normative and pragmatic reasons to consider pregnancy a disease.”
  • Devoted to Blue Roll: I loved this essay, in Vittles (which means I’ve just realised it might be paywalled, apologies if so), all about the ubiquitous Blue Roll that is present in every single restaurant you’ve ever visited and which, if you’ve ever worked in hospitality, will have an almost Pavlovian ability to bring back memories when you spot it in the wild. This is a great example of how wide-ranging and rich writing about even ostensibly-mundane subjects can be – this takes in restaurant culture, health and safety legislation and paper manufacture, and it’s STILL fascinating.
  • A Teen’s Fatal Plunge Into The London Underworld: This has been widely praised on JournoTwitter this week, and rightly so – it’s a quite remarkable story about a public schoolboy whose mysterious death and subsequently-revealed connection to London gangland has never been reported in the UK despite the fact that, as this article proves, it’s a cracking tale. There are so many wonderful details in here – some wonderfully-telling undercutting of a certain type of middle-class existence, the allusions to Big London Crime, the increasingly-fetid air of a collusive coverup…honestly, this is exemplary and I now REALLY want to know who or what has prevented anyone from writing this up in the UK media.
  • Writers and the Martini: The list of cliches and anecdotes and quotes about writers and the Martini is already overlong, but despite that I really enjoyed this article by Dwight Garner about the literary world’s love affair with the world’s deadliest cocktail – there’s something deliciously gossipy about the tone, like the whole things being relayed to you over your second of the evening as you share the smoked almonds, and it’s impossible to read without it putting a smile on your face (but it will REALLY make you want a drink, so just fyi – it’s currently 1127am and I could fcuking MURDER a drink and a fag).
  •  Why Don’t We Just Kill The Kid In The Omelas Hole?: I wasn’t aware of the Ursula Le Guin short that this story is riffing on, about ‘a summer festival in the utopian city of Omelas, whose prosperity depends on the perpetual misery of a single child’ – this, by Isabel J Kim, is an excellent take on that premise which I think you should just go in and read cold (yes, that’s right. I DO know what’s best for you).
  • With Teeth: I have an unpleasant relationship with teeth – mine are hideous, for a start, thanks to three decades of tabs and tea, but there’s also the fact that they are, undeniably, LUMPS OF BONE GROWING OUT OF MY FACE FLESH and, honestly, even just typing that is enough to break me out in an unpleasant persistent sweat – but I nonetheless adored this essay by Sam Paul, about their relationship with their teeth and their appearance and their self, and ideas of beauty, and how your body informs your mind and vice versa. This didn’t make me feel any less awful about corporeality, but the prose is LOVELY.
  • We Would Have Told Each Other Everything: Our last longread of the week is about bumping into your shrink. Except it’s not, not really – I LOVED this, everything about it, not least the fact that I at no point thought particularly liked the narrator and I knew that the narrator wouldn’t have cared in the slightest. This is beautiful and I think you will adore it I think.

By Oli Frape