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Webcurios 30/07/21

Reading Time: 32 minutes

I don’t know about all of you, but I am absolutely destroyed by the Olympics this year. Whether it’s a side-effect of The Year We’ve All Just Had(™) or the fact that, as I age and inch closer to the grave, the youthful athleticism of the contestants is so wonderful and fresh and…so…distinct from my own experience of the pre-senescence meatprison that I call a ‘body’ to make the mere experience of watching them almost unbearably-poignant, I seemingly can’t get through even the skeet shooting without shedding several litres of saline from my face.

Anyway, I am knackered, which is why I am taking a couple of weeks off to see whether my girlfriend remembers who I am and, if she doesn’t, to embark on ‘Reeducation Procedure #3’ (physically painless for all; emotionally krakatoan for at least one). Curios will return in a fortnight’s time, on 20 August, unless I die or lose all my digits in some sort of freak accident – in the meantime, I hope the following links and words go some way towards helping fill that gaping void between ‘birth’ and ‘death’ we all find ourselves trapped in.

I am Matt, this is Web Curios, and you are about to be very disappointed by everything that follows.

By Koen Hauser



  • Project December: We kick off this week with a link that also appears in a longread later in Curios – I believe that this is what is called 360-degree-curation, or at least it would be if people bothered to develop terminology for the general act of ‘plucking stuff from the grab-bag of content that is the internet and presenting it as a weekly digest’ (why don’t people do that?). Project December is by artist Jason Rohrer, and is effectively a public-access portal to textual AI that anyone can use for a small fee to create and interact with GPT-3-type chatbots, trained on whatever text you like. So, to give you a more simple example, you could spin this up, train a fresh AI on a passage of text from your favourite character in a novel, and HEY PRESTO, a chatbot that will let you talk to, I don’t know, Professor fcuking Snape (I SEE YOU, MILLENNIALS). I can’t stress how amazing this is – to be clear, you need to pay to access this as there’s a baseline cost to cover the tech, but the entry level price is under a fiver and it is 100% worth it to experiment with something which honestly feels like magic. I trained it on a few hundred words of me and spent a few hours one afternoon chatting to myself and…well, frankly it was horrible, like staring into a funhouse mirror and having the distorted reflection taunt you with a drooling, gummy smile on its face, but it was sort of brilliant at the same time. Honestly, I can’t recommend it enough – and you really need to make sure you read the accompanying piece in the longreads down the bottom too.
  • GPT-J: Textual AI plaything of the week #2! I actually discovered this via Jason Rohrer, above, who’s had to move from using Open AI’s GPT-3 software for Project December to using this open source equivalent – and now everyone else can use it too! This is the first time I’ve seen a post-GPT-2 textAI available for open use like this, and I encourage you to have a play with it – give it an input and it will spin up some follow-on copy, and let me tell you it is good. The really interesting thing about this is that it’s an open API and so you can use this to make all sorts of fun things (while it exists) – all the branded text AI idea you had, but had to shelve because you didn’t have a GPT-3 access key? MAKE THEM HAPPEN! If nothing else, why not see how much of the rest of the afternoon’s work you can get this to do for you?
  • VW Virtual Drive: Volkswagen trying to flog a car here by letting you take a VIRTUAL DRIVE in a VIRTUAL CAR along VIRTUAL ROADS, all the while allowing you to turn your VIRTUAL HEAD (upsettingly, Volkswagen have inexplicably decided to give you full, 360-degree head motion, meaning your VIRTUAL NECK has some potentially-fatal VIRTUAL DISLOCATION ISSUES, but worry about that when you get out). This is quite shiny, but very, very boring – the main reason I’m including it is because of the fact it’s reasonably smooth webwork, and because of the fact that in both scenarios (you can choose between driving along the VIRTUAL COASTLINE or the VIRTUAL MOUNTAINS (sorry, no idea what’s happening with the capitals here, will try and snap out of it)) you are seemingly driving along a stretch of road that never ends. You sit in the car, the scenery scrolls past, but nothing on the horizon gets any closer. I can only imagine that Volkswagen is using digital design to communicate something about the human condition or making a point about purgatory, but it creeped me out rather.
  • Team GB NFTs: You may be excited about the gold and silver in the BMX; you may be in awe of Adam Peatty; you may even still be making jokes about how funny and silly it is that they make the horses dance; still, all of the ‘lympics so far pales into insignificance when compared to the GREATEST and most important development of all – THE TEAM GB NFT STORE! Yes, that’s right, you too can now buy a blockchain-encoded link to a digital souvenir of the games – in this case, illustrations and other digital gewgaws like little Team GB shirts and virtual badges! I am sure this was all done with the best of intentions, but I did laugh when reading the press release about this, which rather read as thought it had been penned in February when this was all new and exciting and THE FUTURE: “This new initiative with Team GB comes as NFTs are experiencing an astronomical surge in popularity and when values are reaching new highs.” – er, really? Also, LOL at “Team GB and TOKNS will also work on ensuring the Team GB NFT programme will be carbon net positive.” – er, how exactly. Still, VIRTUAL DOODLES!
  • The Times, 03 Jan 2009: Do you have access to a physical copy of The Times of London from 03 January 2009? No, you probably don’t, do you? Shame, though, as due to the fact that there’s a tangential link between the frontpage of the paper in question and the genesis of bitcoin, there’s an outside possibility that one or more bitcoin lunatics (I believe this is the official terminology for people who’ve gone cryptomad) will pay unconscionable sums of money for a copy of the thing. This site is seeking to manage the sales of these INCREDIBLY IMPORTANT RECORDS OF BITCOIN’S AMAZING JOURNEY, presumably taking a cut – there are currently 8 verified copies of the paper in question floating around, apparently, with prices being quoted varying from £200k to £1m (all payable in crypto, I presume). Look, this is obviously utterly idiotic, but if you know a hoarder who read the Times a decade or so ago, might be worth popping round for a cup of tea and a chat about how much they might want for that stack of yellowing newsprint in the corner.
  • Pogged TV: This is an interesting idea – Twitch highlights, automatically clipped and posted to this channel as a rolling, automated ‘best of’ the platform. The clips are selected based on a fairly brute-force measure of ‘volume of comments and emotes over time’, with high comment/emote frequency connoting high-value action on-screen; this is…inexact and not always accurate, based on my casual viewing of the channel over the past week or so, and the nature of Twitch communities means that you’re likely to see clips here that very much excite a particular fandom but which mean less-than-nothing to the casual observer; as I type, the clip being shown is of some VTuber kawaii-squealing over some POV footage of…someone taking a pickle out of a jar? I think, more than anything, this proves that Twitch fandoms are utterly baffling to anyone who’s even slightly outside them (and that automatic assessment of what is ‘entertaining’ has a way to go).
  • Human Experience Management: How would you like to be sold some enterprise software? Would you like to be able to calmly explore the features and benefits of the product in your own time? Or would, instead, you like to experience them via the medium of an INCREDIBLY DULL semi-interactive webcomicexperience which over the course of 10 interminable minutes will use a fictitious research trip to Antarctica to take you through some of the things that said software can help you accomplish, delivered with all the grace and elan of a crippled slug? If the latter, then WOW are you in luck! This is really nicely-made; the animation’s obviously been pored over, the webdesign is competent, and to its credit it does communicate what they are selling reasonably effectively – it also takes about 9x as long as it needs, and is no fun. Look, SAP, next time you make one of these can you chuck in a skidoo minigame, or a remixed version of ‘Smack the Penguin’ or something? Please?
  • The AR Olympics: This is a bit of a crap link, sorry – it takes you to a not-particularly-good website which I presume is a general ‘AR and associated tech roundup repository’, which I wouldn’t normally link to but just take a moment and scroll down to the third gif on the page and see what you think. This is a look at some of the AR tech that’s being trialed by some of the Games’ tech sponsors – in this case, a Hololens build that lets you experience the swimming in augmented reality. I…I don’t know what to think about this – on the one hand, there’s something unpleasantly-bloodless about the idea of seeing the racers rendered as heatmap-looking digital avatars; on the other, it’s SO COOL! You can see the individual swimmers and their limbs far better, meaning you can see variances in technique more easily, and you can get a better sense of who’s where, relatively speaking, and the ‘see the world record line as you watch the race live, just like you do on telly!’ thing is quite amazing. I am sure that purists (are there ‘this is how you must watch the Olympics!’ purists? Probably, which is a depressing thought) will hate this, but I am slightly awed by the potential here.
  • Explore China: Given it’s so unspeakably hot here that I literally did a presentation in my pants yesterday (one of the benefits of having refused to do video calls since the start of the pandemic is that I can get away with things like this), I may spend this afternoon sheltering from the temperatures and exploring virtual China instead, You can now access Baidu Maps on desktop, which includes the Google Streetview-style ability to navigate around using a person’s-eye (well, car’s eye, to be exact) viewpoint. Want to take a stroll through rural China? Why not! Want to spend a few hours looking at the terrifying number of 10m+ cities that are dotted all over the country and which despite their size noone knows anything about? Fill your boots! Want to explore the internment and reeducation facilities in which the country’s Uighur population is subject to what looks an awful lot like a version of ethnic cleansing? Yeah, you might struggle with that tbh. Still, if you ever wanted a ‘wow, China is really amazingly unknowable mindfcukingly huge, isn’t it?’ moment, this will facilitate such a thing.
  • No Paint: This is very odd and a bit obscure, and I love it. No Paint is a little digital toy that lets you make strange images using your phone’s camera (or your webcam). There’s a strong ‘Gameboy Camera’ vibe to the outputs you can make from this, in the best way – I suggest you open it up and have a play, and then introduce the STRONGEST of aesthetics to your Insta/TikTok/Snap post-haste. There are VERY minimal instructions – I encourage you to play around and see what happens, and don’t be scared when nothing makes any discernible sense whatsoever.
  • Wanda Cobar Costumes: Will Hallowe’en be a thing this year? Will the oddity of the previous 18m see a boom in the late-October bacchanal as everyone rushes to squeeze into a ‘Sexy COVID Virus’ costume? It may seem a bit early, but perhaps it’s worth thinking about your outfit now to ensure that you’re not shown up when it comes to the BIG DAY – and if you’re thinking ‘Hallowe’en’, why not also think ‘I WILL DRESS LIKE A COCAINE-ADDLED 70s ROCKSTAR!’? This costume retailer on eBay will apparently sell you creditable knock-offs of the sort of getup that Freddie Mercury and David Bowie were strutting around in five decades ago – and, fine, a bunch of other cool outfits too, for women as well, but really the draw here is in wondering ‘could I get away with the incredibly-figure-hugging spandex cut-out harlequin outfit? Really? Even without the padding?’ READER, LET ME ASSURE YOU THAT YOU VERY MUCH CAN!
  • Mordents: I have many failings as an adult, to many to enumerate here, but one that I feel quite keenly is my continued inability to really enjoy ‘classic’ classical music (don’t get me started on opera) – despite my advancing years, the Damascene conversion to the ineffable beauty of Brahms, say, is yet to transpire. Still, if you’re less of a boorish lout than I am, musically-speaking, you might enjoy Mordents, which is a seemingly-newish online magazine all about classical music but, well, sort of cool. Unusual in terms of classical music sites in giving very impression it’s written by and for people under the age of 60, this features writing about new music, old music, performers and theory, all with a nice, modern design and a copy style that uses terms like ‘fierce’ and doesn’t seem embarrassed about doing so. I can’t guarantee that it will make you like classical music, but it may make the genre less immediately-unappealing.
  • Finger Hustler: I remember when miniature skateboards (fingerboards?) briefly became a thing in UK playgrounds, backed by what I recall being a briefly-ubiquitous advertising campaign which somehow made it look as though these little bits of plastic could do kickflips on their own across exercise book gaps on your schooldesk (they couldn’t, turns out), but I had totally forgotten that they were even a thing until a few years ago when videos of people demonstrating odd levels of skill started cropping up on YouTube. Now there’s this TikTok channel, and, honestly, I was mesmerised – seriously, I am now convinced that fingerboarding is the coolest sport IN THE WORLD and that it has a serious shot at consideration for the ‘28 Games. LOOK AT THE MINIATURE TRAINERS!!!! Seriously, click this link and if you’re not entirely-charmed within 15 seconds you can have a full refund.
  • Lora Webb Nichols: Incredible photos of American rural life at the turn of the 20th Century. “Lora Webb Nichols (1883-1962) was born in Boulder, Colorado. She lived most of her life in Encampment, Wyoming where she was married to Albert (Bert) Oldman in 1900, and to her cousin Guy H. Nichols in 1914. She worked in the Encampment post office, owned and published the Encampment newspaper, and worked as a ranch cook. In 1935, she moved to Stockton, California, where she became superintendent of the Stockton Childrens Home. Upon retiring, she returned to Encampment, where she wrote her unfinished memoirs, “I Remember : A Girl’s Eye View of Early Days in the Rocky Mountains.” Collection contains transcripts of her diaries (1897-1907), an unfinished manuscript for “I Remember”, and photographs of the Encampment, Wyoming, area.” Honestly, take some time to browse through these – the interface is a little clunky, but the faces in these are amazing (there’s a whole novel in this portrait of a local Glee Club, for example).
  • Bubble: Ironic comment on the nature of the startup industry? WHY NOT! Amusingly – or not, depending on your perspective on the madness of the startup ecosystem right now – this came to my attention as a result of having raised a bunch of funding this week, thereby making its name a self-fulfilling prophecy. I can only imagine the self-indulgent erection sported by the head of brand as a result. Anyway, Bubble is a platform which is designed to let any old no-code idiot cobble together a business from other people’s codescraps – think of it as a sort of Visual Basic but for internet business ideas! You could theoretically spin up your own clone of Uber or Doordash or Deliveroo, using plug-and-play out-of-the-box solutions and needing no coding expertise whatsoever! There’s, er, no real explanation as to why this would be a good idea – why making copies of stuff that already exists out of bits of code you didn’t make, via a third-party platform is a recipe for success rather than a means of parting fools from their money – but, well, EVERYONE’S AN ENTREPRENEUR NOW BABY! Can we all PLEASE stop pretending that we’re in a post-hustle economy? We’re not, at all.
  • Meaning Supplies: This is interesting – thanks to reader Marie Dolle for sending it to me. It’s a project by Joe Edelman, which you can listen to them explain in a bit more detail here, to create connections of meaning and feeling between practices and behaviours and desires; a bit like a mind-map of sentiment and emotion and related action. I am doing a terrible job of describing this, I realise, but there’s something really fascinating about the idea of attempting to apply this sort of taxonomical approach to something often perceived as abstract.
  • Snub TV: “Snub TV was an alternative culture television program that ran from 1987 to 1989. The original program, while made in the UK, was developed by American producer Fran Duffy and aired as part of the Night Flight variety show. In 1989-1991 a UK version aired for three seasons on BBC 2’s Def II strand. Snub’s main focus was on documenting musical groups such as The Stone Roses, with the UK version putting an emphasis on the indie and underground music scene in the UK during the rise of Madchester. The British series also featured other acts such as comedians. Snub TV has been credited with giving many then-new bands and musical acts initial and extra exposure to the major music business circles.” This is an amazing archive – episodes from 1989-1991, spanning three series and featuring people like The Boo Radleys and The Jesus and Mary Chain, and SO MUCH BRILLIANT HAIR. Students of The Culture of the Past could do worse than spend some time with this (also, WOW was everyone malnourished back then – they all look very much like they need some fresh fruit and possibly a steak dinner).
  • The Fractal Vise: Do YOU want to own a Fractal Vise (a vise which has multiple edges of descending size to allow it to grip even small or irregularly-shaped objects with a, er, viselike grip)? WONDERFUL! This is included in part because they are wonderful-looking and obscure things, in part because the website is a classic example of ‘it’ll do’ webdesign, but mainly because of this wonderfully-mysterious bit of copy: “It will be a while yet before I have time to start production in quantities.   However if you would like one you can order by placing a down payment.   The final price of them has not been determined.   You will be contacted when yours is ready if you make a down payment.  At that time we will know the price and you may pay the remaining balance or you may cancel and have your down payment returned.  Or if at any time you become tired while waiting you may cancel to have your down payment returned.” Has…has anyone ever bought one? Has one ever been completed? This feels slightly like the setup for a horror film, with a Hellraiser-esque cacodemon luring vise enthusiasts to a bloody, high-pressure demise in service of some unknowable eldritch maleficence from the Old Times (or at least it does to me).

By  Kristen Radtke



  • Moonbeam FM: This sounds awful, doesn’t it? I mean, the name ‘Moonbeam FM’ conjures up some sort of hideous, twee, “…and then all the little woodland creatures gathered while wise Mother Owl spun her timeless yarns beneath the speckled leaves of the yew…” horrorshow – whereas the reality is in fact FAR WORSE. Oh, ok, maybe I am being unfair here – perhaps those of you who hate podcasts less than I do will find something to love. Moonbeam is basically a highlights clip-reel of ‘best bits’ from lots of different podcasts to aid discovery (although, seriously, much as I am increasingly of the belief that every free moment at a computer must currently be spent signing up for, writing or reading newsletters such is there incessant proliferation (I WAS HERE FIRST FFS), so I am convinced that there can’t be any podcast enthusiasts left who aren’t already struggling under the weight of content to consume – noone can surely want MORE, can they?) – the app offers a ‘personalised feed’ (ALGOCURATIONzzzzzzzzzzzzzz) of podcast best bits, you can share your favourite clips on social, you can even tip podcast creators…actually, on reflection this could be a really smart concept if it takes off, shut my stupid face. If you have a podcast you can sign up to feature on the platform – seems worthwhile, probably, but obviously Web Curios takes no responsibility for any references to ‘your immortal soul’ made in the T&Cs.
  • Natsukashii: There’s been a small boom in recent weeks in sites that let you create old-school imagery – this version is a small, tile-printing toy which lets you (with a bit of fiddling) create some quite striking imagery, all rendered as though on a slightly-flickery CRT display circa 1983. It takes a bit of getting used to, but the mouse and keyboard controls are reasonably easy to grasp and there is something hugely-charming about the images you can churn out. If feels to my mind that it could benefit from a feature that lets you automatically export a knitting pattern from your final design (you’ll see what I mean when you click the link, honest – this could quite easily be repurposed as a ‘Christmas Jumper Design Toy’ and actually now I come to think of it that is a GREAT idea, particularly if you can recruit a team of willing care home residents to churn them out on demand. MILLIONAIRES BY CHRISTMAS!).
  • Government Deals: This is an INCREDIBLE resource. GovDeals is the site which the US administration uses to dispose of assets it no longer needs or wants any more – so federal property, old department of education surplus, stuff that the police impounded and now want to get rid of…all available for auction! Not quite sure what the deal is with shipping outside the US, but if you’ve ever fancied owning your very own bin truck then there are over a dozen available to bid on RIGHT NOW! Fancy taking a punt on what is described simply as ‘14lb of assorted Swiss Army knives’? FILL YOUR MOTHERFCUKING BOOTS! I am not usually an acquisitive person and have limited interest in ‘stuff’, but even I am tempted by some of the crap on display here (sadly, though, the section headed ‘tanks’ is not what you hope it is).
  • 80s Footballers Aging Badly: I was wondering during the Euros whether footballers have gotten better looking over the course of the past few decades, or whether it’s simply that the advent of HD coverage and 3million cameras covering every blade of grass has made players understandably a bit self-conscious about their looks; I am pretty sure that if I knew I was going to have several-million people being treated to a close-up of my face I would engage in some pretty radical plastic surgery, for example. Anyway, that’s by way of poorly-phrased introduction to this Twitter account which features players from the 1980s who despite being in their 20s and 30s looked very much like they had a few more miles on the clock. If you are a man in his 40s (specifically, if you are me) this will make you feel momentarily better about the pace at which you are hurtling gravewards.
  • Having Fun On Stage With Everyone: A properly odd little audiocurio, this – Having Fun On Stage With Everyone is a concept album, pieced together from live recordings of various artists throughout the 20th Century and offering you the concert experience…but without the music. Instead, the track features applause and cheering and the between-song chat and, honestly, it’s weirdly pleasing and compelling. Even better, it’s available via Creative Commons so you can fcuk with it however you please – I think there’s an interesting project in taking this non-musical concert audio and creating something musical from it, personally, whether chopping and screwing it into beats or using it is a sampling base – then again, though, I have literally no musical talent whatsoever, so perhaps I am talking bunkum. Anway, this is a project by one Gavin Edwards and you can read more about it here should you so desire.
  • The King of the Internet: Anyone can be King of the Internet – for a fee. Each time a new king wants to take the throne, the cost rises by $1. Currently the King is one Abraham Vegh, but you could topple them for a paltry $35 – apparently the proceeds all go to charity (is it bad that I don’t totally believe this?), and for a small donation you get your photo and name on this website until the next schmuck comes along with $36 to take your place. This is utterly pointless, very silly and SO Web 1.0 – perfect, in other words. Also, this mechanic could totally be reworked for a brand with a high-traffic url so, er, STEAL AWAY!
  • Avant Garde: Avant Garde was a late-60s counterculture magazine which ran for 12 issues, all of which have now been digitised and placed online. The style and art direction and photography here is AMAZING – hugely of its time, obviously, as evidenced by the multiple adverts for drug paraphernalia scattered throughout the various issues I browsed, the propensity for artistic nudity (male and female, so well done there Avant Garde!), and the unmistakable sense that almost everyone who wrote for and read this magazine used the phrase ‘balling’ as a euphemism for fcuking. If you want a small window into the cool kids of 55 years ago, this is an interesting place to start – oh, and at least one of these features an original Roald Dahl short story, should you need another reason to explore the archive.
  • Flag Search: Start to draw a flag and the software behind this website will try and guess which flag you’re attempting to render. Largely useless, but fun in terms of seeing behind the curtain and getting a sense of how the machines ‘see’ and identify objects; answers are provided as you draw, so you can get a sense for how the software is analysing and assessing based on your pixel-by-pixel additions.
  • Affirmations Generator: Or, more accurately, a really simple ‘image plus top text and bottom text meme generator’ – still, it’s a really simple and easy to use one, and I personally am going to spend the two days before I go on leave next week communicating with my colleagues solely via the medium of the default frog image you get served on landing.
  • Trainalyser: Oh, this is really interesting and super-clever. If you’re currently training for something physical, or trying to learn a dance or routine, or taking up yoga, or frankly anything physical, this could be hugely helpful. The app basically lets you film yourself doing something physical – holding a yoga pose, say – and compare your body movement and positioning when doing that to anyone else. So, for example, you could upload a specific TikTok dance and then film yourself doing it, and then compare the two to see how close you are to the original, or use it to analyse your form when, I don’t know, playing golf or something. Potentially SO useful for training kids, or anyone really – if you, unlike me, have a healthy and pleasant relationship with your body and like teaching it to do new stuff, this could be super-useful. It lets you see stuff like this, which is frankly amazing and I could watch all day – bodies are incredible.
  • The Kimono Project: Well this is LOVELY – a kimono design created for each of 207 nations from around the world, a project which I think is linked to the Olympic Games but which I confess not really having investigated properly as I got distracted by the beautiful kimonos. Kimonos? Kimonii? Anyway, these are really quite stunning – the English one somehow manages to feature the Palace of Westminster and still doesn’t look sh1t, to give you some idea of the design skill at play here.
  • All Trails: It does rather feel like there’s a TREND here of lots more of these sorts of websites doing the rounds at present – guides to the great outdoors and LONG WALKS, as we all seek to stretch out our legs after 18m of largely-sedentary living. The latest of these sites to pass across my gaze is All Trails – a searchable archive of walking, cycling, running (hobbling, limping…) routes across the world, free to access (though you need to sign up) and searchable by location, type of trail, all that jazz.
  • The Magic Mushroom Map: Of course, rather than going on improving hikes or bike rides, or hoping against hope that you win an incarcerated cocaine magnate’s country manse, you could spend this summer picking hallucinogenic mushrooms and getting stoned out of your gourd; Web Curios does not judge, Web Curios simply proffers the links and asks NO QUESTIONS about what you do with them. Curious amateur mycologists amongst you might enjoy this – also, it’s BASED ON AI AND MODELLING and so is basically a perfect Curios link. The site’s owners use previous information about growth hotspots along with weather data to provide forecasts of where is likely to be a good spot to go picking; for a meagre £5, you get access to all their information, which frankly seems like a bargain price to pay to keep you in pixellated vision all Summer. Upsettingly, Italy seems to be entirely dry – if any readers fancy sharing theirs, please do get in touch via the usual channels.
  • Can’t Unsee: An excellent example of the ‘sounds terrible, why am I still playing 30m later?’ genre of game – this one asks you to do one simple thing, to whit pick the correct choice between two examples of digital design. Do DM threads have rounded edges? Should that font be bolded? Incredibly annoying and yet equally incredibly compelling, and will also quickly make you aware of the fact that you have a deeper and more visceral appreciation of the rules of social media app design than you do of the faces of your loved ones.
  • Windsor Road: A tiny, beautiful little Gameboy Colour-type storygame, about the memories of living with your friends and being at university. American, but universal enough that you will all find something to move you, I think.
  • The Olympic Doodle: Finally in this week’s miscellanea, I assume you have all played this by now but if not then WHY NOT IT IS SO GOOD?!?!? Honestly, this is the best Doodle game…ever, I think, with multiple minigames and a *story* and picture-perfect 8-bit graphics and, honestly, I swear when I was a child (sorry) stuff like this used to retail at about £30 and STILL wasn’t as good. Honestly, so so so good (and you can also navigate to the archive of all other Google Doodles, should you need more timewasting assistance).

By Ryan Heshka




  • Mohamed Samir: Describing themselves as a ‘multidisciplinary designer’, Mohamed Samir’s insta feed features some beautiful examples of the sort of typographic work that I don’t ordinarily see in Arabic; there’s something wonderful about the way they play with the script in this poster-style work.
  • Sara Andreasson: I made a passing flippant reference earlier to ‘flat, colour block illustration art style’ and how it’s blandly taken over everything – Sara Andreasson’s work is the GOOD variant, feeling very much of the now but imbued with infinitely more personality than the often-identikit work ploughing this sort of visual furrow (should Mx Andreasson ever see this, I would like to point out that this is intended as a compliment despite my cackhanded prose).
  • Thibaut Derien: Photographs of eerily-lonely scenes in France (and quite possibly elsewhere). Derien makes you feel like there are a lot of dead people somewhere just out of shot in his images (or at least he makes me feel like that, and I rather like it).
  • Past Postcard: This feels like one of those accounts that is super-famous in a completely different bit of the web to the one I inhabit – I mean, there seems to be a book of it and everything. Anyway, it’s new to me and maybe it is to you too – this Insta account posts pictures of old postcards along with fragments of the messages written on them – so you might get a postcard of Balmoral, with the fragmentary line “Eddie and I went to Church on Sunday and guess what Prince Philip was there, that made my day perfect.”, or one of a kitten with the simple line “Daddy is home at last.” Perfect internet.


  • Horsehistory: This is a really smart and interesting piece of writing about language and what it means and how it works; specifically about how words are gateways to new ideas and new ways of thinking, and sometimes new words may be necessary to develop new modes of thought and enquiry. I find this stuff fascinating – I love language, but have never studied it properly (I have friends who’ve done English Language degrees and I am slightly awed listening to them talk about the way in which language functions, stuff that I have literally no idea about and couldn’t explain beyond my rough ability to use said language) and then I read phrases like this that stop me in my tracks and make me want to go back to university again: “New words are addresses to previously unused embeddings in concept space.” I mean, seriously, you can’t not fall in love with a sentence like that.
  • AI and Analogies: Or, ‘why the use of analogies or at least the ability to grasp what they are and understand them as a conceptual category is potentially really significant in the search for an AI that ‘thinks’ in an way analogous to that which we do’ (you can see why I went with the shortened title). “Analogy isn’t just something we humans do. Some animals are kind of robotic, but other species are able to take prior experiences and map them onto new experiences. Maybe it’s one way to put a spectrum of intelligence onto different kinds of living systems: To what extent can you make more abstract analogies? One of the theories of why humans have this particular kind of intelligence is that it’s because we’re so social. One of the most important things for you to do is to model what other people are thinking, understand their goals and predict what they’re going to do. And that’s something you do by analogy to yourself. You can put yourself in the other person’s position and kind of map your own mind onto theirs. This “theory of mind” is something that people in AI talk about all the time. It’s essentially a way of making an analogy.”
  • Doing TikTok Right: This is VERY NICHE, but if you do social media and if that includes TikTok then you should probably take a look at this article by the person who does the TikTok channel for videogame sensation Among Us (the one with the slightly-bloblike cartoony space people that everyone was playing in lockdown 1 when they got bored of Animal Crossing). It’s a really comprehensive breakdown of what worked on the channel, how they tracked success, how they piggybacked on trends…all the sorts of things that you never see anyone talking honestly and openly about, and which Victoria Tran (for that is the person’s name) should take huge credit for sharing and laying out so helpfully. Seriously, if you do social for any sort of entertainment brand, or even a non-entertainment brand which has a degree of community around it, this is a must-read.
  • The History of Olympic Gymnastics: In a week in which the world’s worst people have decided to use athletics as their ‘I will now say dreadful things about THIS PARTICULAR THING for attention, everybody look!’ soapbox, why not spend some time reading about the history of the sport in modern competition, from classical civilisation to the past century’s professionalisation of the discipline. Lots to love in here, not least the images of people doing athletics at the turn of the 20th century with what looks like equipment nailed together from driftwood and nary a crashmat to be seen – what sort of lunatic would attempt the parallel bars when they are not even parallel due to being made of incredibly-knotty-seeming wood? This is in Smithsonian mag, and so the final paragraphs are a bit US-centric – and obviously this was written prior to the games, before Biles’ withdrawal – but it’s interesting to see the evolution of the discipline. Still, there has never been anyone like Biles before – I hope we get to see her be amazing again one day.
  • An Amazing Olympian: Ok, this is not a particularly brilliant piece of writing, but I was struck by the story here and how it’s microcosmic of the Games as a whole – just fcuking amazing human beings, often people who are amazing in multiple fields, working really hard to attain excellence. I am a deeply miserable and cynical human being who has no personal ambition whatsoever and who honestly hates effort and hard work of almost any sort, and EVEN I am moved by stories like this one, of Austrian cyclist Anna Kiesenhofer who trains on her own, does her own diet regimen, and is a world-class mathematician who works at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, and who won a cycling gold earlier this week. Honestly, this is incredible.
  • On Geofoam: I appreciate that you may not be immediately compelled to click on a link to several thousand words about industrial building materials, but I promise you that there is NOTHING BORING about this admittedly very boring-sounding article about geofoam; effectively massive polystyrene blocks that are used in large-scale landscaping, and which are increasingly stuffed under layers of turf to create landscaped areas. Is it a good thing to have loads of polystyrene stuffed into the soil? NO IDEA! Were I an artist (I am very much not; perhaps why I have ideas like this) I reckon I could probably get some ‘conceptual’ mileage out of using this as a sculpting material.
  • vTubers: I’ve featured CodeMiko in Curios before, but this is an excellent overview of the general vTuber landscape by the smart people at Rest of World. I’m still on the fence as to the overall breakout potential of vTubing – there does feel like there’s something a bit Japan-centric about its appeal, but then again we live in an era in which Manga and anime are incredibly universally popular, and we’re all increasingly comfortable with AR masks and filters and the like, and so possibly this is going to become a new mainstream thing. I remember a few years ago at the BBC, my friend Tom and I got very excited by the idea of a dating show which effectively used this sort of tech to mask participants whilst still letting them communicate via facemapped CG avatars – it is STILL a great idea, and loads better than that Netflix one which I am currently quite bitter about as it’s simply not as good as my version (he says, grumpily). Anyway, I have convinced myself in the course of this para that vTubers are going to be A THING, so read all about it at this link and feel smug when you’re AHEAD OF THE CURVE in 3m time.
  • From Brent to Lasso: Or, ‘how TV got all sincere after years of miserable ironic distance”. I haven’t seen the Lasso thing, I am not going to watch the Lasso thing, but the broad premise here – that in TV but also across the broader artistic and cultural spectrum we have shifted from detachment and irony to a position of sincerity and connection – seems correct (if not one I like, to be clear; I am good at ironic detachment, my non-feeling carapace has been hard-won FFS!). “It would be hacky to blame this shift on the internet. But I will be just hacky enough to say that it parallels the internet. Outlets like Twitter promote passionate fandom and unambiguous condemnation — and, because trolls can use these platforms’ anonymity in bad faith, this can lead users to assume that every complex, distanced or sardonic comment is in bad faith, too.” – this struck me as a good summation, and I say that as someone who finds the seemingly-ubiquitous use of ‘good faith’ and ‘bad faith’ as descriptors of motivation one of the most infuriating linguistic tics of the current age.
  • The Poppers Factory: This is a history of poppers. Let me be clear – when I was about 15-17, I loved poppers. Not in a sexy way, more in a ‘wow, this reminds me of glue but it’s SO MUCH BETTER (and also it doesn’t feel like bits of my brain are about to fall out of my nose after sniffing it)’ way. My friends and I would do them whilst smoking weed as a bit of a counterpoint to the terrible hash we’d often be stuck with – I can categorically say that I have never laughed as hard or as long during that brief-but-heady period of experimentation when we decided to see what would happen if you used three bottles of amly in a bong instead of water (it is possible that Curios would be significantly better had I taken better care of my braincells back then). Anyway, that’s by way of tedious memoryhole preamble to this piece, which tells the story of how poppers were invented, sold and marketed as a lifestyle accessory to generations of gay people and club kids and confused people who really did buy them as ‘air freshener’. I love the detail that all brands of poppers are exactly the same – only the packaging and prices differ.
  • The Bottoming Revolution: I have limited personal interest in bottoming as a pastime, but this piece on how youngsters in the queer community are sharing useful information and honest advice about what it’s actually like to be fcuked, and the sort of occasionally-messy practical questions that tend not to be addressed in bongo, was fascinating. As ever, there is a TikTok for bottoms (botTikTok? No, maybe not on reflection), and the article speaks to some of the bigger name creators in the space about what they want to communicate and the need for this sort of information. There is a glaring error in the second paragraph that made me almost stop reading (they use ‘dearth’ when they mean its antonym), but it’s super-interesting (but, to be clear, it is all about bumsex and its occasional hazards, so, er, caveat emptor).
  • Roller Pigeons: This is a beautiful piece of writing, about Cornell Norwood, an LA-based pigeon fancier and breeder. It’s one of those great essays that you could probably take in at least 3 different directions – there’s the story of Cornell and his passion for the birds and his life on the edges of LA criminality; the story of pigeons themselves, and how their breeding and upkeep provides a weird sort of glue for communities of (often marginalised) men worldwide; and the story of race and class in the US in the late 20th-Century – and the essay touches on all of them. Honestly, this interested me enough that I spent 10 minutes looking up the flight patterns of roller pigeons on YouTube – and then later this week I found this Reddit thread on pigeon breeding, where the comments felt like they came from some of the same sorts of people described in this essay. Sometimes it feels like everything in Curios really is linked in some way to the roiling oddity of the cosmos (but mostly it all just feels terrifying and jagged).
  • The Food of Suburban Shopping Centres: Another week, another article from Vittles – this time, a paean to the odd beauty of London’s suburban shopping centres. I feel a personal degree of connection to the one in Wood Green mentioned here as it’s near my girlfriend’s, but the feelings elicited by these pieces, covering blasted architectural horrorshows from all over the capital, from the Elephant of the past to the oddity of modern Lewisham, will be familiar to you even if you’ve never visited one of the specific places mentioned. My personal ‘yes, this is a London shopping centre’ is the smell of sweetcorn sold in small pots from a cart (WHY?) – your own Proustian signifier will of course vary.
  • The Dignified Exit: On assisted dying, and what it means to ‘die with dignity’. I have personal interest here, but I challenge anyone to read this and come to the end and still think that it’s ok not to afford people the opportunity to leave with painless grace when they have had enough, for whatever reason they choose.
  • Making Billy Joel: This is a BRILLIANT story, and I am going to believe it is all true. Imagine you worked in a record store in smalltown America in the early-70s and you found a record that noone had really cared about on release but which you recognised was an absolute banger. Imagine you decided that you were going to do everything you could to make this months-old LP a hit. Imagine that that record was Piano Man, by Billy Joel. A superb tale, brilliantly told and SO redolent of the past – I really want this to be the way it really happened, and I really hope that Billy Joel reads this and buys the author something nice.
  • The Retiree: A short story about billionaire space travel by Venkatesh Rao, which I promise you will make you think a lot more than that premise might suggest and which asks a very significant question about the limits that can or should be placed on wealth and personal power, even when it’s employed for ostensibly munificent means.
  • Pebbles: A beautiful piece of writing by Max Porter, author of ‘Grief is the Thing with Feathers’ and ‘Lanny’, about childhood and memory and the stories we tell ourselves and each other. Gorgeous.
  • The Jessica Simulation: Finally this week, I cried quite a lot reading this and you might do to. It’s the article I alluded to all the way up top when writing about Project December, and it’s the story of Joshua, who lost the love of his life to illness when he was in his 20s and who never really got over it – and so turned to an AI art project to attempt to bring back Jessica, his dead girlfriend, to help him deal with the fact that she no longer existed. This is a beautiful story, superbly-told, and asks so many fascinating questions about what is ‘right’ and ‘healthy’ in terms of coping with grief, and the extent to which our paraeidolia extends to emotions, and you might need some tissues to hand. So so so so good.

By Shane Pierce


Webcurios 23/07/21

Reading Time: 31 minutes

It’s been a real week for dreadful cnuts, hasn’t it? Cummings and Johnson and Bezos and Coren and and and and and. Let’s ignore them, shall we, and focus on BETTER things – things such as INTERESTING LINKS FROM THE WEB!

Yes, that’s right, another week’s rolled around and in so doing has managed to pick up all sorts of odd bits and pieces from across the internet, like so much digital lint (there are other analogies one might employ here, but let’s stick to the pleasant ones, eh?). I’m in something of a hurry today, as as soon as I’m done with writing this I have to have a call with another awful human being to discuss with them why, despite their personal opinion, they are not in fact worthy of a Wikipedia entry and why the fact that they have FRIENDS IN GOVERNMENT doesn’t make one iota of difference. Dreadful cnuts, everywhere, I tell you (and all the examples here are men, again. FFS, men!).

Not you though – you’re lovely. Let me look at you, let me stroke your lovely face, let me beg you with increasing desperation to read the words and click the links and validate me through your attention, without which I cease to exist.

I am still Matt, this is still Web Curios, and that client’s going to have to hope I relax slightly otherwise neither of us are going to enjoy this call very much.

By La Paranoia



  • Holly+: I’ve featured Holly Herndon’s music in Curio’s before on a few occasions – for those of you unaware, she’s an American singer, living in Berlin (obvs) whose work has increasingly explored her (and our) relationship with technology, to the extent that her last album was effectively co-created with an AI which she developed and which has been ‘evolving’ ever since. Holly+ is a website/project which builds on that work, letting anyone upload an audio file to the site and receive back a version of your audio sung by ‘Holly+’, the singer’s AI analogue. You can read a detailed breakdown of the project here – look, to be clear, there’s not a lot to see on the original URL, and the listenability of the outputs you’ll get from the audio you upload are…variable (I don’t think anything produced by this version of Holly+ is likely to become a viral TikTok sensation), but reading the explanation you get the very real feeling that there’s something super-interesting being conceived of here. The questions of ownership and identity of the ‘voice’ that you’re playing with here, and how that impacts on licensing and IP and how we think of ‘the artist’ and ‘collaboration’, the idea of collaborative creative control and ownership via a DAO…all fascinating questions that Herndon’s one of the few people I’ve seen thinking about this deeply in the arts. “The Holly+ model creates a virtuous cycle. I release tools to allow for the creative usage of my likeness, the best artworks and license opportunities are approved by DAO members, profit from those works will be shared amongst artists using the tools, DAO members, and a treasury to fund further development of the tools” – I mean, when you put it like that it sounds almost utopian.
  • Classic Nudes: Pronhub’s marketing department does it again. This time, they’ve gone HIGHBROW and are offering a series of guides to some of the world’s greatest museums (the Uffizi, the National Gallery, etc) – or, at least, a guide to some of their SEXIEST PAINTINGS! Users can load up the site on their phones whilst wandering the galleries to get specific, SEXY explainers about some of the most notable SEXY paintings, narrated by a bongo actress who’s also an art aficionado – oh, and each gallery has one painting where there’s even an accompanying clip of a couple of people fcuking in costume, just to really hammer home the fact that SOMETIMES ART IS ABOUT SEX! THAT’S RIGHT, SEX!!!! This, presumably, is what The Louvre took exception to, as the clip associated with the famous Parisian gallery is currently offline due to ‘legal issues’ – and there was me thinking the French were liberal. This is, tbh, not really that good – the audioguides don’t seem to load half the time, the UI is a bit crap, and the text accompaniments are quite often just a couple of lines which effectively say things like ‘huhuhuh, gouache was, like, the Pronhub of its day’ – but if you’d like to watch a couple representing Adam & Eve groping each other for 60 seconds in the name of ‘deepening your artistic appreciation’ then you’ll presumably be satisfied. NB – this links to a Pronhub url, and while there’s no actual nudity on the landing page, just be aware should you work for a company that unaccountably frowns on you checking out bongo inbetween the PPT slides.
  • The Freedom Phone: Not quite sure whether this is funny or depressing. Probably slightly more the latter, on reflection. The FREEDOM PHONE is the latest stupid tech-grift (after GETTR, the free speech-touting social platform which is destined for imminent failure but which you can bet has made a handful of people an awful lot of money, as is always the case) by the grifter’s chasing the post-Trump dollar – ‘what is it?’, you ask… WELL LET ME TELL YOU WHAT IT IS IT IS UNCENSORED. Yes, that’s right – you know how EVERY DAY you have to put up with your phone CENSORING you and telling you what you CAN AND CAN’T TYPE (or say, or think)…well NO MORE. The Freedom Phone (I am going to turn down the caps now, they are giving me a small tension headache) is so committed to being UNCENSORED (sorry, it’s hard to stop once you get into the groove) that it says so all over the website. ‘Completely. Uncensored’, runs the strapline! ‘Uncensorable’, it says again, just above the ‘Buy’ button! How might one describe the app store? Oh, ‘Uncensorable’, of course! What does this mean in practice? Erm, it’s quite hard to tell – as this article points out, there’s something of a lack of actual technical detail anywhere on the site, the ‘UNCENSORABLE’ (seriously, sorry about this) Freedom Store is apparently just a reskinned version of the standard Google app store, and the device costs $500. Oh, and it’s being developed by ‘the world’s youngest Bitcoin billionaire’. There is literally NOTHING about this that screams ‘massive grift’, no siree. As with so much in contemporary life, this is something which on first glance is sort-of funny and then with greater scrutiny just becomes bleakly depressing until you’re left thinking how much better it would be if we all just stopped and let the plants take over.
  • Scent The Metaverse: Yes, fine, we’ve all talked a good game about the metaverse over the past year or so – even those of us who don’t know what the term really means, or indeed what the whole thing’s really about – but we’ve not touched on the big topics, the important matters that will perhaps determine the very direction of travel of the human race and the ways in which we will manifest ourselves in the seemingly-inevitable post-physical reality of the great Fourth Age of humanity. Questions like ‘what should the metaverse smell like?’ Still, thank fcuk for the fact that someone’s finally started asking the important questions. Sadly I am slightly late to this, meaning that the NFTs granting access to this project are all sold (they went for around £600-ish quid, which whilst a lot of money isn’t perhaps an insane amount for a one-of-a-kind new bespoke fragrance and potential rights on its future resale), but you can still read about the project on the site. “We’re bringing together passionate people with expert perfumers and designers to make something unforgettable and unique, with the freshest and finest ingredients”, runs the blurb, promising the lucky participants in the project a series of 4 consultations with the scent master behind the eventual perfume to guide its creation, a bottle of the finished scent, an NFT of the label(!), and most interestingly, collaborative ownership of the scent’s composition which grants them a cut of any eventual sale of the recipe or brand. Or at least it does in theory – the site’s a bit sketchy on how that works, but this feels (my needless snarking aside) like a not-terrible application of DAOs and NFTs and the whole shebang.
  • Hellfest From Home: Hellfest is apparently a metal festival – Hellfest from Home is a metal festival on the internet! Yes, I know that ‘music festivals, but online!’ are no longer an exciting prospect (were they ever?), but I rather like this one. You navigate your little avatar through the streets and stages of the festival, stopping at various points to browse recordings of various artists, check out imagery and video of previous festivals, buy merch…none of this is groundbreaking but it’s all competently done, and there’s something sort-of funny about seeing all the VERY SERIOUS SCREAMING of death/black metal (apologies if I am misgenreing this stuff but, well, it all sounds quite throaty to this untrained ear and it’s hard to distinguish the nuance) on a laptop screen.
  • Jesus Mecha Christ: I think I want one of these more than I have ever wanted anything I have featured in Curios (but not, to be clear, enough to actually pay the asking price). What would Jesus look like if he were a Transformer? What if, when up on the cross, rather than accepting his fate and dying for our sins, Jesus had instead refused to do his Father’s bidding and instead used the final dregs of his divinity (look, I appreciate I am on dodgy theological ground here, but just go with me here) to instead change into a GIANT ROBOT and visit murderous mechanical vengeance on the assembled Roman forces? Well, thanks to Jesus Mecha Christ, you can play out that VERY SCENARIO in the privacy of your own home. Jesus Mecha Christ (so satisfying to type!) is a 3d-printed toy which you can either buy in kit form or ready-assembled and which is a transforming model of crucified Jesus which, with a few deft twists and turns, transforms into a robot warrior. If you have a 3d printer you can even download your own files and print your own – if it weren’t so blasphemous to suggest, I’d say this was God’s work.
  • Clean Creatives: This story has been bubbling around for a few years now – I know that a couple of news outlets have for a while been trying to get agency staff to discuss how they feel about the work they (and their employers) do with some of the world’s biggest polluters, with limited success. Turns out, people working for agencies who work for horrible companies don’t often want to talk about how it makes them feel! Still, now you can sign a PLEDGE! “Clean Creatives is bringing together leading agencies, their employees, and clients to address the ad and PR industry’s work with fossil fuels. Continuing to work for fossil fuel companies poses risks to brands that prioritize sustainability, and their agencies. ”The Clean Creatives pledge is the best way to show you are committed to a future for the creative industry that doesn’t include promoting pollution. As creatives or leaders of agencies, the pledge says that you will decline future contracts with the fossil fuel industry. As clients, it says you will decline work with agencies that retain fossil fuel industry clients.” Which is all well and good, except as far as I can tell there’s no way of seeing who’s signed on the website, and all this amounts to is an opt-in members’ club for ‘the good guys’. I am not sure what the solution to this is, but I do firmly believe that agencies should be made to publish a full and exhaustive list of their clients – I am not a naive person, but when I did a 3m freelance stint for Edelman a few years ago I was horrified to learn they work for both Shell and the Sackler family (to name but two) and wouldn’t have taken the work had I known; it should be easier for clients and staff alike to make these decisions.
  • Mindat: Who doesn’t want an exhaustive and authoritative resource about rocks and minerals, containing all the information you could EVER want about, I don’t know, feldspar? NO FCUKER, that’s who! This is, fine, a slightly dry-looking resource, but if you happen to have a budding geologist in your life, or someone with a peculiar interest in the mineral composition of quartz, then they will love you forever for sharing this with them. Also contains a specific section on ‘the rocks and minerals of Minecraft’, which is such an incredibly-cute attempt to make kids interested in geology that if I think too hard about it I might actually cry.
  • Blink-Changes: This is a very clever idea, adapted from something I first saw in this videogame earlier this year – this website ostensibly presents you with some instructional text about how to use GANs in art, but, by allowing it access to your webcam, it tracks your eye movements and each time you blink alters the copy on the webpage, presenting you with a constantly-shifting Page whose text and layout changes each time you close your eyes. There are SO many ways in which you could use this – my immediate thought was something soporific, which slows or becomes more soothing the more heavy-lidded your eyes become, or even a staring contest game – in fact, I reckon you could probably cause several hundred people worldwide to be blinded by their own stupidity by creating a ‘Staring At The Sun’ mobile game in which users were challenged to stare at a burning-bright point on their screen for as long as possible without blinking to win, I don’t know, 0.00001 bitcoin.
  • Printshop: Printshop was apparently an OLD piece of Apple software which let people design their own cards, etc, on their Mac to then print out – like an incredibly prototypical version of Photoshop, basically (VERY basically). It now exists again as a website, which emulates the original experience and lets you export your incredibly-ugly 80s-style digital images as jpegs to use online wherever you see fit (or indeed to print out, if you want to give your friends and loved ones a really hideous physical token of your esteem). So you can create greetings cards, posters, tshirt designs…if you’ve ever wanted to create some sort of graphical shrine to the 1980s then here’s a good place to start.
  • The iPhone Photography Awards 2021: The latest edition of the long-running photo contest for Apple device owners, this as ever features some stellar shots but, as I’ve opined before here I think, I am slightly over the hyper-edited post-production style of a lot of this stuff. It looks beautiful, no question, and there’s some wonderful composition on display here and all these photographers are undeniably talented, but, well, should we not be talking about skill at editing and colouring and retouching as a separate skill to photography? Or am I being hopelessly outmoded and not really understanding the evolution of the discipline or medium? I am, aren’t I? Sorry. Anyway, my personal favourite is the shot entitled ‘New Clothes for the Pole’ – pick your own.
  • Godly Websites: A website collecting what its editors/curators consider to be examples of ‘godly’ website design – in practice what this seems to mean (to my untrained eye) is an awful lot of stuff that looks very NOW but which will equally look incredibly-dated in approximately two years’ time, but if you want a way of getting an overview of current webdesign zeitgeist then this is a decent place to start (seriously, though, it’s also a GREAT place to get a sense of the insane homogeneity of current digital design thinking; scroll through these for a while and you’ll start to see the whole fcukingh world in terms of flat, block-colour illustrations and grid-based whitespace).
  • Publishing Tea: A Twitter account, sharing gossip about the publishing industry and in particular sharing stories about the multiple ways it is not exactly inclusive. In a week in which videogames once again came under the spotlight for the often-toxic working culture that persists, particularly for women and non-white staff, it’s important to keep remembering how bad the creative industries as a rule are for diversity and representation and for enabling and allowing some staggeringly toxic behaviour. There’s an interesting piece about the account and what it (and similar discussions in other industries) say about how we deal with these sorts of structural problems, written by Friend of Curios Jared Shurin, which you can read here should you be so inclined – this line in particular struck me: “If many in the industry, rightly or wrongly, believe that gossip vigilantism is their only recourse, what does that tell us about their faith in the ‘system’ to do the right thing? By virtue of its anonymity, Publishing Tea cannot truly hold publishing to account. And without real accountability, nothing will change.”
  • Animated Texts: Powerful statements presented as individual Tweets featuring the sort of animated text graphics that you might have seen on a website circa 1998. I have no idea why pulsing, spangly lettering that reads ‘See what I just did? I minded my own business, you should try it some time!” is so powerful, but it really is – seriously, you could probably raise the dead with these if employed as spells or sigils or whatnot.
  • The Most Unforgettable Reddit Posts: It’s often said that all of humanity is on Reddit, which is hyperbolic in the extreme but can also often feel very true, as with this thread with people reminiscing about great posts from the past. WOW THERE IS SOME GOLD IN HERE (and also some really quite disturbing stuff too, you have been warned) – if your cockles are not warmed by the story of the guy working as Goofy at Disneyland (which, fine, is also an INCREDIBLY BLEAK tale in some ways) then you may well be dead.

By Zander Bice



  • Hallo: It feels like there’s a minor boom in the development of new social networks again at present – possibly people have realised, post-Substack/Patreon, etc – that you don’t need to scale to Facebook levels to be able to have a product you can still consider a ‘success’. Hallo is a seemingly-standard-ish social proposition, the gimmick being that connections are made through the people in your phonebook because they’re the people you’re mates with, right? Er, no, not necessarily – they could be my dealer, the windowcleaner, the person in the flat below who’s number it’s convenient for me to have but who I have no desire to know anything more about because their skin makes mine crawl…Oh, and it completely fails to take into account all the many reasons people might have numbers in their phone that they very much don’t want to ever hear from but which it’s important to be aware of. Considering this is by a couple of former Whatsapp people, you’d think they might have thought of that – still, if you’re in the market for a non-FB social platform and think you could convince all your friends and family to download ANOTHER app to have ANOTHER presence on, just to talk to you, then, well, good luck to you.
  • Quest: Speaking of new social networks – seamless transition there, so proud! – this is another in the seemingly-infinite line of apps which mistakenly believe that ‘audio’ is a standalone feature rather than something that will be baked in to all the existing apps by the end of the year and which isn’t on its own an attractive or interesting enough proposition. So, Quest – imagine voicenotes from strangers about work – IN AN APP! The gimmick is that users can ask questions to the community and others can respond with their thoughts and opinions via voicenote – you earn recognition (I presume there’s a ‘like’ economy) through posting good answers as voted by the community, etc etc etc. Look, as someone who only uses LinkedIn to post links to this crap and call people ‘businessmongs’ I am probably not the right demographic to evaluate this – I will say, to its credit, that the app seems to have some decent pedigree (ex-Google and Hyves devs) and there are some real people with real job titles on there which lends it an air of legitimacy. I will also say that the idea of listening to 50 voicemessages from type-A North American business mavens (oh god that word makes me so sad) about how I can become a better leader in the workplace makes me want to stop breathing forever. Your mileage, of course, may vary.
  • Half-Remembered Sonic: I don’t feel that this quite warrants one of the BIG MUSIC SLOTS in Curios, given its potentially-niche appeal, but there’s something amazing about this project in which a person calling themselves ‘morl’, a musician from Sheffield in the UK, has attempted to recreate the entire soundtrack to the Sonic the Hedgehog game (Megadrive version) from memory, and has come up with some sort of amazing chimerical audio…thing, which if you ever spent time playing Sonic as a kid will be simultaneously very familiar and very eerie. If you’re not someone who remembers the original music, this is still a pleasing piece of chiptune composition, but if you have the originals somewhere inside your skull then this becomes quite a trippy experience.
  • Yoni Circle: This is an interesting app, which I confess to not fully understanding (but which, equally, as a cishet white man I appreciate shouldn’t necessarily surprise me): Yoni Circle is an app which connects users across the world (80 countries, 1000 cities apparently) through ‘storytelling circles’ –  “Storytelling circles are hour-long, live, moderated video chat experiences (capped at 6 women) that leave members feeling lighter and more connected to themselves and the world around them. Think a slumber party meets a mindfulness class. Members sign up for their circles in advance and are expected to show up and be present.” Not one for me, but should you be in possession of a yoni (and be able to use that word without some sort of internal snigger) then you might get something out of this.
  • Flip-Display Water Simulations: Via Andy Baio, these are quite amazing. Honestly, if I had access to a train station (and said train station still had the old flip display boards up rather than the new-fangled electronic ones which are NOT AS GOOD) I would 100% programme sort of beautiful fluid dynamics ballet onto them. These are absolutely gorgeous and I would love to see them on a larger scale – it’s worth turning the volume up as the sound is part of the appeal. I realise that I’ve not really explained what these are – so, er, it’s simulated liquid on old-style flip display boards. That…that doesn’t really help, does it? Look, just click the link and TRUST ME.
  • This Beach Does Not Exist: Yes, I know, we’re all BORED with the whole ‘this X does not exist’ gimmick of machine-imagined things, but seeing as this is the closest many of us will get to a sunshiney beach-type environment this year I thought we could all do with the nonexistent pick-me-ups.
  • Product Dump: You know how animals when distressed and in captivity will often begin to exhibit bizarre behaviours, indicative of stress? I wonder whether stuff like this is our species-level distress indicator. I mean, what other explanation can there be for this particular TikTok trend in which ‘creators’ (WE ARE ALL CREATORS NOW! I DEFECATE THEREFORE I CREATE!) pour large quantities of cleaning products down their toilets and film themselves doing it? Other than a potentially-oblique deathwish that they are chasing by huffing the fumes from these chemical cocktails – seriously, I hope whoever’s filming this is wearing some sort of breathing apparatus and ensuring their bathroom is well-ventilated. Or actually, maybe on reflection I don’t. Still, if you rep Toilet Duck then a) you have the best job!; and b) there’s got to be something you can do with this, even if it is just a PSA of the Duck telling everyone to MIX CHEMICALS CAREFULLY.
  • Judging the Skateboarding: The ‘lympics! The ‘lympics are here! Despite all the obvious questions about the wisdom of doing this in the middle of a global pandemic and with seemingly the entire Japanese population being not-exactly-thrilled by the idea, it’s equally such a wonderful experience for all the athletes involved and the culmination of so much hard work and sacrifice that it’s hard to begrudge them their fortnight in the sun. None will be more excited than the skateboarders, who fort the first time see their favoured pursuit of ‘gravity+wood+wheels=fun!’ afforded Olympic status. If you’re interested in seeing how the events will be judged, this is a nice little interactive by FiveThirtyEight, which shows you a variety of clips of skaters doing their thing and asks you to judge them – you can then see how your assessment compared to the professionals. How the fcuk these people make these assessments is beyond me, is my technical takeaway here.
  • The Oasis: NOT the metaverse, despite the ‘Ready Player One’-adjacent name – instead, this is videocalling solution that basically lets you create a digital mask of your own face that maps to your real face and which you can use as your ‘on videocall’ face when your actual face is maybe not videocall-ready. Make sense? No, I thought not, which is why it’s helpful that one of the founders has chosen to illustrate it on the website by showing himself having a call on his phone in the shower – whilst he’s all wet and dishevelled, his in-call avatar presents him as dry and coiffed. This is, as far as I can tell, like those cartoon animal emoji facetracking things that came out with an iOS update a few years ago – except it uses your own face. Welcome, then, to an era in which you will be able to roll out of bed without fixing your hair or putting your face on and STILL go straight into the pitch using your magical self-avatar – isn’t the future amazing?
  • Orlog: Assassin’s Creed Valhalla is a videogame about vikings and assassins and stuff that came out last year – it features a dice game, apparently, called Orlog, which is now available to back on Kickstarter as a REAL PHYSICAL THING. There are 4 days left to fund the project which is backed to nearly 750k – 750K FOR A DICE GAME! This is interesting less because of the game itself – which I would imagine unless you’re an ACV aficionado you probably don’t need to play – but more because of the size of the spinoff market. Once again, if you ever needed to convince someone that GAMES ARE A BIG THING NOW (I know, I know, but it’s astonishing how many people of middle-age and above can’t quite get their heads around the fact that IT IS BIGGER THAN FILMS NOW) then the fact that you can raise three quarters of a million quid (and rising) to make real-life version of a dice game which is a throwaway element in a videogame should be something of a wakeup call.
  • Abandoned Rails: There’s a certain romanticism to the idea of the American railroad, and this site mines that wonderfully – if I ever had the opportunity to do a journey across the US, the idea of following major freight routes is oddly-compelling. Here you can find details of all of the bits of the US rail system that are abandoned or broken or in disrepair, along with photography and history and stories about them… such rich history, if you’re into that sort of thing.
  • Lost Tables: This is very niche – Lost Tables is a website which exists to commemorate the vanished restaurants of the dining scene in St Louis, Missouri, archiving the culinary memories from restaurants and diners and cafes throughout the city – but I am including it because I would love to know if a similar project exists for restaurants in London and if not to beg someone more dedicated than me to start one. I reckon the people behind Vittles could do something magical with this concept, for example. Anyway, if you happen to be from St Louis then there will be a lot of food nostalgia in here for you – if not, then, er, you may find it less compelling. Sorry.
  • Real Time Banner: An interesting idea, this – it looks shonky in the examples, fine, but the concept – Twitter banner images that react to realtime events, such as new followers or emoji that people reply to the account with – is an interesting one, and I imagine the developer, one Tony Dinh, would be open to exploring custom options if you were interested.
  • Music For Programming: You want some grey noise to accompany your coding? YOU GOT IT! A reworking of the existing ‘Music for Programming’ series, this has been warped as follows: “Episodes 1 to 61 of Music For Programming (the first ten years of the series) were edited to equal lengths and played simultaneously. The resulting cacophony was passed multiple times through an array of analogue and virtual signal processing devices until the centre-of-gravity between antagonism and attractiveness was found. During the process, multiple layers of infrasonic modulation were introduced at varying timescales, from 0.001Hz to around 24Hz. Each modulation frequency being a 1.618 (golden ratio) factor of the slowest, most noticeable root modulation, which in this case is a ‘spectral contrast’ processor that gradually plunges the soundscape into a watery abyss every 110 seconds before slowly bobbing up to the surface again to gasp for air.” I wouldn’t necessarily say this is easy listening, but it’s surprisingly listenable and does contribute to a sort of flow state if you give it 5m.
  • CMD FM: Internet radio, controlled via the command line – there are 100-odd genres to choose from here, and I was very much enjoying the Moobahton station for the first hour or so of Curios this morning. Fill your boots, this is GREAT.
  • Emoji Wallpaper Maker: I have no idea what you might use this for, but should you be desperate for some wallpaper with, I don’t know, stop signs and question marks and sweaty yellow faces all over it then ENJOY!
  • The Artists’ Grief Deck: I think this is beautiful. “A response to the COVID-19 pandemic, The ARTISTS’ GRIEF DECK is a set of 60 medium format ‘flashcards’ that are individually designed by artists, sometimes in collaboration with grief workers. One side displays an original artwork, created by artists from around the world responding to our open call, and on the reverse is a ‘grieving prompt.’  These are memorial and processual actions that give the individual something to do – a gesture, a tiny performance, a movement, an act of mindfulness – in memoriam for someone or something whose loss they are grieving. As a toolkit, the decks have been disbursed for free to grief workers and community organizations, and can be purchased here. In addition to serving as an archive of the printed deck, this project website also serves as an expanding repository for grief-inspired artwork and healing, transformative action.” Some of the work here is gorgeous – it’s worth taking 5 minutes to explore the cards and the words that accompany them.
  • The History Timeline: Select periods or events in history and watch as this website displays them on a timeline and gives you a real and very, very deep sense of your own transience and insignificance in the grand scheme of things. Seriously, I can’t speak for you but I am bookmarking this as a cure-all for professional anxiety – it’s very hard to even pretend to give a fcuk about the communications strategy for a pitch about a new brand of whiskey when you realise that you and everything around is like a mayfly when compared to, say, the empire of the Hittites…and noone remembers them, so why the fcuk should you bother with the pointless pantomime of advermarketingpr? As you can imagine, this internal voice serves me incredibly well, professionally-speaking.
  • Chakrubs: There is nothing funny whatsoever about sex toys, in the main, but I can’t help but snigger slightly at Chakrubs – dildos, but MADE OF SPECIAL POWERFUL CRYSTALS (sorry to all those of you who are more spiritual than I am – literally all of you, I would imagine – but I honestly can’t deal with this stuff). The testimonials suggest a lot of people are enjoying these, and I was pleasantly surprised at how reasonable they are – this is no Goop, basically – but, equally, I can’t read lines like ‘My Chakrub has assisted me in reaching a higher awareness’ without a) sniggering; and b) feeling like I’m currently being short-changed by my w4nking habits.
  • Is It Prime?: Well, IS IT??? A game in which you simply have to say whether a number is a prime or not – I am terrible at maths, and still found this oddly-compelling.
  • Can You Guess This Movie: Can you guess the film, based on the GAN-generated image that a machine has imagined for it? “Two artificial neural networks painted the poster below while thinking of a famous movie. Can you guess which movie it is?” This is a bit too easy to be properly fun, but it’s interesting in terms of how much specific visual elements are associated in our minds (culture) with specific films, and also how our brains work – it’s astonishing how quickly you get these, even with nothing that could truly be described as a ‘real image’ on display.

By Shawna X



  • Unofficial Rotring: Not in fact a Tumblr! Still, it ought to be one – this is devoted to Rotring-brand pens and their history, exactly the sort of DEEPLY NICHE interest I think we can all agree is worth celebrating.
  • Linguistic Maps: Maps detailing commonalities of language around the world. LINGUISTS REJOICE!


  • Never Miss a Collab: I read this piece about baking Instagram over the weekend, and it alerted me to the concept of baking collabs in which bakers from around the world agree to make cakes on a certain theme or with certain ingredients, etc, and then all flood the ‘gram with them on the same day – this account is dedicated to helping you keep up with said collabs, so if you fancy participating then keep an eye on this and get involved.
  • Hoe Cakes: Also a baking account, but a slightly different style. I feel the aesthetic here displayed has a name, but I don’t know what that might be – suffice it to say that they all make me slightly uncomfortable, which is very much the intention.
  • Vintage Covers: Pulp novels, with reimagined titles based on what the covers look like they should be called. Genuinely LOL’d at the ‘What baby?’ one.
  • Everyday Eastern Europe: I don’t want to make any sweeping claims about how representative this is in fact is of Eastern Europe, or indeed of how accurately the account defines ‘Eastern’ (I remember once being thanked profusely by someone from Poland for referring to them as Central European – they were apparently sick of being lumped in with the Russians), but this account, part of the Everyday Project, shares some rather beautiful pictures of life in countries East of Croatia by a variety of photographers. This is more interesting than your standard ‘In Russia, X ys YOU!’ content, I promise.
  • Now You See Me Moria: An Instagram account sharing photographs of the refugee camp Moria on the Greek island of Lesbos; the camp has been active since August of last year, with thousands of people and families housed in predictably-imperfect conditions. The original camp burned down and so they are now being housed in a rebuilt shanty town – as Summer hots up and the migrant flows from Africa and the Middle-East pick up pace again, it’s worth reminding oneself of the reality of what it means for these people to come to Europe and what their experience is when they arrive, and the fact that this hasn’t stopped just because of a pandemic.


  •  The NFT Canon: I was slightly snarky about Andreesen Horowitz’s publishing platform when it launched a few weeks ago but have now linked to three separate pieces from it so, basically, insanely rich VCs 1, webmong writing in his pants 0.  This is a really interesting overview of the NFT space, with effectively all the information you could ever need about what they are, how they work, and what they could be used for – obviously this is a VC firm and so OBVIOUSLY they are GREAT and EXCITING and THE FUTURE, but if you ignore the somewhat…uncritical gaze with which this is presented, there’s a lot of really useful information here for anyone wanting to get a better handle on the whole thing than you’re liable to get from my ill-informed criticisms.
  • Dancing with Systems: I am not a strategist – I mean, that’s what one might laughably describe what I do at work but frankly that’s bullsh1t; from what I can tell, strategists are people who think DEEP and HARD about PROBLEMS and like FRAMEWORKS and PROCESSES, whereas I am lazy and arrogant and think about things for exactly as long as it takes me to come up with some crappy ‘solution’ and then basically refuse to do anything else (HIRE ME!). Still, for those of you who are strategists, this piece about systems thinking and design might be of interest – I found it fascinating as a series of observations about how complex systems work and can be observed and changed, which is at least adjacent to all the sorts of things that I am sure many of you spend time preparing 100-slide presentations about and which you might find interesting or useful.
  • The Big Bang: I think I mentioned up there that I am very bad at maths – I am also pretty bad at science, to the point that my brain stops being able to think past a certain point when it comes to physics. I once had an actual rocket scientist attempt to explain things like Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle to me, and I could literally feel the information sliding off my brain like fried eggs off Teflon. That’s all by way of preamble to my saying that I loved this short piece about the Big Bang and what we know about it, which made me feel both smart and awed within the space of a thousand or so words. Also, I adore this bit: “We understand, in principle, how matter can come from “nothing”. This is sometimes presented as the most mysterious part of the Big Bang, the idea that matter could spontaneously emerge from an “empty” universe. But to a physicist, this isn’t very mysterious. Matter isn’t actually conserved, mass is just energy you haven’t met yet.” That last line is SO GOOD.
  • Garden Cities: I got up at 7am on Sunday to walk to Corviale, which is an estate on the South Western edge of Rome and which is honestly one of the most Judge Dredd-esque places I have ever been – it’s 1km of housing designed in the 70s and built in the 80s, which had the utopian ideal of creating a self-sufficient community in which all of the prerequisites for urban life and human flourishing would exist. You can read more about it here – short story is that the utopian ideal, as is often the case with such things, didn’t quite work out as planned and it’s long been considered a blight on the city. Anyway, this piece – about garden cities as a model of urban planning, and how they worked, and what they were intended to do – was an interesting counterpoint to the brutalism I’d seen over there; a utopian ideal taken in a different direction, with rather more success.
  • Drawing Cities: Seeing as we’re doing urban design, this is a fascinating piece which can be read as a sort-of companion to the previous one, and discusses why illustrative visualisations of the idealised urban environments of the future can be instrumental in making them a reality. Again, made me think of Corviale – the idea that that place could ever have looked good, even in the sketches, is boggling to me.
  • The Sounds of Technology: To give the piece its complete title, the sounds of technology are making us unhappy. This is a really interesting article about the extend to which the sounds of tech – the pings and beeps and alerts we all receive from our laptops and mobile devices and home assistants and and and – are not in fact that soothing aural soul-balm that we perhaps need, and that we need to move from an idea of sound design to one of ‘sensory’ design; that is, design which takes sound as one component in the multisensory human experience and seeks to create sounds which complement that experience rather than cutting across or through it. There is DEFINITELY a pitch idea in this for the right client.
  • What Happened to IBM Watson?: AHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. Oh it’s nice to occasionally be proved right (it happens once a decade, seemingly) – I remember ten years ago when Watson was EVERYWHERE having ‘discussions’ with colleagues about how great IBM were doing and being slightly more skeptical about the quantity and quality of clothes that the Emperor was wearing at the time; turns out, with the benefit of hindsight, that Watson was largely bunkum and that IBM massively oversold its capabilities and indeed generally failed to understand that AI is quite hard, especially when you try and move beyond ‘brute force computation’ towards something morelike ‘understanding and acting’. This is a decent account of where it all went wrong for Watson – although tbh IBM got loads of good PR out of it and looked like a FORWARD-THINKING COMPANY for years, so perhaps their comms people would argue it was all worthwhile (comms people, let me remind you, are largely morons).
  • Gaming X Fashion: Another one for the ‘no, games are big business actually’ folder, this is all about the increasingly-common high fashion x gaming crossovers, from the Mario watch announced byTAG recently to the 100 Thieves x Gucci collab from the other week. This piece provides a decent enough overview of the market as it stands, and will likely feature at least one piece where you will think ‘Hm, I’d probably wear that if I didn’t know if was inspired by a videogame’ (the Death Stranding industrial-chic outerwear, for example, is something that at least two people I know would wear the sh1t out of).
  • Going to Venus: This is SO interesting – on efforts to persuade Earth’s scientists that Venus is worth exploring some more, despite the fact that it’s had significantly worse PR than Mars over the past 50 years.  This is a great read, capturing early sci-fi ideas of what Venus might be like, the disillusionment when scientists discovered that it was mainly murderously hot, and said scientists’ attempts to persuade NASA and others that it might be worth maybe studying it a bit more closely. I imagine that there’s a version of the ‘distracted boyfriend’ meme featuring Mars and Venus that absolutely slays on astrophysicist Twitter.
  • An Oral History of Black Twitter: Part one of a three-part series on WIRED looking at the history of what is colloquially termed ‘black Twitter’ – itself a weird and unsatisfactory label – and how the platform came to embody a particular version of black culture, how it works as a community, the constant flow of culture from the platform to the mainstream, and its importance as a space for the black community worldwide.
  • Miniature Canada: In a week in which the latest billionaire has chosen to wave their metaphorical dick at the world from space, it’s nice to read a story about a super-rich person with more modest ambitions. Jean-Louis Brenninkmeijer was born into the family who own the C&A fortune, estimated at around £29bn. He has not used that money to go into space. Instead, after turning down a cushy and lucrative family-office-type job in finance (“It was basically sitting behind a computer all day and looking at reports,” he says. “I didn’t like the work. I didn’t like the people.”) he discovered a passion for miniature railways and has devoted his time (and a LOT of money) to creating a miniature replica of Canada which will open to the public later this year. Look, billionaires are all obviously scum (sorry, but – if you want to be that rich, if you can’t see a reason to give 90% of that money away, then there is something wrong with you), but this is lovely and I cannot hate on old Jean-Louis. Reminded me slightly of The Music of Chance by Paul Auster, in which one of the two similarly-rich poker-playing antagonists has their own model universe in which their sinister world views are brought to life in microcosm (a great novel btw, if you’ve not read it).
  • Meet The Peiwans: In China, being a female in-game companion to players is a job – these women earn approximately $3 per hour to act as sidekicks and in some cases therapists to male players who want the company. Whether you think of this as sinister or simply The Market In Action, it’s another example of the fundamental truth that any power dynamics currently present IRL will replicate at scale in virtual environments before you can say “the emergence of the digital serf is a sad-but-inevitable consequence of the growth of the metaverse”.
  • Climbing: Adam Ondra is by all accounts the best rock climber in the world right now. This is one of the best bits of shiny scrolly digital interactive webwork I have seen in ages, which explains why he is so good, why what he does is so hard, and how climbing will work at the Olympics – seriously, this is amazing and it properly taught me stuff.
  • Robot Sculptors: Marble is now being sculpted by robot – this was news to me, and I found this whole piece fascinating, partly from the point of view of the modernisation of ultra-traditional industries and partly because of the question at the heart of this around who the ‘artist’ is here. It will not surprise you to learn that Koons has availed himself of the tech.
  • No Caul For Them: The increasingly-essential Vittles returns to Curios with this essay about faggots (I worry that this will get firewalled but, well, what can you do?), their history and their place in the culinary pantheon of English food. It’s unlikely anyone of my generation will have pleasant memories of this foodstuff – from the unpleasant associations with school dinners to the fact that, however you cast it, ‘Mr Brain’s Faggots’ does not sound like something you want to eat – but by the end I was genuinely tempted to pop to the market and pick up some offal and caul and make my own (but not quite – Romans like their offal, it’s true, but caul’s a bit tricky even here). Wonderful writing about food and place and history, this.
  • A Quiet Life on the Edge of Manchester: I found this impossibly affecting. Joshi Herrmann writes about Martin, who lives alone in a flat on a Manchester estate. It’s a spare, unsentimental portrait of someone on the margins of society, but if you’ve ever known anyone old and alone, or mentally ill and on the fringes, this will resonate with you strongly. I would read a book full of these accounts quite…well, happily isn’t quite the word, but you know what I mean.
  • Whitney Houston, American Girl: In the wake of all the Britney conservatorship stuff, it’s timely to look back at Whitney Houston and see how many of the same sorts of considerations about control and image around a female artist were present in her story, and how her status as a black woman was always problematic for the packaging she was forced into. Looking back at this now it’s quite shocking to see the headlines and commentary – fcuking hell the 90s/00s were in many respects a vile time to be a woman.
  • Sex Fantasy 4: This is a very short comic and I don’t quite know how to describe it other than by telling you that I found it almost impossibly affecting. So, er, please read it, it will take you 2 minutes at most but it will stay with you far longer than that.
  • The Richest Babysitter in the World: Finally this week, a short story about the richest man in the world which is not quite about the richest man in the world. Curtis Sittenfeld writes beautifully – this is a lovely ‘pour a glass and enjoy it’ read.

By Zoe Ghertner


Webcurios 16/07/21

Reading Time: 32 minutes

Well, thank God all that’s over and done with and we can all move on with our lives.

Briefly, though, on The Football (or more particularly, the bits before and after the football) – WOW does English drinking culture look weird from the outside! Honestly, I watched the Italian 8pm news before the game on Sunday and there was footage of the ‘boisterous’ atmosphere in London and elsewhere (along with the now-iconic shot of the man doing a line of pubgak to a braying crowd – seriously, HE MADE THE INTERNATIONAL NEWS FFS!!) and the general vibe of the voice over was one of naked fear tbh. Noone drinks like we do, is something you learn reasonably quickly when you travel for any significant amount of time. I hope your hangovers have all abated, basically.

As to the rest, enough digital ink has been expended on decrying the racist abuse suffered by Rashford, Saka and Sancho and you probably don’t need to read me adding to it. In terms of the responses, though…The racist Tory government continues to hold up the Online Safety Billas the magical solution which will force platforms to finally start taking the problem seriously – a piece of legislation which is unlikely to pass fully into law much before 2023, which doesn’t define what a ‘harm’ might in fact be, and which contains no mentions of ‘racism’ or ‘racial abuse’ within its 145 pages. The platforms themselves have condemned the content, and sought to claim their own solutions are adequate – Twitter claimed it had “swiftly removed over 1,000 Tweets and permanently suspended a number of accounts for violating our rules”, whilst at the same time confirming to Sander Kutwala, Director of British Future, that messages such as “No blacks in the England team – keep our team white” did not in fact constitute such a rule violation. Instagram stated that “No one should have to experience racist abuse anywhere…we quickly removed comments and accounts directing abuse at England’s footballers last night and we’ll continue to take action against those that break our rules”; leaked quotes from Facebook staff, however,  suggest they are less impressed with their employers’ reaction, with one saying “We get this stream of utter bile every match, and it’s even worse when someone black misses…We really can’t be seen as complicit in this.” Meanwhile, the advertising industry – whose clients’ spending on advertising constitutes the bulk of social media platforms’ income, and who make a tidy percentage on said ad buys – has penned an open letter to Facebook et al calling for action. Whether this will have the same sort of seismic effect as previous advertising initiatives, such as the temporary boycott of social media by large brands following the murder of George Floyd, remains to be seen. Still, it’s clear that with all this concerted action, racism will definitely soon be history!

Anyway, let us never speak of Euro2020 again. Instead, let us dive face-first into this week’s steaming pile of links, freshly culled from the soft underbelly of the web and still all warm and twitching. BLOOD YOURSELF WITH MY INTERNETS FOR THIS IS WEB CURIOS!

By Ana Leovy



  • We Dwell In Possibility: Technically this is a repeat link (THE HORROR!) but it’s not my fault that Manchester International Festival’s digital interactive thingies all live on the same url despite their rotation. This is the latest in MIF’s series of digital toys, this time called ‘We Dwell in Possibility’ created by Robert Yang, an artist/gamemaker who I’ve also featured in Curios before for his digital explorations of queer culture and masculinity. This is SO MUCH FUN! Playable in-browser, the ‘game’ presents a small garden space which you can seed with flowers and through which small, comfortingly-rounded figures will run and frolic; some of these figures will carry and place objects, which will then become interactive parts of your garden space which will cause the other figures to behave in particular ways; you can move them round, eliminate the ones you don’t like, play to see what cumulative effects you can achieve and, if you play your cards right, get to see what is basically a tiny, many-limbed orgy of tiny people on your screen. Honestly, this is absolutely joyful and if you only click on one link this week I would strongly suggest that you make it this one – I just got 100-odd tiny humunculi dancing around a soundsystem while a couple made what looked like pretty mutually-satisfying agendered love, oblivious to the dancing, and frankly I’m unlikely to achieve anything more impressive with my day (and if you want to read a slightly better description of what this is and why it exists, you can read one here).
  • Mighty: I think we can all agree that one of the major problems with The Now is that kids aren’t being exposed to the wonderful world of capitalist endeavour early enough. I mean, fine, they can get a window into the influencer grift and the CREATOR ECONOMY once they get their first phone, but it’s still unlikely that they’ll be jumping into the world of BUSINESS with both feet – and that’s putting YOUR spawn at a disadvantage! How will they know to hustle and duck and weave and ALWAYS BE CLOSING if they’re spending their formative years simply playing rather than focusing on the godly duality of brand and product? Which is where Mighty comes in – effectively ‘dropshipping, for kids!’. The website promises that anyone can set up a business in a few clicks – “We’re on a mission to empower kids through entrepreneurship. Thank you for supporting a young CEO in achieving their dreams! Mighty is a revolutionary entrepreneurship program for children 8 years and older. It’s revolutionary because it is real. Our Mighty CEOs learn to start and grow their own social enterprise, while leveraging business as a force for good.” What this in practice means is that you sign up, pick your shop name, ‘design’ a logo (pick from some clipart), select the products you want to ship and BINGO YOU’RE AN ENTREPRENEUR! Exactly how ‘shipping low-value tat from the other side of the world’ is ‘business as a force for good’ remains to be seen, but I’m sort of darkly impressed by the business model here.
  • The Human Hotel: “Airbnb is fine, but the main problem with it is that the hosts just aren’t the right sort of people anymore – they just don’t vibe with my creative nature, you know?” If you’ve ever found yourself saying or thinking things like this then a) congratulations, you’re a cnut!; and b) you will love The Human Hotel, a platform which touts itself as “a curated community for like-hearted humans to create and connect”, which, honestly, is the sort of description that makes me quiveringly reach for the flensing knives but your mileage may vary. It’s like every other couchsurfing-type service you’ve ever seen, except also hideously up itself in terms of the ‘quality’ of its hosts who – HERE’S A SURPRISE – all work in art or design and are all the sorts of people who could happily model for *wallpaper or Kinfolk. “For each stay, we design a unique 45 minute meeting experience to share between the host and the guest. It’s an easy, yet powerful, opportunity for you both to get the most out of meeting each other – even when time is short. We call these Curated Meetups.” No, I’m sorry, I can’t read any more of this without getting irrationally angry – still, if you would like to have your week in Copenhagen leavened by a 45m discussion about the true meaning of sans serif fonts with a man called Mads, this is almost certainly the accommodation-finding service for YOU.
  • The 2021 Audubon Photography Award Winners: Lovely photographs of lovely birds. It is literally impossible to feel anything other than happy when looking at these (though I feel a responsibility to warn you that at least one of them features some AVIAN DEATH, so, you know, GIRD YOURSELVES).
  • Long Trails: I am increasingly dreaming of when this particular period of my life is over and I inevitably have some sort of not-insignificant breakdown and attempt to recover by going on an unconscionably-long walk – I think I might try and just pick a direction and see how long I can keep going for. If you are also compelled by a strange and unknowable desire to cover huge distances on foot, you might appreciate this website which collects information about some of the world’s longest walkable trails. There’s a certain North American bias here, but there are a reasonable number of European routes featured and links to resources and information to help you on your way – honestly, given the opportunity I would happily do all of these (ha! I would die attempting just one of them).
  • Ryotaro Suzuki: Mr Suzuki is the newish Japanese ambassador to Iceland. His Twitter account has become a very low-key sensation over the past week, mainly because of its almost unbearable purity – Mr Suzuki is a seemingly very nice, very humble person who is very happy to be in Iceland and very eager to learn about the country, and whose Twitter account is a wonderful mixture of semi-official announcements and very, very mundane chat. I appreciate that posts such as “I took a day off, and went to this barber shop. I was slightly worried about the quality of the service here, but Antonio, the barber, was very professional..” may not strike you as the most compelling content you’ve ever experienced, but tell me that the world wouldn’t be a better place if all ambassadors took this sort of approach. You can’t imagine Mr Suzuki availing himself of diplomatic immunity after a 3-day binge on the Brennivín and raindeer-p1ss mushrooms, is all I’m saying.
  • The Sample: I think I am fast-reaching information saturation point with Curios. As the nature of the web has changed over the years, so has my ‘curatorial’ (ha!) approach, going from a daily trawl of 50-odd websites to a situation now where there are also about 100-odd newsletters which I subscribe to and…I don’t know how much more I can physically fit in without suffering some sort of infoanuerism, frankly. Still, if you haven’t quite reached newsletter saturation point, you might be interested in The Sample, a really smart idea which will send you a new sample newsletter from its roster every day through a combination of human selection and algorithmic nous – you can give the system feedback to tell it which newsletters you’ve liked and disliked each day to train it on your tastes, and you can subscribe with one-click to any that you find particularly compelling. If nothing else, this is a really lovely way of getting a fresh voice in your inbox each day – even if you never sub to any of them, the variety here is wonderful and has introduced me to loads of fun ideas in the past week alone – today’s, for example, was a soap opera in newsletter form which I will never sub to but I am very glad exists.
  •  Weird Spotify: A Twitter account sharing some of the weirder playlists that exist on Spotify, and which doesn’t seem in any way affiliated with the business itself but which I imagine they are pretty happy about in terms of the brand promo it’s doing for them (and the time it will save them when doing their ‘kooky playlists’ ad campaigns). What’s slightly odd is the number of playlists which exist just to make a not-particularly-funny joke – the ones called things like ‘POV you going to make a sandwich’ where the titles of the songs in the playlists tell a grammatically-questionable and very dull story of going to make a sandwich, and which I can’t quite see as being worth the time it took to pull them together (says the man who spends upwards of 20h a week wading through internet crap for a newsletter with a readership which might charitably be estimated as ‘small’ and who therefore is in no position to lecture anyone else about how they choose to spend their lives).
  • The Facebook Creator Programme: Facebook’s announcement that it was going to dedicate $1bn over the next 18m in its creator programmes, to directly reward people who make content for its platforms, was sort-of inevitable after Snap and TikTok’s successful forays into the same space – there are as yet minimal details as to how this might in fact work, but the little information there is suggests a mixture of more of the sort of paid partnerships with big names we’ve seen with the people signed up to newsletter platform Bulletin and a bunch of lower-tier rewards for people who perform certain tasks like hitting certain livestreaming milestones, etc. I can’t help but look at this and imagine a future in which we’re all being paid in zuckdollars for logging in each morning and recording daily affirmations to feed the Big Blue Misery Factory’s insatiable desire for content – w4nking for your pennies, Mark? Why I don’t mind if I do!
  • Itsme!: “Meet friends, as your avatar!” burbles this app, which lets you do a lot of standard chat stuff but with the gimmick that rather than using your own face you instead use a Pixar-ish avatar of yourself derived from a photo and which is intended to ensure that the people on the app are choosing to talk to you for you rather than because of the fact they’re enamoured with, I don’t know, your charmingly retrousse nose. There’s also an interesting openness to chat discovery – you can approach anyone on the app to talk, which obviously raises all sorts of red flags given that the mere fact that you’re all presenting as cartoon characters doesn’t automatically make everyone on the platform a friendly, Pixar-ish character underneath the CG veneer. Still, if you’re for some reason super-keen on having slightly-crap conversations with strangers whilst presenting as a memoji of yourself this will be PERFECT for you.
  • Kevin B Parry: Parry’s TikTok bio describes him as a ‘stop-motion animator and video wizard’ and he’s not wrong – some of the stuff he does with edits here is MAGIC, and yet another example of how stuff you see on TikTok created on someone’s mobile is SO much better than 99% of crap being churned out by brands. Parry’s particular schtick is the ‘how did he do that?’ edit, seeing him turn into bananas or balloons or any number of things with some truly seamless videowork.
  • Lightograph; This is a tricky one to assess; Lightograph is pitching itself as ‘a revolutionary new digital image format’, which effectively seems to let its creator make digital photographs with shifting lightsources – so effectively you could have an image of an individual or landscape in which the light source is manipulable, so you could shift it from left to right, say, to change the illumination of the subject’s features, or over a landscape to change the time of day. Except, well, the resulting effects just look a bit like cinemagraphs and we have had those for AGES, and the website’s slightly-obfuscatory copy means that it’s not in any way clear how Jeremy Cowart actually makes these things and whether there’s anything smart happening here beyond some photoshop and gif-creation. Oh, and he’s selling NFTs which doesn’t exactly fill me with confidence that this isn’t some sort of grift. Still, it’s interesting to speculate (and I am sorry Mr Cowart if I have inadvertently slagged off the future of photography – consider the embarrassment I’ll feel in the future for having misjudged you its own punishment).
  • Streetonomics: A website offering street name analysis of a variety of cities (London, Paris, Vienna, New York), letting you see overlays showing detail about the time the streets were named, the gender of their name, the countries said names are linked to, etc. A really interesting way of gaining a picture of the patchwork of a city’s past – I found the London stuff particularly interesting, but the cities they have picked are all interesting given their international and mercantile past.
  • Uitsloot: A wonderful environmental art / science project from the Netherlands, in which Gijs Schalkx attempts to create a vehicle that is truly environmentally-friendly, made from locally sourced materials and locally-sourced fuel – which, in this case, means a motorbike powered by methane collected from local bogs, and which in its most successful incarnation to date can travel about 12km. This is INGENIOUS, but equally a perfect illustration of exactly how hard (read: impossible) it is to create transit methods that don’t place a huge tax on the environment in terms of resource extraction and fuel usage. Still, LOOK AT THE METHANE-POWERED BIKE! The photos of Mr Schalkx on his vehicle (go to the ‘info’ section and click ‘Slootmotor’) are joyous.
  • Bored Humans: A selection of links to various AI (not necessarily actually AI) experiments, from imaginary pizza to AI-generated song lyrics to all sorts of things inbetween. None of these will be remotely novel to you regular Curios readers who have long-since become jaded at the sight of imagined human faces or songs created by machine, but it’s a useful overview of the sorts of things that are actually now pretty easy to knock up and which you might want to steal for your next campaign with that client who wants to be really innovative but at the same time wants said innovation to be of a sort that’s actually no longer new or interesting any more (literally the WORST clients – “can we have something entirely novel, please? And can you also give us three examples of where other brands have done this successfully in the past?” NO YOU CANNOT YOU ARE MORONS AND I WISH DEATH ON YOU ahem sorry).
  • Cafecito: Honestly, this sounds awful but perhaps some of you who are less violently-antisocial than I am might find less horror here. Cafecito offers an opportunity for people around the world to be paired up for 25m virtual coffee meetings – you sign up, you write some stuff about what you’re into and what your GOALS are (first red flag – WHY MUST I HAVE GOALS?? FFS just let me float directionlessly through life until the sweet release of death claims me, do not demand that my floating be in any way directed!) and this service pairs you with someone else who you might be ‘compatible’ with (whatever that means) for a chat. A ‘chat’. WHAT ARE YOU MEANT TO GET OUT OF A 25 MINUTE VIRTUAL ‘CHAT’ WITH A PERFECT STRANGER? Even better, each ‘chat’ starts out with an ‘icebreaker’ and dear God no please this is not fcuking improv class. Can someone turn this into a piece of performance, please? I think it has more potential as the setup for a piece of comedy than it does as a useful service.
  • Space Jam NFTs: Included almost-solely because the combination of Daffy Duck and NFTs feels to me like the perfect-encapsulation of the utter stupidity of all of this.
  • Restaurant Bot: A potentially-perfect Twitter account, which does nothing other than post the name and address of restaurants from around the world, along with some images of the venue and the food they serve. Recent picks include a pizza joint in Vanuatu, a fish restaurant in Glastonbury (the US Glastonbury, not the hippy one) and a Bosnian outpost of whatever their equivalent of Perfect Fried Chicken is. Amazing.

By Friedrich Kunath



  • Dead Startup Toys: MSCHF’s latest project is sadly sold out – their stuff goes in about an hour these days, seemingly – but the website made me laugh enough that this feels worth featuring regardless. The gimmick was that they were selling toys representing some of the biggest scams and failures of startupworld over the last few years – so you could buy a model of that beachgoing icebox which raised all the money on Kickstarter and then turned out to be a massive scam, or (my favourite) the Juicero juicing box which ended up being a £300 machine which did nothing more than squeeze pre-pulped fruit out of plastic bags. I imagine that all of these will be fetching significant money on eBay and other marketplaces as I type, so if you’re interested then seek them out (but be prepared to pay eye-watering sums).
  • Camper Guru: I don’t understand camping. I mean, look, it’s fine as far as it goes, and I will happily put up with being in a tent if there is other good stuff going on around said tent (and, realistically, if I can expect to be unsober enough by the time I go to bed that I have forgotten about the fact that I am sleeping in a tent), but the idea of actively choosing to spend time sleeping on the ground and sweating into man-made fibres is largely anathema to me. Still, the older I get the more I find my contemporaries doing things like buying primus stoves and those sort of fold-out chairs which I always used to irrationally resent people for bringing to festivals, so I appreciate that there are others for whom my reticence is simply another sign of my weak moral fibre and who absolutely ADORE the camping life. So here, if that’s you, have this website – it contains loads of stuff about places to go and good campsites and amenities around Europe, and doesn’t immediately look like it’s run by an international gang of criminals who’ll steal your internal organs while you sleep.
  • Couchmate: Those of you who’ve been around for a while or who’ve worked in TV will remember the obsession of about 10 years ago with the concept of ‘second screening’ – that everyone would be watching TV whilst at the same time having conversations about said TV on their phones (which, to be fair, did sort-of come true, but in a largely-asynchronous way which isn’t quite what anyone predicted). Couchmate is literally that idea, but off-Twitter and in a specific app instead; as far as I can tell this is tied to US broadcast TV schedules and so will be of little or no use to all those of you reading this outside of North America, but for any Europe-based insomniacs reading this you might find some joy in leaping into chats about, I don’t know, the NBA All Stars games (this is only a fun idea if you have no idea about basketball and make no effort to learn, and instead use the platform as an opportunity to gently troll your interlocutors with questions about why all the players are so tall).
  • Salmoncam: Salmon are currently swimming upstream to spawning grounds in Alaska. Want to watch some bears having a really nice time eating them? OF COURSE YOU DO! What’s lovely about this – not for the salmon, obvs, but we’re very much on the side of the mammals here at Web Curios so, well, FCUK THE SALMON – is quite how easy this all is for the bears – it’s effectively the ursine equivalent of directing the Yo! Sushi conveyor belt directly into your mouth and pressing ‘go’.
  • In B Flat: I think, if I’m not mistaken, that this is 12 years old, which in online terms is methuselan in the extreme – still, it’s never been in Curios and so is FAIR GAME. In B Flat is a simple webtoy which lets you create a surprisingly-wonderful and great-sounding musical moments through playing and pausing a series of YouTube videos, all recorded in B flat, which layer to make an almost infinite variety of compositions. I don’t care how old this is, it’s wonderful and there’s a very vague idea in the back of my head about how this could be repurposed for a post-TikTok world in case anyone’s interested (don’t all rush at once!).
  • Police Squad: Or, more accurately, the YouTube channel of one John Biciclistul which happens, amongst the mountain biking and castle hikes, to have six episodes of classic pre-Naked Gun comedy vehicle Police Squad uploaded in their entirety. These are so so so so good – honestly, if you’re not familiar with Police Squad then give these a go, there’s a reason this is considered classic material.
  • Useless Crypto: Older readers may remember a late, lamented brand of cigarettes from the 1980s which were simply called ‘Death’ – I was too young to smoke when they existed, but I was convinced they were the coolest things IN THE WORLD (now of course as I labour yellow of finger and black of lung under the weight of a 25+ year addiction I am aware that that was just marketing and oh God what am I become) – I imagine that this new coin offering is using a similar gimmick to lure people in. Or maybe it is useless and maybe it’s all a joke! IT’S LITERALLY IMPOSSIBLE TO TELL ANYMORE!!! To quote the sellers, it is “the first hyper-hyper-deflationary token. This token is so useless, we will do everything in our power to buy it back — just so we can burn it and get rid of it.” So, er, there!
  • The Global Music Vault: You know the Global Seed Vault, where the seeds needed to rewild and feed the world when it all goes wrong will be stored in permafrost in perpetuity? Well this is like that, but for music! “Music is part of our heritage and the data is irreplaceable. Today this data – the music – is created, stored and archived on mediums that are inefficient, harmful to the environment, exposed to irreversible risks like fire and technical errors and have a short and limited lifetime. The purpose-built digital medium can last for over 1000 years in the Global Music Vault with guaranteed future accessibility.” The project is at present…quite sketchy about how any of this is in fact going to work, but they seem very committed – will be interesting to keep an eye on how this develops (and, er, what the actual fcuk it is).
  • Ransomwhere: Tracking ransomware demands and payments – an interesting research and tracking project attempting to determine the scale of the problem and the value of the illegal market in software-based extortion. The figures are quite dizzying, and make me think I have wasted my life doing jobs I mostly hate for pennies (YOU TOO????).
  • The Earth: A small 3d model of the planet, on which you can visualise various data such as current wind or current patterns, or current temperature, or the charrningly-named ‘misery index’ which tracks the degree of economic distress felt by ‘regular’ people worldwide. This is beautiful and, if you flip it to temperature view and spend a bit of time spinning the globe, utterly-terrifying.
  • Fightmaker: I have never been able to get into UFC – as someone who finds boxing a bit much, I suppose it was inevitable that the sight of a heavily-tattooed person repeatedly smashing their fist into the face of a prone colleague might prove unappealing. Still, if you’ve got a higher threshold for the crunch of bone-on-bone than I have and enjoy poring over the statistical minutiae of fighter performance, this tool might be of use – you can use it to compare statistical data of any two UFC fighters you care to choose (men-only as far as I can tell) to see whose, I don’t know, knees are harder (is this what matters in fighting? It feels like it does). No idea what you might use this for, but perhaps to add a veneer of analytical respectability to the next time you decide to bet on whether fighter A is going to be picking teeth out of the mat.
  • Ephemeral Tattoos: Tatts that last a year rather than your whole life! As someone who’s seen a couple of people go through the unpleasant (and not hugely-effective) process of tattoo removal, I can see the appeal of ink that fades and vanishes – this is a service that currently exists in Brookly NYC and is opening soon in LA, and I would imagine will come to London within 12 months or so. For the right sort of brand launch, this could be quite fun – if nothing else, paying people to get 12m tatts of your logo feels like something people might actually do.
  • How Long Is My Data: If you wrote all your data to a series of 3½″ floppy disks, how many shelves would you need? Tell this website the number of megabytes you have, and it will tell you how many shelves. Pointless, fine, but…NO! It is NOT POINTLESS! It is ART! I want to see physical representations of the space it would take to hold all the Facebook profiles in the world on floppy! I want to see installations that take this idea and run with it! Can someone who works for a digital storage brand please do something fun with this? Please?
  • Send A Mixtape: This is really very cute indeed. Create a playlist on Spotify (other platforms are available), plug it into this website and it will give you a downloadable, printable template with a QR code on it. Assemble said template (a bit of folding and a bit of glueing) and VWALLAH! You have your very own paper/card cassette tape which you can write on and give to someone as a token, and which when they scan the QR code will take them to the mix you’ve made. I think this is lovely and I would be charmed to receive such a thing – now that QR codes are sort-of a thing, can we make more of them in this sort of way, please? I want clothes with customQRcodes emblazoned on them, jackets with them on the back panel so strangers can scan you and get all your socials in one place, or a link to your manifesto or your portfolio or album…anyway, this is a great concept and a really cute idea, so well done everyone involved.
  • Is This A Matrix?: This is fun – take a selection of frames from The Matrix, in any order you like, and compile them into a gif to tell whatever story you want with the images. Obviously the Matrix is a longstanding cultural artefact these days, but I rather like the idea of applying this to any new video property – if you want memetic reach, letting people remix the very fabric of your show like this feels like a good start. Regardless, in this particular iteration it’s possible to make all sorts of fun Matremixes (sorry) so feel free to make one that you feel represents you and your life best.
  • Trendy: This is a really interesting tool which lets users see Google search trend, by country, over the past few days – so you can select, say, the United Kingdom, and see what’s trended over the past 24h and then expand that to see how that differs compared to the past week, allowing you to simply get an idea of trend persistence and longevity, and what’s going on in any given country RIGHT NOW. Super-useful, like Twitter trending topics but better because it’s based on a platform that actual real people use rather than just a country’s population of generic media w4nkers.
  • Colostle: Such an interesting idea, this – Colostle is a single-player RPG game, currently in development, which sounds really rather cool. “Colostle is a solo RPG rulebook that allows you to play a single player adventure campaign through the impossible and incredible world of the Colostle. Unlike multiplayer tabletop RPGs like DnD or Pathfinder, a solo RPG is one you play on your own. The game book and system, along with a deck of standard playing cards, throws prompts and moments at you, and you must decide how your character reacts while recording your adventures in a journal. Build your story of who your legendary adventurer is, and what they discover out in the Roomlands of the Colostle.” For those of you who like the idea of roleplaying but who don’t necessarily fancy doing it in company, this could be worth keeping an eye on.
  • Block: The coin blocks from Mario. Click the block, it is VERY satisfying. No, I won’t tell you what happens if you keep clicking, you’ll have to find out for yourselves.
  • Kerntype: An oldschool kerning game – SO satisfying, except when it points out how bad you are at it at which point it becomes utterly infuriating (like all the very best entertainments).
  • Plane Food Simulator: CAN YOU GET THE FOOD IN YOUR MOUTH??? Very silly, but mildly diverting – the instructions are horrible, so just know that you have to try and get the food to the mouth-circle you can see onscreen (it will make sense once it loads, promise).
  • You Are Now Possessed: A very neat little puzzle game whose central mechanic is that your character is possessed – you need to help them navigate to the guitar in each level, taking into account that at certain points they will be taken over by a MALEFICENT INFLUENCE and move independently of your volition, and you need to plan their movements to take said movements into account. Very smart indeed, and gets properly hard a dozen or so levels in.
  • Under A Star Called Sun: Finally this week, a very small pixelart narrative game which reminded me ever so slightly of the film Silent Running and which, like that film, absolutely ruined me. Honestly, I was in floods by the time this finished and it only lasts about 5 minutes – you may be less emotionally-fragile than I currently am, but I defy you not to get a little moist of eye. This is beautiful and sad and a perfectly-formed piece of art.

By Kinga Bartis



  • Harry Potter Confessions: To be clear, my posting this link is in no way any sort of acceptance or endorsement of JKR’s more recently-expressed viewpoints. Ok? OK! Instead, it’s here as an illustration of the extent to which I increasingly firmly-believe that the HP universe and its insane popularity has caused actual mental harm to an entire generation of people – I mean, look at the state of this stuff. SO MUCH MATERIAL! This is very much an active Tumblr which is still able to post multiple times a day with people’s obsessional ramblings about how upset they get when people don’t give Snape the credit he deserves – did people in The Old Times display this sort of insane need to analyse the kids’ series of the past? Were there penpal clubs dedicated to dissecting exactly where Lucy from CS Lewis’ Narnia series scores in the Myers Briggs pantheon? WHY IS THE POTTER FANDOM LIKE THIS??? Honestly, I firmly believe that there will be a branch of academia in 50 years dedicated to analysing the deeply-negative effects this has all had on us as a species.
  • The Dungeon of Unexplained Phenomena: Not, I don’t think, a Tumblr! Still, given the emptiness of the Circus in recent weeks, you can forgive me for sneaking this one in (and it feels like a Tumblr, which of course is what counts). This is the work of Leigh Alexander, who’s using CLIP and other AI image generation tools to create images of creepy things in suburban settings – so from her prompts such as ‘the spooky locked door in the public library’ or ‘Dashcam photo of a haunting apparition’ come these machine-imagined pictures of unsettling things at the limits of visual plausibility, accompanied by short text by Alexander which offers further context to the computer-created imagery. A lovely collaborative art project between person and machine, and exactly the sort of centaur-y stuff I find fascinating.


  •  Sam Cotton: Sam Cotton is a comedian, actor and animator who creates short sketches based on his animated scribblings over video footage. Which I appreciate makes next to no sense now that I see it written down, so I encourage you to click the link and watch one of his videos and I promise you’ll understand. Very, very funny, in a very Australian way.
  • Pacey Films: Apparently the person behind this Insta wasn’t even born when Dawson’s Creek was on TV – still, they are doing an excellent job of stanning it despite their lack of years. This Insta feed posts edits illustrating some of the main themes of the Creek – mainly the Dawson/Joey/Pacey love triangle, and James Van Der Beek’s MASSIVE FACE. I never actually liked or watched Dawson’s Creek, but  my girlfriend at the time lived with some people who loved it SO MUCH that they would spontaneously break into the theme tune (I still get hives at the thought) and as a result it still holds a place in my heart (not a nice place, fine, but certainly one of the smaller, more atrophied corners).
  • Conception Film Studios: Film posters, but SUPER-DESIGN! Very stylish, but also very much ‘in the style of the cover of that Franz Ferdinand album’ so ymmv.
  • Ochre Jelly: LEGO art, but better than you might expect – you might have seen some of these floating around the web before, so it’s worth following the maker if you’re into this sort of thing. The ‘memes in LEGO’ in particular are beautiful.


  • Three Cheers for Socialism: This is actually from December last year, and is an unusual Curios pick insofar as it’s from Commonweal which is a Catholic magazine (admittedly one compiled by laypeople rather than your actual priests). Don’t let either of those things put you off, though – this is a wonderful piece of writing which neatly lays out the way in which contemporary political discourse in the US consistently misrepresents the idea of ‘socialism’, and how that lack of common understanding (or indeed clarity) of meaning has ruined political discourse for much of the past few decades. For those disinclined to read this because of the US focus, it’s worth taking a moment to think about the current media/political landscape in the UK (or indeed in a significant number of other European countries) with its rhetoric about ‘dangerous marxist movements’ and ‘socialist elites’ – this applies everywhere. Honestly, I was so impressed by this – despite the religious undertones it’s a really superb essay.
  • Skip The Intro: Ok, so this one is something of a…challenging read, but it’s worth persevering with. The central premise is basically one of the flattening of context in narrative and the reduction of story to content, and you can probably work out whether you will get on with the piece by reading this extract and seeing how you feel: “any narrative dimension in the final product is strictly speaking vestigial, from an earlier era of narrative art with which the new content only pretends to be continuous. Narrative adorns content in the same way faves adorn a tweet; both function only to maximize “user engagement”, and if either appears to be tailored to the specific affective or aesthetic expectations of the “user”, this is only an appearance.” As an aside, by the way, I read this review of the new Space Jam film yesterday shortly after reading this essay, and it felt like the perfect distillation of what the author is getting at.
  • On The Verge of the Hybrid Mind: From a new journal called ‘Morals and Machines’, which will feature papers on the intersection of ethics and artificial intelligence and which looks GREAT, comes this essay looking at some of the questions that arise around the morality of the centaur and the cyborg – how should increased cooperation and hybridisation of the workings of the mind and its computing augmentations be treated, how does this affect our current conceptions of what is ‘good’ or ‘right’, how should we think of agency or privacy or responsibility for entities who are part-person and part-machine? And if you think that these are scifi questions then you’re going to find the next 10 years a constantly-terrifying mess, so it might be worth getting ready.
  • The Kids Love Mao: Or, to use the article’s own subheading, “The chairman’s call for struggle and violence against capitalists is winning over a new audience of young people frustrated with long work hours and dwindling opportunities.” This is really interesting, and could equally be illustrated with that anime meme of the kid looking at the butterfly – it feels very much like a significant proportion of the younger Chinese population is suddenly coming to the retaliation that the country that they live in doesn’t in fact seem to conform to the type of communist ideal Mao espoused and that, possibly, they have been sold a fast one.
  • Welcome To Simulation City: On digital twins and virtual environments, and how Waymo (and others) are using them to seek to speed up the process of making self-driving cars a reality. I find this sort of modelling absolutely amazing, and would totally be interested in watching a ‘livestream’ from virtual space of cars learning how to drive (although I appreciate that on a certain level this would be horrifying, from the point of view of seeing how the sausage is made).
  • Games As Live Events: I featured Rival Peak in Curios when it launched a year or so ago, and I remember at the time thinking it had a lot of potential – this article looks at the company behind it, and its vision to create a series of ‘live AI-supported interactive narrative entertainments’ (that clunky descriptor is mine, not theirs) where viewers/players can watch a narrative play out and, through their interactions with the characters and the world, shape said narrative however they wish, with the visuals reflecting the player-directed choices. In Rival Peak this played out through choices around what activities the characters would do, who they would hang out with, etc, which then led to relationships and fallings-out and all the fun human dramatic grist that we all want – the article describes how this might work for horror, say, or other genres. There is SO much scope here – as ever, there’s no guarantee that the early adopters will win the day, but with a bit of imagination it’s not hard to see how this sort of thing could become very popular indeed.
  • Where Are Our Jetpacks?: On the history of jetpack development, and why it is that, despite the repeated promise of television and films from the mid-20th Century, we are not in fact currently able to pop to Tesco with a rocket strapped between our shoulderblades (or at least I’m not). Contains, as always with these things, some fabulous characters, including the wonderfully-laconic Willy Suitor, who for many years was the go-to pilot for the prototypical rocketman-style backpacks and jet belts and other flying contraptions, and some quite jaw-dropping accounts of the risks taken with life and limb. Genuinely astonishing that none of these people died.
  • What Does Cool Even Mean?: Or ‘the absence of singular trend signifiers in a fragmented digital world’, or ‘everything’s cool now for 15 people’, or, to quote the article, the rise of “hyperreal individualism. Hyperreal individualism is where the original references are largely illegible or incoherent, but the individual wishes to define themselves and create an identity around their own disparate tastes and styles anyway.” This is a somewhat-confused article, to my mind, but it does do a good job of highlighting the lack of universal trends in youth culture at present (aside, of course, from the assembly of piecemeal personal style from the fragmented landscape of THE NOW), and acts as a decent companion piece to this one by the always-smart people at BBH (I say that not just because they have paid me money on a couple of occasions but also because they have one of the few industry websites worth looking at) about GenZ’s ‘culture of extremes’ and how it’s all about contradiction and HOW MANY DIFFERENT WAYS CAN WE FIND TO REPACKAGE POSTMODERNISM FFS?
  • Instagram Has Become Skymall: Or, for the anglos in the audience, the Innovations Catalogue! This article highlights some of the odd things that the author has been advertised of late on the ‘gram, further emphasising the platform’s shift from ‘place to put photos’ to ‘place to be sold to’. Dropshipping really is a curse and we are so, so screwed.
  • Digital Nomads Ruin Everything: Oh, ok, fine, that’s not actually the headline but it could well be. This isn’t the first piece about the digital nomad lifestyle I’ve featured in here, and it won’t be the last you read, but it resonated with me because I’ve been to quite a few of the places they mention, albeit a decade ago, and it made me momentarily sad to imagine them being squatted by the sorts of people who are running the aforementioned dropshipping businesses and thereby doubly screwing the planet simply by being alive. The general tenor of the article isn’t that surprising – influxes of people who want a specific lifestyle changing the nature of a formerly-relatively-rural area in ways which benefit neither the environment nor the community which formerly lived there – but post-COVID it hits harder.
  • The Contrarevolución Will Be Livestreamed:  Antonio Garcia Martinez writes about the current situation in Cuba, how it’s come about and what an Arab Spring might look like in a country in which the web and social media doesn’t quite exist in the way we might expect. “Cuba has no freedom of assembly in practice, and constitutionally has no freedom of speech by private citizens. And yet here we are in a scene that looks straight out any of the countless social-media video blowups that now punctuate our lives online, from the Kavanaugh trial to some act of police brutality. We’ve been inured by it; it’s just part of our daily grind now, though it still manages to keep us all on the rage and dopamine rollercoaster. That line of hands holding up phones, that phalanx of accountability that we’re accustomed to seeing as the front-row seat to, well, everything…that has never really been seen in Cuba at scale.”
  • First You Make The Maps: A wonderful visual essay, about the impact of cartography on modern trade, which features SO MANY beautiful maps and takes you through them accompanied by stories of trade and exploration and human endeavour and quite a few fcukups along the way, including a great anecdote about how Columbus “used the values of the medieval Persian geographer known as Alfraganus without realizing the notation was based on the Arabic mile (7,901 feet) rather than the Roman mile (4,856 feet).” OH COLUMBUS!
  • Huxley, Burroughs and Scientology: Scientology, I discovered yesterday walking around Rome, is rebranding over here as ‘Dianetics’ – they’re dropping the ‘S’ word with all its negative connotations and instead focusing hard on the SCIENTIFIC METHOD at the heart of it all. The history of the mad cult has always intrigued me, and this piece examines how eminent authors Aldous Huxley and William Burroughs were both significantly more interested in, and close to, the movement than has often been supposed. I’ve long found Burroughs fascinating – his life’s always been more of a draw than his work to be honest – and reading this recontextualised quite a lot of what I thought about the man. It didn’t, though, change my opinion of Scientology as being one of the most incredible scams of the modern era.
  • Screen Time Crisis: I found this essay, a perspective on the idea of ‘screen time’ and how much of it we’re all having, each and every day, to be an interesting addition to the (VERY FULL) canon of polemical essays about THE DIGITAL BAD. “Early in this decade, there was a lot of public worry over screen time. Arguments played out in books. Data were cited to show this and that. We’ll likely see it again after blowing those averages out of the water during the pandemic. But what seems to be missing from the discussion is the point. It’s not really about the time spent in front of screens and what that may or may not do to a person. It’s about the time not spent having a screen-mediated experience. Even the time spent doing nothing. It’s not about screen time; it’s about offscreen time. That is not a problem to be solved by programming and technology — by better choices and filters, say — it’s a problem to be solved by will.” There’s been a lot of this over the past year, and we’ll see more of it I think – the benefits of boredom, the joy of feeling time passing rather than killing it – so bank this for some horrible Q3 strategywank, you’ll thank me later.
  • Criminalising Kindness: A brilliant essay in Granta, by Lisbeth Zornig Andersen, in which she writes about how her personal efforts to help refugees arriving in Denmark in 2015 led to a series of court cases and judgements that effectively meant that the act of providing aid to refugees was treated as a crime, and one punishable with greater severity than one would be if one were to actively harm said refugees. Chilling less because of the specifics and more because of the clear parallels between this story and every single government or bureaucracy in the world, in which process takes precedence over feeling and small, incremental actions to maintain rigour and order can have cumulatively-horrible consequences.
  • Orchid Fever: This is OLD – from 1995, no less – but joyful, and made me laugh out loud more than any other longread in here this week. It’s a profile of John Laroche, orchid…enthusiast, and of the whole market around orchids and the lengths people will go to to get their hands on these most prized of plants. Describing Laroche, the article describes him thusly – try reading this and see if you don’t want to spend 10 minutes in his company: “His passions boil up quickly and end abruptly, like tornadoes. Usually, the end is accompanied by a dramatic pronouncement. When he was in his teens, he went through a tropical-fish phase, and he had sixty fishtanks in his house. He even went skin-diving for the fish himself. Then the end came. He didn’t merely lose interest in collecting fish: he renounced it, as if he had kicked a habit. He declared that he would stop collecting fish forever. He also declared that he would never set foot in the ocean again. That was fifteen years ago. He lives a few miles from the Atlantic, but he has not gone near it since.”
  • Unread Messages: An extract from the new Sally Rooney, set to be published in September. I enjoyed this – Rooney’s prose continues to be precise and clean, and her characters perfect ciphers for The Very Real Experience Of Living In The Now, despite the fact that you know very much what you are going to get here if you’ve read any of her other work. I have no problem with an author ploughing a furrow or working a groove when they do so this well, or with such care and attention – as always, there are at least a couple of lines in this that made me pause in admiration of her ability to nail an element of this fcuking world we live in.
  • A Cam Girl Stole My Man: Finally in the longreads this week, for the second week in a row I’m including some advice column writing – this is JOYOUS, I promise you. In 2017, a woman wrote into Elle with a problem – her husband had fallen in love with a camgirl and wanted to fly to Romania to be with them. This piece is the followup, recounting what happened to the letter-writer after that – honestly, you will not read a more cheering piece of writing all week, I promise, even if, like me, your heart is nothing but a shrivelled, decaying lump of meat rattling in the yellowing cage of your bony, malnourished torso. This is PERFECT, and will, I promise, have you cheering from the sidelines throughout.

By Thomas Jeppe


Webcurios 09/07/21

Reading Time: 32 minutes

So, er, The Bad Thing is happening.

I’ve spent 30-odd years dreading this exact state of affairs and now here we are. Three decades of me loudly supporting Anyone But England in pubs and at house parties (often at great personal risk to my health, let me point out – there was one particular night when England lost to France with a last-minute Zidane penalty in 2004 which nearly resulted in me having my teeth replaced with someone else’s fist) is now set to be roundly punished by the inevitable England victory on Sunday, and not just an England victory but one against MY MOTHERLAND.

I wish it wasn’t like this. I wish I could enjoy the experience – after all, my passport is English, I have lived my whole life in the country, my girlfriend is English, my friends are English, there’s something nice about a nation coming together to hope and dream and celebrate, and the team seem to be genuinely likeable young men who seem mercifully-undisturbed by the incessant English media need to make the football team a perfect fcuking analogue for the STATE OF THE NATION (please God can we stop? Literally noone else does this in the same way) – but, sorry, I can’t. I would rather lose a limb than have England win on Sunday – in fact, given it’s Italy they’re playing, make it two limbs (your choice, I’m not fussed).

Let this be a lesson to any parent who’s had a kid with someone from a different country – if you fcuk off and leave when they are small, it is ENTIRELY POSSIBLE that the parent you saddle with said kid will raise them to abhor the football team you support (in fairness, this was a masterful piece of post-abandonment trolling from my mum so fair play there).

Anyway, this is all by way of tedious preamble to the fact that this week’s Curios is written under the weight of some not-inconsiderable football fear. Can you smell it? I certainly can and it’s only Friday morning ffs.

Shall we all agree that, whatever happens on Sunday, we will never mention this again, ever? Eh? Oh.

I am Matt, this is Web Curios, and I promise you that however nervous you will be on Sunday it will be not one tenth of how truly unwell with tension I have been since Wednesday.

By Danielle McKinney



  • SKP-S x Electric Cherry: So the way Curios works is that over the course of a week I chuck all the interesting stuff I see online into a Google doc, each link under the rough section headings which I tend to adhere to and with a one- or two-word description that acts as a sort of vague aide memoire for when it gets to Friday morning and I have to write the whole thing up. Except this is obviously very much at the mercy of Past Matt and his inclination (or otherwise) to write helpful notes at the point of discovery, leading occasionally to situations like this one where I have a link but I can’t for the life of me remember exactly what it is. So, er, going to have to sort-of guess this one a bit. I think SKP-S is a Chinese shop or  fashion label or something; I also think that Electric Cherry is a musical duo; and I therefore surmise that this site is promoting a capsule collection created in collaboration between the two. JUST CALL ME SHERLOCK, MOTHERFCUKERS! Anyway, that’s really not important – what is important is how brilliantly fun/future/oddly-retro this web experience is – it displays a musical duo, keyboardist and vocalist, doing a performance of a (pretty good imho) electro-ish song in reasonably high-fidelity digitised render, while, er, sheep zoom past them towards . By clicking the little ‘Play’ button you can access different outfits in which you can dress the performers, who you’re able to manipulate with your mouse to see them at different angles to check out the clothes as they do their little miniature bop thing. Honestly, this cheered me up no end when I fired it up this morning – I promise you, whatever is going on in your life this will make you feel marginally better about it (also, if one of you who knows anything about China can confirm or deny my assumptions about what the everliving fcuk this in fact is, that would be lovely).
  • Wiby: Wiby is primarily a search tool designed to point users at more obscure sites rather than necessarily the best ones – so a vanity search for Web Curios just now throws up this site, the personal homepage of one Matt Owen, rather than my own lovely works (not going to lie, small frisson of personal pride here at the idea that Curios is somehow ‘too popular’ for this, although that was quickly replaced with the sanguine truth that, regardless, no fcuker reads this really). Anyway, whilst that’s all well and good, and can be a potentially-useful way of getting yourself out of a Google rut should you ever need it, the real joy from this comes from its ‘take me to a random site’ functionality. Click ‘Surprise Me’ and Wiby will send you to a page picked at random from those it’s indexed – I just opened up 3 to see what it gave me, and was directed to, in order, the 1998 homepage for the Petawawa Legion Community Band (no, me neither), a conspiracy theory page all about one of the Twin Towers and asking the BIG QUESTIONS about fire and steel melting points (WAKE UP SHEEPLE, etc), and the website of the Obsolete Computer Museum. Basically, this is an incredible portal to all sorts of small, esoteric, niche-interest web projects and is therefore pretty much perfect – oh, and if you turn off safe search in the settings you can probably add a small ‘maybe it will be bongo!’ to your random website delivery mechanism (although I’ve played with this quite a lot and have seen nary a nipple, so I think you can feel reasonably confident using this at work). SO GOOD.
  • Gucci Beloved Bounce: Another week, another luxury brand leaning in to a fancy-looking reskin of a old mobile game for reasons known only to itself. This time it’s Gucci, which has ripped off a particular genre of game whose name I can’t quite pinpoint but which I will basically describe as ‘click-hold-platformjump’ (catchy, isn’t it?) and which requires you to basically guide a microphone (why a microphone? Er, FASHION!!) as it jumps from cushion to cushion, occasionally landing next to handbags from the Gucci collection…no, I have literally no fcuking idea how this is supposed to lead to more handbag sales, but perhaps this is just part of the ‘luxury brands build visibility with kids to imprint upon them the vital importance of one day owning a 4-figure handbag’. Anyway, the main question here is ‘is this a fun way to waste some of the precious gift of life bestowed upon you by an unknown power?’ and the answer to that is a resounding YES, so WELL DONE, LUXURY GOODS-PEDDLERS! You’ve earned your peeled grapes and mountains of cocaine!
  • Etherpoems: It’s not, I think, unreasonable to characterise crypto and the blockchain as ‘solutions currently in search of a problem’ – there’s at no point been a crypto-related project where I’ve looked and gone ‘yes! This could only possibly exist thanks to the tedious-and-yet-sort-of-exciting supermathematicalcompitationalcomplexity of THE BLOCKCHAIN!!!’. Will Etherpoems be that which changes my mind? Reader, sad to say IT WILL NOT! Still, I’m sure all the poets out there struggling to earn a crust will be gladdened to know that, thanks to this project, they can now put their verse ON THE BLOCKCHAIN! (I feel the term benefits from repeated capitalisation; it really captures the breathless future excitement of the movement, don’t you think?). “Etherpoems are minted fully on-chain through a “collective deployed” smart contract. Traditionally, only a reference to a datastore (usually IPFS) lives on-chain, but with Etherpoems, the full poem is stored on-chain and guaranteed to last as long as the Ethereum blockchain does, regardless of what happens to IPFS or any other datastore! Etherpoems is also the first “collective deployed“ contract. All proceeds from claiming Etherpoems and secondary sale royalties are split among all contributors trustlessly through blockchain technology.” Now, the royalties thing is obviously a red herring – as any poet currently writing will tell you, royalties on sales of 0 are still 0, after all – but there’s actually something interesting about the fact that the storage itself lives on-chain. I think that this was a project that has now finished, but there are still a few poems available to buy (using ETH, obvs) onsite should you want to invest – some of them, amusingly, were written by GPT-2, which strikes me as some pretty fcuking Olympian grift so WELL DONE that versifier. Still, if you buy one of these and it ends up selling for millions, please remember where you heard about them and chuck me a few quid, eh?
  • TikTok Resumes: That’s ‘resumes’ as in ‘CVs’, fyi – yes, that’s right, you can now apply for jobs USING TIKTOK! This isn’t quite the awful idea it immediately sounds – there’s a sort of logic to the idea that if you’re recruiting for jobs that require people to make TikToks you might want them to make a TikTok as part of the recruitment process – and you can read some detail about how the whole thing will actually work in practice here. What intrigues me, though, is that as far as I can tell the applications have to be public posts to the platform, meaning…you’re showing everyone your job interview, basically. Which feels a bit weird – although a quick look at the #tiktokresume hashtag which needs to be included in posts using the service suggests that literally noone has attempted to apply for a job using this yet and instead the hashtag is being gamed by a bunch of fame-hungry people in their 20s trying to make their p1ss-poor ‘comedy’ sketches go viral (you know, I think the worst thing about TikTok to my mind is quite how much of it seems to be ‘the Fast Show as reinterpreted by people who would fit in on Love Island’, a combination of two things that are not really my thing). Honestly, though, should this become a permanent and international feature (at the moment it’s only open for US jobs, and only til the end of July) then I cannot WAIT for all the banks deciding that the way to appeal to kids is to make them fo POV cashier roleplay via TikTok as part of the application process.
  • Silent Rocco: Look, noone likes mimes. It’s a fact – there’s something just inherently creepy and a bit…needy? about the whole discipline (is mime a ‘discipline’? How do you characterise it? ‘Pursuit’? See, it’s pointless mental digressions like these that mean I have to wake up at 6am to write this bstard thing). Still, that said, Rocco is a truly impressive performer and some of the stuff on his TikTok channel is honestly astonishing – one of those people with a degree of control over their limbs and body and musculature that makes me realise that I am basically about as coordinated as a daddly longlegs when compared to them. I mean, just look at this – mad.
  • SpotiPod: An iPod skin through which you can run Spotify or Apple music – just connect the account and use the classic iPod interface to scroll through your tracks. This made me momentarily SO nostalgic for the iPod, a device I still miss (I passed an ‘old’ threshold at a certain point a few years back and whilst I know it’s perfectly possible to run music through a phone via the myriad streaming services available  I have a genuine nostalgia for having music that I bought stored on a device that I own which I expected to keep for longer than the 18m phone lifecycle – yeah, yeah, I know, FCUK OFF GRANDAD etc).
  • Zoo Photo: This is really rather lovely. The Georgian capital Tbilisi has a zoo, which zoo housed a papier mache’ sculpture of a horse  – over the course of 50-odd years, the horse became (to quote the website) ‘a symbol of the ephemerality of childhood’ for several generations of kids and parents. “The photographer, Victor Sukiasov, who took numerous pictures of children on that horse, worked there for almost half a century, but as new affordable cameras appeared he had to retire in 2013. Unfortunately, the photographer’s archive didn’t survive and thousands, maybe even hundreds of thousands of films, were either lost or destroyed. However, the children’s portraits that were taken roughly between 1960 – 2013 can still be found in family albums.” This site collects images of kids and their families and said horse, presenting a beautiful photohistory of the latter half of the 20th Century and some of the early 21st in Georgia – whether or not you have any connection to the country, the images are a beautiful time machine and the nameless faces (and the hair and outfits accompanything them) are oddly-poignant.
  • Open Puppies: Hit space for a new dog. No idea how many clips there are on here, but I lost a good ten minutes to this earlier in the week so there’s definitely enough to enable you to get a reasonable way into the doghole (so to speak).
  • The Place-Based Carbon Calculator: This is interesting and potentially-useful if you’re doing campaigning on anything halfway environmentally-related – it basically offers an estimate of the per-person carbon footprint for the whole of the UK, broken down into areas roughly the size of 1500 people or so. Effectively this means you can make assessments as to how environmentally ‘good’ or bad specific parts of the country are – which, of course, means that you can use this data to justify specific targeting of messaging, or billboard activations in certain locations, etc. I really like the idea of aggressively hectoring residents of Hampstead and Highgate about their appalling environmental record in an attempt to sell them ‘green’ energy, for example, but I am sure you can come up with stuff less likely to alienate your potential customer base.
  • Crony Connect: The only thing that irks me about this is its name – I wish that the English press, and by extension the country as a whole, wouldn’t bowdlerise ‘corruption’ by calling it ‘cronyism’, a word that somehow glosses over the reality of what giving contracts to your friends and family actually means (it means, to be clear, that you are corrupt). Still, this is a great project: “Crony Connect allows you to identify politically-connected individuals, using data from Companies House, the Electoral Commission and the MP’s Register of Financial Interests. How does it work? When you enter the name of an individual, Crony Connect looks for any companies linked to that individual in the Companies House database. Then it searches for the individual and any of their associated companies in the donations and financial interests databases.” Hugely useful for any journalists or researchers looking to dig into the upsettingly complex web of nested interests seemingly characterising so much of the ruling party’s activity in the UK over the course of the past few years (ha! And the rest, this sh1t is endemic).
  •  The Vredstein Experience: I like tires! You like tires! Who doesn’t like tires? NO FCUKER, THAT’S WHO? I imagine that that was basically the conversation at tyre company Vredstein as they signed off on this inexplicable digital monument-cum-museum-type-thing which exists solely to celebrate the MAJESTY OF TYRES! Navigate around the (admittedly quite nicely-rendered) museum space! Click on some tyres! Watch some videos! Fail to understand how this is in anyway better than a standard website which would have cost approximately ⅓ of the amount that this probably did! Enter and the kicking soundtrack starts, along with the exciting text…”WELCOME…TO…OUR NEW VISUAL IDENTITY!” GYAC lads you’re a tyre company and noone is quite as excited about this as you seem to be! Still, it’s nicely-built and it works, so if you have harboured a deep-seated but never-fulfilled dream to spend slightly longer than you’d practically want clicking around a digital museum of tyres then this will possibly be the zenith of your week.
  • Moriel Schottlender: Moriel Schottlender is a software engineer; this is their personal website, which, brilliantly, lets the user toggle which era of webdesign they would like to see represented. So you can switch between, say, a Geocities-style version with banners and stuff, or one that looks like a bulletin board, or the 2012 version which is SO SAD – was webdesign really that boring a decade ago? Anyway, this is super and I love it, and quite want every single new website built from now on to mimic this functionality so if someone could please make that happen that would be great thanks.
  • Art Spaces: As long-term readers may be aware, I am…sniffy about digital art galleries – I don’t see the point of the creation of sub-Myst like spaces which a viewer clunkily navigates to see flat representations of physical art stuck to the walls in jpeg form to be viewed in sterile dissatisfaction in-browser. Still, this is a GREAT tool by digital art gallery people Kunstmatrix which lets anyone spin out their own gallery with their own imagery with a minimal number of clicks – annoyingly if you want to make them public there’s a cost attached but, honestly, this is TOTALLY worth the money. I absolutely LOVE the idea of creating a virtual gallery of relationship pics to commemorate a past love, or using this as a way of displaying a lookbook, or, fcuk it, even a pitch, Why not? It’s silly and pointless but as long as you accept that it’s a slightly crap medium through which to display anything then it becomes rather fun, to my mind. If nothing else you could make some truly disturbing experiences with a little bit of imagination – I encourage you ALL to go and explore the depths of your psyche and show me what you come up with.
  • A New Boston Dynamics Ad: Sorry, ‘Boston Dynamics x Hyundai’, to give the company its new, post-acquisition name. Anyway, I missed this last week but watch this and tell me that even with the addition of the K-Pop backing track (it’s BTS, right? I would imagine so given they were doing promo for the future-murder-dogs themselves a few weeks back) this isn’t hugely, terrifyingly sinister. I wonder whether we’ve passed the point of no return with the Boston Dynamics stuff – I don’t know whether it’s possible for this generation of dogbots to come across as anything other than terrifying precursors of a machine-dominated future thanks to Black Mirror and the meme industrial complex, but well done to the makers for continuing to attempt to sell them as ‘cute kinetic companions’ rather than ‘the last thing you’ll see before their titanium feet splinter your skull’.
  • Flemish Scroller: This has attracted a lot of attention this week, and rightly so – SUCH a smart idea. Flemish Scroller is a project which uses AI to analyse the feed from the Belgian parliament and identifies those politicians who, rather than attentively engaging with the debate of the day in the chamber are instead scrolling through their phones, staring at whatever it is that Belgian politicians like to look at (DON’T GO THERE). Clever, pointed use of publicly-available tech, and a brilliant example of how many things can be hacked together from extant codepipes if you just have the imagination and the ingenuity – I feel quite strongly that, the English ‘sense of humour’ being what it is, we can only be a few weeks away from someone replicating this for the Mother of Parliaments but with the twist that it spots people picking their noses instead (seriously, someone make this, it would SHAKE WESTMINSTER TO ITS CORE).
  • Goomics: Manu Cornet made headlines this week for their decision to leave Google after many years there working as a software engineer and, less officially, as the company’s ‘moral catoonist’. Not a title that I think Cornet ever actively pursued, but over his time at the company he published lots and lots of cartoons critiquing the company’s behaviour and its culture which effectively led to him being applauded as the company’s ‘conscience’ – there’s something quite interesting about the fact he was embraced by the senior management at the company, not least in terms of the extent to which allowing ‘clowns and cynics’ a bit of leeway within a business can act as a useful outlet for dissent whilst at the same time showing how COOL the bosses are, honest gov, Anyway, that era is over, but this website collects Cornet’s cartoons from over the years – seasoned Google watchers will find a lot to laugh at here.
  • Blippp: Games For Crows is a development studio that makes odd, surreal and quite brilliant little titles, and this is a small art-toy that lets you make gorgeous pastel abstracts without even trying. Play around with it, it’s really rather fun and you almost can’t help but make something that looks rather cool.

By Betty Tompkins



  • DES: This is all in German, a language I always found utterly terrifying, and so I can only half-way guess at what is going on here. As far as I can tell this is an architecture or engineering firm, but that’s not really important – what is important is that the website lets you navigate by moving a drone around a 3d environment, with various different landmarks representing different menu options which you select by flying up to them and look, fine, I appreciate that this breaks every single law of usability out there and is a truly hideously-inefficient way of accessing information but LOOK IT’S A TINY CG DRONE FFS! I want to see more of this sort of thing, please (he says, as though the bleated demands of some webmong move any needles whatsoever in the real world).
  • Cool Walks: Thanks to Jade for sending this to me; cool walks is a really smart idea from Barcelona which uses data about the relative position of the sun to Barcelona’s streets to allow residents and visitors to calculate walking routes that enable them to stick to the shade during the city’s murderously-hot Summer months. Can someone make this for Rome, please, so that I might be able to actually leave the house between the hours of 10am and 5pm without being reduced to a small puddle of sweat and grease by the experience? SO ATTRACTIVE.
  • Runway: Ok, this is a professional, paid-for service but there is a free option and so I feel justified including it here. Runway is a super-useful-looking video editor which allows for really quite powerful ML-assisted stuff like automatic greenscreening and persistent object removal and all those gubs, with the option to pay for access and get more HD exports and that sort of thing. For the majority of us who don’t need to do this sort of thing every day, though, the free version looks like it provides all the features you need to create something rather cool (or alternatively to batch-remove your ex from all videos featuring the both of you, either/or).
  • Barefoot Is Legal: “People go barefoot for many reasons, not just comfort. Simply put, our members go barefoot for MEDICAL, CULTURAL, RELIGIOUS, SAFETY and HEALTH reasons. However, people are still bullied and discriminated against because they believe there are laws preventing them from going barefoot in public. There are no such laws. That is why we exist.” LET NOONE STOP YOUR BAREFOOT DREAMS! LET NOONE TREAD ON YOU! This is an American organisation (of course), but I see no reason why you shouldn’t embrace it and its philosophy and, why not, even join its Facebook Page? Be aware, though, that said Facebook Page appears (OF COURSE) to have become a culture wars battleground, at least if the hashtags being used to push back against the ANTI-BAREFOOT HATERS are anything to go by (are those who are against the idea of driving barefoot really best-described as ‘commies’? Did Marx opine about whether the foot stamping down on the working classes was shod or otherwise?).
  • Swoon: Despite the fact that noone seems to like online dating platforms, that they seemingly make everyone who uses them jaded and miserable, and that every single person who has ever used one seems to have a litany of horror stories about their experience, they are also the most efficient way we currently have of finding people we can fit parts of inside ourselves and as such they are HERE TO STAY (or at least they are until we all evolve beyond physical reproduction). The imperfection of the current suite of apps is presumably why developers continue to experiment with new iterations on the formula, and why things like Swoon keep on cropping up – its gimmick is that it’s all voice-led, and that rather than using photos of yourself you instead get an avatar that’s based on your image so it roughly reflects your characteristics but doesn’t actually give away your looks. The makers claim that this leads to better, less-superficial connections, but I can’t help but think that listening to an infinite number of voicenotes in which someone attempts to paint themselves in an attractive light seems oddly-reminiscent of the answerphone dating services of the 1980s and 90s (in which users would record profiles of themselves that prospective daters could call up, listen to and then pay to contact), and that was, by all accounts, a legendarily-terrible way of attempting to get laid.
  • PaintUp: Turn any sketch in this simple paint tool into a 3d model with a click of a button. This may not sound very exciting, but I promise you you’ll feel a very real frisson of slight horror the first time you experience the horrible face you scrawled as a 3d object you can move in virtual space. There’s a very real ‘Monster Engine’ vibe to this – I would really like the ability to buy 3d printed models of some of the more grotesque creations, ideally sold along with some sort of presentation stand.
  • The Wellcome Photography Prize 2021: The Wellcome Prize always gives good photography: “In the shortlist below, 31 talented photographers share their personal views of three of the most urgent global health challenges: mental health, infectious disease and global heating. By bearing witness to these stories, we can all enrich our understanding – and strengthen our determination to find new solutions.” My personal favourite here is Dulcie Wagstaff’s shot depicting gardening in Winter, but these are all worthy potential winners (the overall winner is announced at the end of July,
  • Telemelt: This is quite geeky, but very cool – Telemelt is a project which is designed to replicate the oldschool experience of playing videogames together at someone’s house, passing the controller upon each life lost and generally enjoying the shared experience of gaming in a group (whether the game itself is multiplayer or not). The project is a hack which requires a bit of work on the user’s end – you need game ROMs to make it work, which you need to store in a Dropbox folder and then upload to the site, but once that’s done you and friends can play on a shared URL with controller support and all the necessary bits and pieces to replicate game night circa 1988. I appreciate that the potential audience for this is quite small but, well, what else is Curios for if not EXACTLY THIS (that is a rhetorical question, please don’t attempt to answer it).
  • Colorify: Chromatic analysis of your Spotify listening habits, based on album covers and artwork. It provides colour palettes for your most-listened-to singles, an overall palette for your taste, and a perfect way of really riling your partner when it comes to the next argument about what shade you should redo the kitchen in “No Gary, I really think it’s important that my longstanding obsession with Steps be reflected in the choice of marble for the countertops”, etc etc.
  • Tweetflick: This is potentially SUPER-useful, particularly if you’re the sort of Twitter user who uses faves as a notebook or as a means of KEEPING RECEIPTS. Tweetflick lets you basically flag any tweets you like for later retrieval – just like ‘favourites’, but this lets you add keyword tagging and, even better, in-tweet copy search, meaning you can quickly run keyword pulls on all your stored Tweets at once. Which, to be clear, is just Twitter Advance Search pretty much, but it’s a nice quality of life update which might be quite useful (especially given how hard Twitter seems insistent on making its Advance Search product to access).
  • Safe Beyond: God I love post-mortem technology, I really do. So bleak! So open to appalling misuse! Safe Beyond has apparently been around for YEARS, and I’m slightly sad that I have never come across it before – still, now that I know it exists my plans for my death are SO MUCH RICHER! The service promises to let you ‘create future digital messages for loved ones’ and ‘secure your digital legacy’ – which frankly isn’t anything particularly unique, but some of the features really appealed to me, not least the geo-tagged messages feature which seemingly lets you set stuff up to be delivered after your death when the intended recipient arrives in a certain physical location. Just imagine – you arrive in, I don’t know, Belize for your long-dreamed of holiday and you get pinged with a message from your now-dead ex who’s decided that this is the best moment to drop the revelation about the fact that actually there’s a secret they always wanted to tell you and you should probably sit down when you find a suitable treestump. Honestly, the potential for post-mortem trolling here is HUGE, and very appealing – also, the promo video features someone watching their kids play on a beach and thinking ‘I’m going to die one day, best record a message about how much I love them!’ which, fine, is sort-of poignant but also…LIVE IN THE MOMENT FFS! Anyway, this made me laugh quite a lot which possibly says more about me (all negative) than it does about the nice people behind the service.
  • Nonce Finance: Two nations, divided by a common language. There is only one gag here, but it made me laugh a lot – the fact that ‘nonce’ is an accepted term in crypto is very, very funny to me (sorry).
  • Virtual Kalimba: A Kalimba is, apparently, a xylophone-adjacent percussion instrument (please, noone feel the need to email me about the exact differences between a kalimba and a xylophone – I can’t bring myself to care) and this is a virtual version of one. There is nothing cool or exciting about this at all, but I am including it because I can’t stop thinking about how much I want to use this to repeatedly troll colleagues by using it as sonic punctuation for their most banal utterances on calls. “So if we could circle back on this later this week guys, ok?” “*inspirational Kalimba sounds*” – see? It is PERFECT, give it a go yourselves.
  • The Most Amazing Football Pitch Locations In The World: A Twitter thread presenting some truly amazing photos of football pitches in incredible places. I can’t 100% guarantee the integrity of this one – there’s at least one in here that SCREAMS photoshop, and I haven’t got time to do the due diligence I’m afraid – but let’s suspend disbelief and enjoy a brief moment of FOOTBALL PURITY before my fearful shaking starts up again.
  • Bucket List As A Service: This…this feels very silly. BLAAS (sorry, there’s no way I’m typing the full name again) is a platform which offers you COIN (in this specific instance $RGT, the token that at the heart of this is what’s being shilled) in exchange for doing challenges. Tweet you want to do the challenge – thereby giving visibility to the coin in question – get confirmation you’re signed up, provide proof that you’ve done it, earn COIN! There’s a menu of things that they will remunerate you for doing – some are already all gone, like ‘hold a sign shilling the coin in a photo in front of a landmark’, but there are still some GREAT DEALS left, like the ability to earn what is at present approximately $6000 for, er, naming your kid after the coin in question. This is so impressively stupid that it might in fact be brilliant (it is not brilliant – there is no way in hell that you will EVER be able to shift these coins, meaning you will be effectively whoring yourself to a bunch of cryptobros for free).
  • Ventscape: A website which displays slowly-vanishing messages posted by visitors. Anyone can post a message, which will be immediately visible at the point of submission before slowly fading to nothingness. This is rather lovely – whenever I’ve checked in, I’ve seen no horror or nazis (Web Curios accepts no responsibility for whatever might show up when you visit, mind – caveat emptor and all that), and on occasions when there have been multiple visitors there’s been a vaguely-positive sort of community chat that briefly builds up around particular phrases or statements as they pass through. This is honestly gorgeous, and a beautiful piece of tiny webart (which might also be entirely blank when you land on it, of itself a slightly-wonderful element to the work itself).
  • Premier League Shots: Amazing bit of statswork here – pick ANY player or selection of players over the past few years of the PL and get data on the shots they’ve made, where from, the XG of said shots, which foot they shot with…seriously, the interface here is a bit clunky, fine, but the information at your fingertips is VAST and will give you all the ammunition you need to make the case for why Foden/Grealish MUST START on Sunday oh god i have started thinking about it again make it stop make it stop.
  • Gen X Or Not: The ONE question that will forever lay to rest the burning question ‘Am I GenX or not?’. Fwiw, I am very much GenX.
  • Doodlebugs: This is 100% the hardest drawing game you will ever play, and the sort of thing whose slightly-kiddy design masks the fact that if you give this to a 4-year-old to play with it will reduce them to tears within approximately three minutes (I find this mental image a lot funnier than those of you with children will, I don’t doubt).
  • Odd Infinitum: Finally this week, a very good but VERY HARD side-scrolling shoot-em-up in the pixellated style – this is a lot of fun, but MAN I died a lot. The sort of thing that is playable with keyboard but which I imagine would benefit significantly from a gamepad – still, either way this is a lot of fun and certainly more enjoyable than chewing your nails down to your knuckles as you wait for The Bad Thing to finally come to pass.

By Lisa Vaccino



  • Shop Glarse: Very non-traditional stained glass work by Esme Blegvad, available to buy – she takes commissions, too, and I reckon these are ace and would be a superb addition to any space you care to mention.
  • Andrea Animates: Animation made from tiny bits of felt. SO CUTE! SO SMOL! Such incredible skill on display here, and the style manages to not feel twee or overly-cutesy despite the medium the artist is working in.
  • Sincerely Yours: The last post here is from a couple of months ago, but I really hope that the project continues – Sincerely Yours is an account attached to a website of the same name, which exists to post old love letters than have been shared with the account’s owner. I find this sort of thing almost unbearably-poignant, and it scratches the same itch for me as ‘Found’ used to back in the day – do click through and read the few entries currently collected here, they are sweet and sad and beautiful and will make you imagine the stories and lives that sit behind them.
  • Maritozzi: A hashtag, this, rather than a single account, but I discovered via Pietro Minto’s newsletter last weekend that the traditional Roman breakfast cake, the Maritozzo (basically a sweetened, leavened bun split and filled with slightly-overwhipped cream, and very much the breakfast of arterially-challenged champions) has become unaccountably super-fashionable in Japan; this hashtag collects images of various examples of the genre in the wild, all the way on the other side of the world. How in the name of Christ anyone can eat one of these for breakfast is beyond me, but they look GREAT.
  • Swipes 4 Daddy: An account sharing the not-particularly-edifying interactions between older men and (what is at least being cosplayed as) a younger woman on Tinder. You can imagine the tone, but the selections the account posts are bleakly funny as long as you can get over the very real sadness of what’s going on.


  • I Write The Songs: Or, as the subtitle would have it, ‘on algorithmic culture and the creation of coercive ‘fun’’. This is a good article, but it requires a relatively high degree of tolerance for the language of academia and critical theory in particular; still, if you can stomach the style then there’s a lot in here about the extent to which the algo-led feeds we’re presented determine our conceptions of the world and how we relate to /experience both it and ourselves. If you want a single-sentence precis, this is a good one: “The feed is just for you; you are the only reason for it appearing in just that way, and it accomplishes nothing beyond allowing you to enjoy your pivotal centrality to that closed loop.”
  • The Shape of Techno-Moral Revolutions: Super-interesting read on the progress – invention, adoption, acceptance, etc – of technology in society, and how that maps to the concept of ‘techno-moral revolution’. This is really smart thinking and worth reading for anyone interested in the way in which technology becomes (or should become, or should not become) embedded in society: “One way to think about techno-moral paradigms is to use the idea of an ‘affordance’, which is popular in technological studies and behavioural ecology. The basic idea is that humans live in environments that afford them different possibilities for action (i.e. or, to put it another way, environments that contain different affordances). New technologies often generate new affordances. The world in which the automobile exists is a world with very different possibilities for action than the world in which it does not. Each of these new affordances generates a set of moral questions. Should we take advantage of the action possibility? Do we have an obligation to do so? Clusters of related technologies obviously generate long-lists of these questions. As we answer them, a new techno-moral paradigm emerges.”
  • The Metaverse Primer: I have featured Matthew Ball’s writing in Curios several times over the past few years – this time the link takes you to a collection of his thinking, published over the past couple of weeks and effectively setting out a series of essays which introduce and discuss the concept of the metaverse as Ball sees it, exploring the theory behind the term and moving on to look at specific questions around how such a thing can, could and perhaps will develop and evolve. If you have any sort of skin in the ‘what will the future of human existence look like when mapped onto increasingly-sophisticated digital spaces?’ conversation then this should be required reading.
  • Making Your Own CLIP-GAN: You may have seen an increase in the number of people sharing GAN-generated art this week, specifically art that uses CLIP to create images based on text prompts (so you can ask the machine to imagine you, say, ‘Spiderman but wearing a vest made of beans’ and it will go away and churn out what it thinks is an approximation of that very thing) – that’s thanks to this super primer, produced by someone whose name isn’t immediately apparent but who I am very grateful to. It looks complicated, but I promise that it’s an absolute piece of p1ss and you’ll be making the machine imagine ‘a stadium full of weeping Italians’ before I can say “WOULD MY FCUKING ID LET ME FORGET ABOUT THE SODDING FOOTBALL FOR ONE SECOND PLEASE???’
  • Why Can’t We Be Friends: The second essay this week from Real Life magazine, and once again it’s good-but-heavy; this is an excellent series of reflections on the increasing ubiquity of parasocial relationships in all aspects of (online) life, It always feels like a bad thing to post the final para of a piece like this, but it’s worth reading back from this conclusion as the author, Brendan Mackie, makes a lot of excellent points about how our imbalance relationship with the people feeding the content machine works (and doesn’t work): “Many of us have learned to post content as though we were hosting one of the old personality shows of the 1950s, calculated to look like we’re providing one end of a friendly interaction. We look into the cameras, we talk to our audience directly, we make the gestures of friendship, so that the people observing us are cued into thinking we are responding to them and them alone. But we are responding to something else, a fantasy of how we should be or the image of ourselves reflected back to us on the screen. Parasocial media in itself is not the problem but the expression of deeper hunger for belonging amid structures that can’t sustain it, scrolling through tempting, evanescent, one-sided interactions that engage our attention while rarely delivering on the promise that we can be seen and known, as individuals, as friends.”
  • Mad Men, Furious Women: If you work in advertising, you have read this by now (and if you haven’t, you really should); if you don’t work in advertising, though, you might not of done, and you really ought to. This is the massively-viral-in-adland essay published by strategist Zoe Scaman last weekend in which she shares her, and other women’s, experience of the sexism, harassment and assault prevalent in the ad industry. I don’t think this needs another man’s handwringing analysis, but a few quick points: a) I have never worked directly in advertising, but it was striking how much of this nonetheless felt familiar from generic media agencyland; b) I think if you can read this as a man without at the very least feeling ashamed at the things that you haven’t done to prevent this in the past, you’re probably not being honest with yourself; c) I have previous shared stories about at least two ex-colleagues in an attempt to prevent them from being hired again as a result of predatory behaviour, which isn’t a request for a medal so much as to note that sharing these stories can mean that sometimes the people responsible do suffer for their behaviour – but only if people actually do something about it.
  • The Cocaine Supply Chain: As you all prepare to go ABSOLUTELY WILD on Sunday – sorry, I’m sure not all of you associate ‘big day at the football’ with ‘let’s get the gear in so we can drink for 9 hours straight’, but I’ve seen enough football in pubs in the UK to know that quite a lot of people do – it seems a timely moment to share this excellent piece of investigative journalism by Klodiana Lala at Balkan Insight on how Albania has become increasingly important in Europe’s cocaine trade, and how supply networks function in 2021.
  • TikTok’s Catfish Problem: A good piece in Vox which at its heart makes the point that the real evolution of deepfakes into something scary and problematic was less the ‘fake news’ angle and more the everyday normalisation of filters and effects across major video platforms that means that anyone can easily tweak themselves in myriad visual ways to present however they like, and it’s this tricking-out or augmenting of one’s physique or physiognomy which is more interesting in terms of what is real or fake, and how we feel about said fakery. The most interesting thing in here to my mind is the initial, Mail-headline-baiting premise of the woman with the OnlyFans account who seemingly uses filters on her videos to look MUCH younger to the point of achieving a sort-of anime-lolita type-look; gross, fine, but what do we do with this sort of thing? It’s distasteful and icky, but is there actually anything morally wrong with producing pornography that looks like it might be minor-adjacent without in fact involving any minors at all (this was the subject of an excellent piece of theatre a few years back, called ‘The Nether’)?
  • Great Jones and the Illusion of the Millennial Aesthetic: This piece could equally have been titled ‘Brand Is Everything’ or Everything Is Dropshipping’ – it recounts the drama that saw cookware retail company Great Jones have something of a moment in the spotlight last week as it all seemingly fell apart, and explains how actually companies (brands) don’t need to actually have staff or even really know how to do or make anything anymore if the style and vibe is right. Possibly one of the truest-reading things I’ve seen of late about how modern retail feels like it works, and the increased importance of brand building in 2021.
  • Ethopian History: I loved this article – it talks about a new work of history by Verena Krebs, which looks at Ethopia and its relation to Europe from an Africa-centric perspective rather than a Euro-centric one, and by so doing uncovers all sorts of fascinating facts that demonstrate that actually (AGAIN) the way in which we think about global history might not in fact be 100% totally accurate and may (whodathunkit?!) been coloured by colonial assumptions and the rewriting of history through the lens of whiteness which occurred through much of the 19th Century. I particularly liked this line: “Europe, Krebs says, was for the Ethiopians a mysterious and perhaps even slightly barbaric land with an interesting history and, importantly, sacred stuff that Ethiopian kings could obtain.” Kings will be kings, irregardless of where their kingdom may be.
  • Linguistic Phrenology: Or, to give it its full title, “Why Do Analysts Keep Talking Nonsense About Chinese Words?”. Thanks to Alex for this – it’s hugely interesting, particularly if you’ve any interest in the Chinese language itself, and explains why all the things that we often hear about the way in which Chinese words are constructed and what that means (“The word for ‘crisis’ in Chinese is the same as the word for ‘opportunity’!”, etc etc) is in fact almost always boll0cks.
  • Wanghong: More China, this time from the increasingly-essential Chaoyang Traphouse newsletter (seriously, it’s so good) on the concept of ‘wanghong’, which can be sort of loosely defined as analogous to the Instagrammification of architecture we saw a lot of in the mid-00s (Museum of Ice Cream et al) but which is a little more…oh, look, I will leave it to them: “What differs from Instagramification is less the aesthetics, more the industry building up around these sites, the centrality of space and place in celebrity, and how space is being exploited for profit.” If you have any interest in urban culture and the evolution of the built environment, then this really is worth reading (possibly twice)
  • An Oral History of Independence Day: It’s amazing how popular Independence Day continues to be as a film given the fact it’s almost entirely a piece of YEE-HAW GO USA!!!! propaganda, which I suppose is testament to the general sense of fun and momentum it manages to create – this oral history speaks to almost all the principles apart from Will Smith who was probably communing with the ghost of L Ron Hubbard when they called but who nonetheless comes across rather well from the associated anecdotes.
  • The Eraser Men: Ever wondered why you never, ever see massive offensive graffiti daubed all over the roads during the Tour de France? It’s not, you may be disappointed to learn, anything to do with the French being better than everyone else – no, turns out that they love a crudely-drawn c0ck as much as the next manchild, and as such the Tour employs specialist anti-graffiti people to remove or edit the offending scrawls to render them TV-friendly. I particularly like the detail that they repurpose cartoon penises as butterflies – next time you see a lovely butterfly on the route, know that it’s only there because a man decided to attempt a rendering of a cartoon penis first. Ah, men!
  • Leaving: An advice column in The Rumpus magazine, in which the Agony…Person responds to several readers’ letters about said readers’ desires to leave their partners. I wouldn’t normally link to life advice column,but each of the letters and the consolidated response at the end really struck me as being Good Advice of the sort that you don’t always see expressed in these things, and the overriding message – that it’s ok to leave if you don’t want to be somewhere, even if the other person has done nothing wrong – is I think an important one.
  • Indian Legalese: On the wonderful linguistic stylings employed by lawyers in India. I don’t want to reproduce any of the copy here as it really does deserve to be read in its entirety – I promise you, though, that even philosophers have nothing on these people.
  • Elite Vs Trump Supporters: I know, I know, who wants to read about That Man anymore? Still, I would make an exception for this article which is by Wallace Shawn, American actor and playwright and probably best known for playing Vizzini in The Princess Bride. Honestly, the writing style here is SO GOOD; I love the tone and the cadence and the rhythm of the whole thing, not to mention that the points that Shawn makes. There’s an almost fairytale quality to the prose that I promise works wonderfully – even if you’ve happily forgotten that That Man ever existed, I would urge you to read this as it’s not only a great piece of writing but also a remarkably perspicacious one.
  • The Post-Cat Person Story: For the three of you who haven’t already read this this week, this is THAT followup to Cat Person (the massively-viral short that catapulted its author, Kristen Roupenian, to fame and a book deal and which, it turns out, was quite heavily based on a lot of personal details that Roupenian had been told (and subsequently…dug up) and which led to the author of this piece finding elements of their life and their past and their history suddenly turning up all over web in a piece of ‘fiction’ by someone they had never met. This is a fascinating story, and you will have your own opinion about the extent to which Roupenian was entitled to lift whole swathes of someone else’s experience with minimal alteration to base her tale around. Responses I’ve seen run the whole gamut, from ‘look, this is how fiction writers work and if you don’t understand that you’re nothing but a rube’ and ‘yeah, no, you don’t rip off someone else’s life wholesale without changing anything’ – I’m slightly more in the latter camp than the former (it’s just polite, no?), but you make your own call so you too can take part in the conversation over bottomless brunch this weekend (it is very much that sort of piece).
  • My Apology: A short piece of fiction about writing an apology – this is very, very funny indeed (or at least I found it so; your mileage may vary).
  • All The Right Words On Climate Have Already Been Said: Finally this week, the best and saddest and most-tired and angriest piece of writing I saw all week, this is by Sarah Miller and is a follow-up to the author’s story about climate change from a couple of years ago and, honestly, just read it it is SUPERB.

By Alice Neel


Webcurios 02/07/21

Reading Time: 35 minutes

Have you all gone and bet the farm on Gareth’s Plucky Young Lions? I might have to do that myself, seeing as it’s the only way in which I can render England’s increasingly-inevitable-looking Euros victory in any way palatable.

I imagine you’re all really happy and excited – I wish I could share your joy, whereas instead I have inside me the cold fear of a man who’s spent the past 41 years laughing whenever England exit a tournament early and now has the growing realisation that that sound he hears might be the chickens finally coming home to roost (WHITE CHICKENS DAUBED WITH THE CROSS OF ST FCUKING GEORGE).

So excuse me if this intro lacks its usual vim and vigour and brio, but I am too football-nervous to really put my heart into it this week (rest assured that the rest of Curios maintains the standards which you’ve come to expect – note that I at no point refer to these as ‘high’). Should the unthinkable happen and the football gods serve up an England Italy final, I will be typing this using the stubs of what remains of my terminally-bitten fingers (it won’t; it’ll be Belgium).

Anyway, while you all wait to get drunk on national fervour and patriotic joy, I’m off to perform a complicated ritual involving a goat, a pentagram and some definitely ethically sourced snake’s blood outside the Stadio Olimpico; forza Ucraina and all that jazz.

I am Matt, this is Web Curios, let my words into your head and nothing bad will happen, I promise.

By Marwane Pallas



  • Death on the Blockchain: Memento mori, everyone! Yes, a nice, cheery one to kick off this week as we commence Curios by staring down the barrel of our own inevitable demise! Except this is death 2.0 – death on the blockchain!!! Which, to be clear, is still very much death – there doesn’t appear to be any magical bestowing of immortality at play here, or any indication that your digital remains will in any way be eligible for metaversal resurrection at some point down the line, but, still, BLOCKCHAIN! The project’s name is Gone To Mars (of course it is!), and it offers YOU, the user, the opportunity to ‘immortalise yourself in a distributed digital eternity’. What does that mean? NO FCUKING CLUE! Let’s dig, shall we? “Gone to Mars is the first-ever virtual cemetery on a blockchain. There is a total of 1,089 Spaces arranged in a Cartesian coordinate system. Each Space has unique coordinates and a visual representation, a mesmerising crystal. All 1,089 crystals were generated algorithmically, and each of them is unique. The authenticity and ownership of each Space are guaranteed by a unique ERC721-standard token (NFT) issued and stored on the Ethereum blockchain. Once you’ve purchased a Space, you can link your social account to it and set up a time capsule for future generations. A time capsule contains an AES-encrypted text message secured with a keyword and stored on-chain. Once you’ve set up a time capsule, it will be sealed until 2050. When you feel the time is right, pass on your token together with the keyword to your descendants so they can take it to Mars one day.” Anyone? Anyone at all? So…er…I have to pay in crypto to have access to one of a limited number (16×16) of digital burial plots which I can link to my social accounts and which will live on the blockchain to guarantee…what? That I can leave an ‘everlasting’ record of my existence for future generations (except it will only last for 29 years, which, honestly, doesn’t quite seem worth the hassle tbh – I mean, you can buy literal time capsules for £30 quid ffs), but digital so that it can…er…be taken to mars one day? I think my favourite part of this – and there are many; I really recommend enjoying the corporate manifesto and the FAQ, which are superb examples of the genre – is the site owner’s seeming conviction that THE BLOCKCHAIN somehow does away with the need for physical burials, allowing us to ‘move beyond’ the physical storage of human remains. Er, GYAC lads, whether or not you blockchain your Insta on death, someone somewhere will still need to do something with the putrefying meatsack you leave behind. FYI, the central ‘plot’ in this digital graveyard will retail at £1.5m, going by today’s ETH prices. BARGAIN!
  • What The Robot Saw: A super-interesting piece of digital art, this explores some similar areas to Shardcore’s The Machine Gaze but, well, significantly-less upsettingly pr0n-y – namely, what does the machine ‘see’ when it ‘looks’? The project uses a bunch of code (yes, that’s the technical explanation) to sort through unpopular videos on YouTube (the ones that only the crawlers see, the ones with no views, the ones that are made for an unknown audience) and use those to create an infinite, live-generated film of its own making, cobbled together from these fragments footage, with machine-generated descriptive subtitles popping in and out… you can watch the output on the project website or on its own dedicated 24/7 Twitch channel, and, honestly, this is mesmerising and it’s all I can do not to sack of Curios entirely this morning and instead lose myself in the hypnotic world of machine-curated visuals. Kudos to creator Amy Alexander – if this isn’t installed in a gallery by the end of the Summer I will be amazed (and slightly disgusted tbh). Oh, and if you work for any tech companies dealing with machine learning, computer vision, etc, and can’t see a role for this sort of art in your promocomms then, well, you’re a miserable husk devoid of imagination and I’d like you to think long and hard about what the point of you is.
  • Cryptosnoos: I am, as you may be aware, a bit sniffy about NFTs as a thing, but this is one of the rare recent occasions where I can sort-of see the point of them. Cryptosnoos are Reddit’s initial attempt to dip its toes in the threateningly-primordial swamp that is the NFT game – they’re collectible digital cards, effectively, each featuring a version of the Reddit mascot (Snoo – hence the name) with varying degrees of rarity (from ‘unique’ through ‘very rare’ and ‘a bit rare’) which you can buy and own and which you can then make visible as your avatar picture on the platform and which will grant your posts a special ‘glow’ on-site, and which can of course be resold on a secondary market. Which seems…not stupid? I mean, look, if you’re unconvinced by the idea of virtual goods and the trading thereof, and if you think that someone paying money for what is effectively a bit of code that makes their interactions on a website look non-standard and which they might then sell on at a theoretical profit to anyone who wants to buy it then this probably isn’t going to change your mind, but overall this is significantly less dumb than buying an NFT gravestone.
  • Tone of Voice Examples: If you do copywriting, or if (perhaps more likely) you’re one of the seven people working in your organisation who can halfway string a sentence together and therefore you’re always the one tasked with ‘doing the copy’ for whatever content is being created this week, then this presentation might well be of use. 65 slides collecting examples of different brands’ copywriting, across format, demonstrating some of the best work in terms of clarity, theme, consistency, etc, of recent (and not-so-recent) years. EVEN BETTER, the kind and generous Carolyn Barclay who has compiled this has had the common decency to make the examples non-US-centric, meaning at least some of the spelling’s right and there’s slightly less of the grating Americanisms that often characterise much of these sorts of collections. A genuine motherlode of useful examples of branded writing, which also doubles as a neat resource for spotting themes and trends and commonalities of style, should that be of use. Fine, it does feature Innocent, but it’s only one slide and you can ignore it and move on before the burning rage rises too far.
  • Sudowrite: I had completely forgotten about this til my beta access arrived this week; Sudowrite is A N Other AI writing assistant, whose specific gimmick is that it’s specifically pitched as a creative writing ‘helper’ – you’re not meant to use it as a standalone copy generator so much as a prompter, something to help you get over writer’s block or to help you flesh out characters or situations or to explore different directions in which you could take a character or narrative. You only get a few weeks’ free trial before it will start asking you for cash, but, honestly, it’s quite frighteningly good. Give it a paragraph and it will, on request, suggest a selection of follow-on paras to take the story in different directions; highlight a character name or object and it will provide you with ‘colour’ on that character or object. Playing around, I fed it this: “Alan and Tony weren’t friends exactly, not since Rome. Their relationship was characterised by none of the easy familiarity that one might expect from people who spent as much time in each other’s company as they did; instead, they circled each other warily, sniping and each occasionally witheringly sneering at the others’ choice of scarf or brogue.” The first suggested follow-on para? “The dynamic wouldn’t be out of place in a sort of overgrown schoolboy’s fantasy, but their friendship was grounded in the realpolitik of their business. A significant part of their work together was the selling of Alan’s particular aesthetic, an aesthetic that was — so far as the world at large was concerned — entirely Tony’s. Tony, who had come to Alan” I mean…that’s not bad, right? Highlight the word ‘scarf’ and ask it for a description, and it offered me “The scarf was made of polyester and viscose rayon, and on its corners were brooches from the Society of the Crossed Keys, an organisation started in the 13th century to protect Byzantine silk weavers.” I have always been realistic about my skills as a writer, certainly realistic enough to know that – praise be! – I definitely do not have a book in me, but it’s somewhat distressing to be so obviously outwritten by a bit of software. I am 100% using this for the next piece of commercial copy I have to write, though, and I suggest you do too.
  • The 808 Cube: This is both a synthtoy and a Rubik’s cube – move the sides around, rotate the elements, and by so doing alter the sounds that you can make with the various beats and clangs, shifting the rhythm and tempo as you see fit. More fun than it ought to be considering everything I try and compose using it sounds like a child let loose on the saucepans.
  • Strumming Tutor: I should really have given this its proper title – for the avoidance of doubt, this is actually called ‘Lord of the Strings’ so well done whoever came up with that. This is a clever little site which lets you upload any recording of an acoustic guitar performance and which will analyse it to tell you the strumming pattern you need to replicate to be able to play it – it won’t tell you the chords, fine, but presuming you have those then this will let you see how you’re meant to approach the up-and-down bit (that’s the technical term; right? I did actually play guitar a bit as a kid, but due to a mixup it was the pluck-y classical version rather than the sexy, strummy variety, which I personally hold in some small way responsible for me not being more attractive than I actually am). Might be useful if you or someone you know is at the early stages of picking up the instrument (although I appreciate that you may not in fact want to encourage them).
  • Ayako Taniguchi: Ayako Taniguchi is a musician who composes primarily for commercial purposes – films, adverts, that sort of thing – and whose website presents a selection of beautiful, simple visualisations of their piano compositions. The visuals are rather lovely but to be honest the main draw here is the music – this is SO BEAUTIFUL, honestly, and I bought their debut album within a couple of minutes of landing on the site. If you like modern classical piano music – and who doesn’t? NO FCUKER, that’s who! – then this is honestly glorious (and the site’s pretty too, and it has a really nice little UX/UI feature where you can set the audio to play even when you navigate to another tab, so you can use it as a background music player if you so choose – simple, but SO POLITE!).
  • Deadheads: Having been quite polite about the Reddit NFTs a few links ago it’s reassuring to be able to get back to the slightly less positive appraisal of this effort which I feel significantly more comfortable with. Deadheads are NFT collectibles – LOOK FFS CRYPTOPUNKS ARE UNLIKELY TO HAPPEN AGAIN STOP TRYING TO MAKE THEM HAPPEN AGAIN – whose theme is ‘cutesy hallowe’en’ as far as I can tell, and ownership of which gives the right for said collectibles (or the 3d models associated with them) to be used as an avatar anywhere within the metaverse (er, software compatibility permitting, one would presume) and which is set to become an ANIMATED SERIES featuring all the characters. There’s not that much more information out there at the moment – there’s a Discord server you can sign up to to ‘join the community’, but, honestly, life is too short – but I am curious about the way in which the Twitter thread here linked to alludes to an idea of ‘member led’ community, with owners of the NFTs being able to apply to work on the project, voted for by other owners. Whilst I’m skeptical of this even becoming A Thing, I think the way they’re baking incentivised community into the model is interesting – and perhaps I’m a know-nothing bozo, as they have seemingly shifted all the initial allocation of characters, so perhaps this is set to be the next Disney and I will have crypto egg all over my stupid face. Time will tell.
  • Joy Generator: A nice little site by NPR which presents a selection of small digital projects to generate ‘small moments of delight’ – each lasts a few minutes, and is designed to embody a particular pleasure, from that of ‘anticipation’ to ‘the outside world’ or the act of creation. These are delightful – small, cute, and there’s even an ‘insight’ behind them (WE LOVE AN ‘INSIGHT’!!!1111dear god so tired): “Scientists are learning that our feelings aren’t hard-wired — emotions are created by our brains in response to what we’re experiencing now and what we’ve felt in the past. Small doses of daily delight can shift our focus away from our worries and give more opportunity for joy to arise.” Charming webwork.
  • Mojo Swaptops: The YouTube channel of a creator whose sole schtick appears to be using the level creator from videogame Far Cry 5 to recreate real-world scenes in the game engine. Which wouldn’t be hugely interesting in and of itself, impressive though it is, but which is elevated to Curios-worthy levels by the artist’s choice of subject matter – there are things like ‘A Wild West Saloon’, fine, and a bunch of stuff recreated from within other videogames, but there is also a video showing them recreating a Gregg’s in painstaking detail, and another in which they build a Tesco carpark (during a pandemic), and another in which they do a pub interior (OH GOD I MISS THE PUB) and, honestly, if you can’t get behind the idea of watching someone silently apply textures to the walls of a fictional digital boozer then what are you even doing here?
  • Images Generated by AI Machines: A Twitter account posting pictures generated by AI, specifically AI which is running that currently-quite-zeitgeisty CLIP-led software – which basically means that it’s displaying code hacked together from a couple of different AI systems and which lets the user specify the output it desires from the machine in words. So, for example, you can ask it to make you ‘an English football fan’ and it will spit out its best approximation of what it thinks one of such a thing might look like. If you’ve ever wanted to see what a computer thinks ‘Pride Month’ looks like, or ‘A Hegelian Sex Dungeon’ (God bless whoever plugged that one in), this is the account for YOU. BONUS LINK: here’s a really good and clear explanation of how all this stuff functions which you might want to have a read of if you’re curious.
  • The Best Film Shots of the 2010s: Or at least, ‘the best film shots of the 2010s as selected by a bunch of people on Twitter’; still, this (very long) thread of responses contain some absolutely amazing images from films as diverse as Mad Max, various Avengers movies, the Spiderverse…oh, who am I kidding, this skews very hard towards the big CG blockbusters of recent years, but I suppose that’s hardly surprising. What’s amazing about this is looking through and picking the painterly references – SO MUCH JOHN MARTIN INFLUENCE! The composition on display here is quite amazing.
  • Oily Painting: I know that makes this sound desperately unappealing, but bear with me – this is a really satisfying painting toy, which replicates surprisingly well the feeling of using thick oilpaints with a thick-bristled brush (yes, fine, that is a very specific thing, what of it?); seriously, have a play with this and marvel at the practically visceral pleasure you get from the slightly-shiny, pleasingly-textured paint being slapped onto the virtual canvas. The only thing that would improve this would be the ability to pile it on really thick and to then get in there with some virtual fingers, but I appreciate not everyone desires virtual tactility from their online arttools.
  • Cool Ponies Draw: A TikTok account which does one thing, and one thing only – namely, it draws famous people in the style of My Little Ponies. So if you’ve ever wanted to see the process by which, er, Robert Mugabe gets turned into a cartoon pony by someone with a lot of talent but an…idiosyncratic subject selection process, HERE! Other figures subjected to the treatment include Karl Marx and Margaret Thatcher, suggesting the artist very much knows what they are doing here.
  • Bulletin: Facebook’s newsletter product is here! Exciting, huh? No, no it’s not – the only thing that I find interesting about this is the selection of initial writers they have on board (is this what’s considered middle-of-the-road, unthreatening pseudo-intellectualism for the English speaking world in 2021? I suppose it must be) and the coming contortions Facebook is forced to make when it tries to explain how despite the fact that it is now recruiting people on contract to write content delivered to readers via Facebook-owned channels it is still definitely not a publisher, honest.
  • Spore: As we continue to be sold the idea that we can all make a living in the glorious and imminent future simply by making content about the things we love – ahahahaha I will never stop finding this lie funny ahahahahaha – so more platforms are springing up to seek to facilitate this particular economy (and to presumably cream a few % off the top). Spore is another one – its gimmick is that it offers creators a place to house all their content on one platform, from podcast to newsletter to social content, along with forum functionality and analytics and and and and. All the gubbins that an aspiring creator could want, seemingly, although the site’s remarkably opaque about what the costs are or where Spore’s cut is coming from, which gives me small pause. Still, if you’re looking for somewhere to act as a central content repository then you could do worse than check this out.
  • Twemex: “Twemex is a browser extension for Twitter that automatically surfaces the most interesting ideas. It helps you spend less time mindlessly scrolling, and more time developing your thoughts” – so runs the blurb. This is not a million miles away from those old Gmail extensions that pulled social data for whoever you were emailing to enable you to stalk them incessantly / pull in realtime information about what they were interested in to personalise your interactions (delete as applicable) – it lets you see a user’s ‘best’ Tweets, what they were Tweeting about on this day various years ago, see your past conversations, etc etc. More usefully, though, it brings a lot of the Twitter Advanced Search into the Twitter-on-web experience, which could be genuinely useful for those of you who are POWER USERS (I have always found that designation laughable, by the way, am I the only one?).
  • Habitat 2.0: Another Facebook innovation, this, and a very technical one, but if you’re interested in AI and robotics and the training thereof then it’s also fascinating. Habitat 2.0 is the new iteration of Facebook’s existing Habitat AI training software, which creates digital environments which replicate the physical and which allow AIs to undergo hundreds of hours of training in ‘real’ environments in relatively quick time. Habitat 2.0 is that but better, environments with more detail and with objects that have their own physics, to allow for more accurate simulation of the movement of individual elements within space by robotic bodies. This is SO interesting – the not-too-distant evolution of this is, say, a drone flying though a warehouse and mapping it via camera, then that mapping being uploaded into software like this, which overnight runs a million training cycles on an AI which the next morning starts running robots based on said training cycles and are therefore ‘aware’ of the warehouse topography as soon as they’re turned on…it’s hard not to look at this stuff and get slightly excited about the future, even when it is so terrifying and hot.
  • This Song Plants Trees: Such a nice idea, this. A single song on Spotify which for every 100 or so plays will pay for a tree to be planted. That’s it – there’s no brand behind it (though, er, this is VERY STEALABLE) or anything like that, it’s just a clever idea that’s environmentally kind (please don’t anyone feel the need to tell me that the amount of computational power needed to play 100 tracks on Spotify has a higher environmental cost than would be mitigated by the planting of a single tree; I WANT TO BELIEVE FFS). Well done to Matt Gordon who made this.
  • Chickfly: Before we start, let me just make absolutely clear that I think these are a good idea and there is nothing whatsoever wrong with bodily functions or inherently funny about the act of either micturation or defecation. Now we’ve got that out of the way, Chickfly is a brand of trousers designed for women exercising in the great outdoors who might not want to, er, drop trou entirely when they need to relieve themselves (for reasons of comfort, modesty, safety, whatever). As such, these trousers (leggings? pants? whatever) are designed with a ‘fly’ which can be stretched open to allow easy, er, egress of whatever biological materials one might need to divest oneself of – which is SUCH a smart bit of design, but which (and I’m sorry about this) I can’t now think of without also imagining an abseiling woman literally just letting go down 300ft of rockface (look, blame the website imagery). If you do climbing, hiking, or indeed any sort of outdoor pursuit, then I can imagine these might be a godsend to anyone with a vagina – although possibly not if you do your climbing at an indoor wall, where I imagine this sort of behaviour is…frowned upon.

By Marijn Achternaam



  • Postdates: By the same digital pranksters who brought you that spoof Amazon dating service a year or so ago, Postdates is a similarly on-the-nose gag except that this time it’s real (or at least it is for a limited time only). The idea is simple – a service, available in NYC and LA, which lets users sign up and pay a fee for someone else to get their stuff back from their ex. Simple and exactly the sort of thing that we, as the most-emotional-labour-averse generation in history (I am taking everyone below about 45 as a single post-web generation here, deal with it) would absolutely jump at the chance of using whilst at the same time making ennui-laden gags on social about how ‘OMG this is literally the WORST example of late-period modern capitalism lol sign me up how do I get my Juul back from the last fuckboi/egir i am so trash lolllllllll’. I am not artdecider, but if I were then this would definitely be ART.
  • Tella: Another ‘better video, honest!’ app, this time designed to help you make your screenrecordings better (or at the very least ‘less sh1t’). This all looks really smart if I’m honest – it all runs through the browser, and lets you (seemingly – I haven’t done more than VERY quickly play around because, well, WHAT DO YOU EXPECT FFS HAVE YOU SEEN HOW MANY LINKS THERE ARE IN HERE AND DO YOU KNOW HOW MUCH STUFF I DON’T FEATURE EACH WEEK AND WHERE AM I MEANT TO FIND THE TIME??) do lots of clever stuff with your screenrecordings, using windows and layers to let you create really quite sophisticated videos which look particularly useful for training and onboarding purposes. Definitely worth a look if you spend a lot of your time showing people how to do stuff on screenshare and wish you didn’t have to.
  • Biztoc: Another of those ‘ALL OF THE INFORMATION ABOUT X IN ONE PLACE!’ websites, this one for BUSINESS, which combines a dizzying number of feeds from business news sources, stock prices, trending videos from business YouTube, recent YouGov polling data, with some community gubbins which lets users post their own links, have forum-style discussions (presumably about BUSINESS, but who knows?), etc etc. Personally-speaking I find the style of this page ever so slightly anxiety-inducing, but if you are more BUSINESS than me (not, it must be said, hard) then you may get more out of this than I did.
  • A Soft Landing: This is rather lovely, and a pleasingly ‘slow’ piece of internet. “A Soft Landing is an online resource inspired by the activity of communal gardens and city allotments. It is a space where volunteers are invited to share, learn, contribute and care for themselves and others, through the sharing of material that could be used for nourishment, growth, pleasure, education or healing. This material might take the form of recipes, remedies, instructions, inspirations, sounds or images – but these are just suggestions. Volunteers are welcome to contribute material to a fresh plot or respond to material from another. Visitors are free to notice all contributed material and take from it what they might need (a recipe, a remedy, or simply inspiration…) They may also request to volunteer and contribute at a later date. Although there are no strict limits, there is a general focus on themes surrounding nature, ecology, plants, food, care and sustainability.” Everything on the site is presented in a beautiful style – the shapes and colours on the homepage are extremely-reminiscent of a very specific aesthetic that annoyingly I can’t name but will be instantly familiar, I promise – and the fact that it’s populated by email submissions means that there’s a thoughtfulness and a lack of immediacy which I find personally very appealing. A project by artist Sam Williams.
  • Copilot: It does feel like we’re slowing coming to the realisation that the best usecase for most AI at present is to act as an adjunct or augmentation for existing human capabilities – so it was with Sudowrite up there, and so it is with Copilot, which is Github’s new AI assistant for coders, designed to act as an always-on codehelper, which will ‘learn’ your style of coding and, when asked, offer suggestions of how to solve specific question. This is SUCH an interesting idea, and exactly the sort of use-case for AI I can get behind, working as a smart helper to do the boring bits faster than we can (in this case, searching through Git repositories) – obviously I am a useless luddite who can’t code and so therefore can’t vouch for the excellence or otherwise of the software, but it looks like it would be worth a try.
  • American Dream Sleep Sounds: I know literally NOTHING about this, other than what appears on the site – to whit, the phrase ‘achieve the American dream in your sleep (and at any other time!)’ and an embedded sound file – and the brief snippets of the audio I have listened to, but I presume that this is some sort of subliminal learning…thing? designed to somehow imbue you with beliefs and powers while you sleep. Now, having scrubbed through the track a bit, I have some…questions. Why is it saying these phrases? What do they mean? What will happen to me if night after night I let my subconscious imbibe such ‘messages’ as ‘Get off my lawn’, or ‘football in the fall, baseball in the spring, botox in the summer’, or ‘you worshipped the correct God’? WHAT IS HAPPENING HERE? Look, can one of you just put this on overnight each night for the next week or so and then let me know what happens to you? It’s for science.
  • Lollipop AI: I am 100% certain I have seen something very much like this before, YEARS ago, which suggests that that failed miserably and this is attempt number 2 (at least) to make this very sensible-seeming idea fly. Lollipop is a recipe and shopping service whose gimmick is that users can browse recipes (from BBC Good Food and ‘expert chefs’ and, when they see one they like, have all the necessary ingredients for said meal dumped into their Sainsbury’s shopping basket with one click. This is SO clever, imho, and the supermarket partnership seems solid – what with being in a foreign country (and, er, having never signed up for online shopping in the UK in any case) I am not able to actually test this out, but it’s a really smart concept which I can imagine being reasonably popular if promoted well (I’ve doomed it, haven’t I? Sorry, Lollipop AI) (also, is it just me or does the ‘AI’ in the brandname make it feel somehow less good and trustworthy?).
  • Brickit: You will doubtless have seen the video doing the rounds on social this week of the MAGICAL LEGO APP which scans a bunch of bricks in a messy pile, identifies them and suggests stuff you could make with said bricks, with building guides and everything – this is the app that created said video (as ever with these things, I imagine the poor bggers behind this app were very grateful for the attention but not the fact that the original post singularly failed to mention where the footage was from, what the app was, etc etc). It’s not an official LEGO app (though I would be surprised if it wasn’t before too long) and apparently it really does work as the video suggests so, er, if you have a awful lot of LEGO and have run out of ideas with what to do with it then why not give it a try?
  • Neeva: After the Brave browser last week, this week sees Neeva staking its claim to be ‘the search engine you use when you can be bothered to remember that Google is a bit evil and nowhere near as good as it used to be’. Except Neeva will ask you to pay a monthly fee to use it, meaning you might be more inclined to remember to use the damn thing when it’s costing you £50 a year. The big difference between it and Google is the fact that, because you pay for it, Neeva is ad-free – which if you’re the sort of person who simply can’t be bothered to scroll past the first 5 results then, fine, may well be worth it. There’s a longread in the section below which goes into greater depth about what Neeva is, what it wants to be, and how it works at launch – the tl;dr here is that it’s probably not worth signing up just yet for its qualities as a Google-killer, but might well be if you believe in the project and want it to get better.
  • Virtra: I think I said a few weeks ago that I was far more interested in the specific, niche use-cases for AR and VR than I am in the attempts to make it a mass-market entertainment technology; so it is with Virtra, a company which produces VR training software for the police and military agencies in the US to train officers on dealing with specific situations in a safe environment. Now, it’s not a…controversial statement to suggest that the behaviour of the police in America is often suggestive of the fact that they’re not without flaws(!), and so programmes that can ameliorate the training process to help better prepare them to maybe not attempt to murder black people (or indeed anyone else, but, well, we know what the stats say) is broadly A Good Thing, as is anything that helps maybe weed out the racists and the sociopaths and the would-be-killers and the ones who love their guns a bit too much.
  • Made How?: Have you ever wanted to know, in exact and very specific detail, how, say, incense sticks are produced at scale? Or how one might go about manufacturing a rough terrain forklift vehicle? No, you haven’t, have you, you dullard. Still, now you can make up for lost time and find out these facts and MANY MORE – this is a very odd little website (this is meant entirely positively, should the owner ever stumble across this writeup and feel affronted – I love odd little websites, and by extension I love YOU and YOURS) which lists 7 volumes of alphabetically-arranged objects which you can click through into to read exhaustive descriptions of the manufacturing process thereof. I have no idea where these descriptions are sourced from, or who wrote them, or how accurate they are, and so can take no responsibility if your attempt to construct the aforementioned forklift vehicle ends in ignominious failure, but this is an admirable (and strangely-curated – who decided the frankly arbitrary list of things included? Why ‘leather jacket’ and not ‘leather chaps’? We will never know) attempt to enable us to recreate society from scratch should it ever come to that.
  • Askafly: MORE FLYING CARS! Except this one is a helicar –  electric, and multi-rotored like a drone, and super-cool-looking, and it costs nearly a million quid (and it doesn’t actually exist yet) and, well, just watch the video of the rotors unfurling for it to take off and tell me that it doesn’t look like it would break literally every time you attempted to fly to Lidl for some cheap booze.
  • Worldwide Telescope: Not actually a telescope! “It’s not a physical telescope — it’s a suite of free and open source software and data sets that combine to create stunning scientific visualizations and stories.” Seriously, if you’re in any way interested in the stars or space or astronomy, this is an incredible resource – even better, it’s got all sorts of guided tours you can do to help you navigate the slightly confusing interface and to help you find the interesting stuff. I have no idea whether ‘space’ is on the national curriculum, but if your kids are vaguely interested in the stars and planets and stuff then this might be worth a look.
  • Merlin Bird ID: Shazam, for birds! What a GREAT idea – Merlin is an existing bird identification app (annoyingly it’s North American, meaning its utility will be restricted for those of you who find yourselves elsewhere) which recently added software which will ket you attempt to identify birds based on their song, which is SO COOL and if nothing else would have enabled me to work out exactly which bstard creatures it was which for a solid month or so a year ago decided to set up camp on my roof and greet the dawn with cheery chirping every single morning circa 5am. I was in Costa Rica several years ago – if you are ever able, do go; it is impossible to be cynical when you are surrounded by the most amazing critters, everywhere, and God knows I tried – and learned that in the US bird fanciers are called ‘birders’, a fact which I found inordinately pleasing and which I hope you do too.
  • Toei Tokusatsu World: Those of you a few years younger than me may have fond memories of Power Rangers from when you were growing up; those of you a bit older may have equally fond memories of early Godzilla films, or maybe Ultraman if you grew up in the Far East or certain parts of Europe. Regardless of which version, most of the world is broadly familiar with the particular category of Japanese entertainment that is ‘person in shonky latex costume terrorises Earth; is eventually despatched by hero(es) in equally-shonky, often also latex, costume’ – this is a YouTube channel dedicated to exactly such shows and MAN are there a lot of them, and MAN are the latex costumes shonky. Sadly I don’t think these are subtitled, but, honestly, who cares? If you’re into the genre this will be golden for you, and if you’re in the market for a bunch of VERY kitchsy video to rip for whatever project you’re currently embarking on then this is also great. If anyone knows anything about what these programmes are then I would love to hear it.
  • Iveonte: This is quite the thing. Possibly the most genuine piece of outsider art I have ever featured in Curios, Iveonte is sadly only really going to be accessible to the Italians amongst you (which, er, is about three people I think – still, NICHE FAN SERVICE, amirite?) but you should all click on the link because the site is a near-perfect nugget of homespun internet, and also features VERY HEROIC autoplaying music. Iveonte is the epic work of one man, Luigi Orabona, who has dedicated his life to the production of this fantasy epic, which traces the history of the titlar hero and the world he inhabits across a barely-credible 47 volumes of fantastical prose, the total opus (now completed) weighing in at a quite mind-flayingly long 14million words or so (to give you a sense of comparison, apparently Proust’s ‘A La Recherche…’ is a ‘mere’ 1.4million or so). I read an interview with the author (sadly I have mislaid the link, and it was all in Italian anyway) where he explained that his wife has read it all (she liked it, apparently) and a mate of his, but that he’s not sure if anyone else has – still, WHAT AN ACHIEVEMENT. If you ever needed a reason to learn to read Italian, you won’t get a better one than this).
  • Alltruists: Outsource your pursuit of altruistic goals, with caring as a service! Ok, maybe that’s a bit unfair, but there’s something about this that made me feel a bit icky (as previously noted, this is a technical philosophical term). The idea is that this is a subscription service which each month will send you and your kids a box designed to help them to investigate socially-conscious issues such as homelessness, etc. “Every box experience walks kids through four steps, starting with an accessible overview of the issue at hand, then empathy-building activities to deepen kids’ understanding of others’ experiences, then the volunteer project itself, and finally a giving activity where kids can direct a $5 donation (included in every box) toward one of three relevant projects.” EVEN BETTER, “In our first box on homelessness, one of the empathy-building activities is the construction of a simple home made of mini-concrete blocks, representative of many majority world homes.” No, sorry, I can’t – this is grotesque, isn’t it? Paying to teach your kids to have a social context because you can’t be fcuked or don’t know how? There’s a pullquote on the site which actually reads “Finally!! I’ve wanted to volunteer with my kids for years but have never been able to make it happen until this box showed up” which, wow, made me really angry! This doesn’t appear to be a joke, and yet very much feels like it ought to be one.
  • Sublime Text: You type, and the website plays ‘What I Got’ by Sublime until you stop typing. As someone with an unlikely attachment to the album that this is from (look, they were formative years, ok?), the only way in which this could be improved from my point of view would be for it to play the whole album.
  • Questionable Vintage Recipes: You will be familiar with the particular viral content genre of ‘disgusting recipes from 1970s cookbooks, often featuring jelly used in ways you didn’t think were possible’ – this is a Facebook Group devoted to such food, and WOW is there some great stuff in here, not least because most of it hasn’t been done to death in previous viral roundups. Whoever invented coleslaw souffle is an evil genius.
  • Thinky Puzzle Game Jam: This closes today (Friday 2 July), but already contains 22 different tiny examples of thinky puzzle games, playable in your browser and a superb way of both killing some of the working day and exercising your brain cells after a few hours of their being dulled by the moribund tedium of your pointless job. Some of these are GREAT – I particularly enjoyed the elephant one, but all the ones I’ve tried have nee fun so give them a go and pick a favourite.
  • Masters of the Universe: Finally in this week’s miscellaneous links, MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE! Or at least a small pixelart game based on the cartoon series (being rebooted! Why? Who wants or needs it? Still, here’s the trailer), which plays a bit like old Spectrum/C64 classic Barbarian and which features a rendition of the theme tune, in the chiptune style, so powerful that it will magically transport you back to your childhood, seated on fraying carpet before a black and white television as you wished REALLY HARD that your cat could transform just like Cringer (I am assuming you had my childhood).

By Rikke Villadsen




  •  Squeaky and Roy: This is an interesting development in the evolution of the INFLUENCER CONTENT INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX – TikTok superstars the D’Amelio sisters apparently have a thing about their old plush toys from when they were kids, so the obvious evolution of their brand is the creation of a separate diffusion content line which features 3dCG animated versions of said lost toys, ‘interacting’ with the sisters in videos posted on TikTok and in this Insta feed. This feels incredibly, nakedly cynical – way to open up a secondary market in low-quality plush toys, sisters! – but, equally, quite smart, and another step in the ‘video star to GLOBAL BRAND’ pipeline which is where all these kids aspire to arrive (not to mention their parents, siblings, entourage, managers, etc etc etc etczzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz).
  • Lior Patel: Lior Patel does drone photography – his work went a bit viral this week after footage of sheep being herded did the rounds, but his whole account is worth a look as it’s a bit less cookie-cutter than lots of the other drone imagery you see all over Insta (imho).
  • Eslyn’s Dolls: The Insta account accompanying the Etsy shop of Eslyn, a ‘doll artist’ who makes custom creations of hugely-impressive and (sorry Eslyn) incredibly-creepy dolls which are designed to look like very beautiful tiny women and which are arranged in glamorous outfits like they’ve just stepped out of a Vogue shoot and which are posed…sexily? Are these sexy dolls? The artistry here is undeniable, but I can’t pretend I ever want to look at these ever again.
  • Atlas Snail Art: I LOVE THIS! A Scottish woman owns a pair of giant pet snails – by creating (entirely animal-safe) dyes from fruit and vegetables, she and the snails can create watercolour ‘paintings’, as showcased on this Insta feed. GIVE THE SNAILS A GALLERY SHOW! Apparently they do ‘commissions’, though I confess to being a bit iffy about how that might work in practice.


  • Human Augmentation: I tend not to feature too many White Papers by the Ministry of Defence in here, but I will make an exception for this as it’s really, really interesting and also very frightening indeed (depending on your point of view). It’s all about the potential that the MoD sees in ‘human augmentation’, both in the general sense and in the very specific ‘what if we were in the future to create a new cadre of bionic cyborg supersoldiers?’ sense, and it contains some truly chilling lines. The document makes repeated reference to the ‘human platform’ and boldly states that ‘we cannot wait for the ethics of human augmentation to be decided for us…the future of human augmentation should not…be decided by ethicists’. The section on ‘Ethics’ within the 110-page document is a whole 4 pages long, suggesting that we can all rest easy on that front.
  • The Invention of Critical Race Theory: Cultural exchange in the English-speaking world in 2021: we give the US TERFism, they give us ‘Critical Race Theory’ – seems fair! This is a good piece in the New Yorker which explains how the current (very real) furore over the concept of ‘critical race theory’ was largely confected by one man for the specific purpose of finding another way to kick at the popular right-wing illusion of leftist thought, and how it has spread to become this Summer’s hot culture war potato. It’s worth linking to because it’s surely only a matter of time before the Mail and Telegraph go full-throttle on this stuff, so forewarned is forearmed and all that.
  • Modern Logistics: A fascinating look at the effect that modern consumption and shopping trends have on the way in which logistics functions, and the knock-on effects that the development of modern logistics has on the physical environment of the spaces between our towns and cities. It’s not a massive stretch to envisage a future some 100 years hence in which the burnt-out land between our urban hellholes is carpeted in warehouses and server farms as far as the eye can see.
  • The Internet is a Collective Hallucination: The concept of ‘digital decay’ or linkrot is much-discussed, but this article in the Atlantic does a better job than most of practically explaining why this is a potentially-dangreous thing that should be guarded against. This paragraph is a good summation, but it’s very much worth reading the whole thing if you’re at all interested in memory and permanence and the concept of ‘truth’ in a post-digital age: “The project of preserving and building on our intellectual track, including all its meanderings and false starts, is thus falling victim to the catastrophic success of the digital revolution that should have bolstered it. Tools that could have made humanity’s knowledge production available to all instead have, for completely understandable reasons, militated toward an ever-changing “now,” where there’s no easy way to cite many sources for posterity, and those that are citable are all too mutable.”
  • About Neeva: A profile of the ex-Googlers behind the new paid-for search engine Neeva, which looks at why they are doing it and the tech underpinning it, and asks some moderately-interesting questions about the extent to which a market for ad-free, paid-for search actually exists. I personally wonder whether or not most people care enough about ads, etc, to bother – as ever with these things, I worry that people who know a bit about this sort of thing significantly overestimate the extent to which people who know very little about it give anything resembling a fcuk.
  • Bitcoin in El Salvador: You may have seen the story a few weeks ago about how El Salvador was going to start using Bitcoin as its official currency – all the reports about it were light on practical detail, which is why this piece about how crypto’s adoption in the country has been working and the extent to which it’s practically taking place (beyond the hype) is so interesting. It’s an odd mix of the optimistically-philanthropic (albeit motivated by murky ideology) and the obviously-grifty (as, frankly, is the case with most crypto stuff as far as I can tell), and the uptake doesn’t quite seem to have been either as widespread or panacealike as evangelists might like to pretend, but there’s undoubtedly some interesting stuff happening here, not least in the potential benefits in terms of empowerment of poorer communities and their ability to control and move resources (but, seriously, THIS IS NOT A CURRENCY).
  • The Ukrainian Government App: As someone currently residing in a country whose bureaucracy is literally the most ridiculous I have ever seen – honestly, I had to print out a tax form the other day for my mum’s records which required you to cut a chunk out of it, halfway up a sheet of A4 paper, to staple to another form, which, honestly, is a system only a brilliantly sadistic mind could devise – I am currently very pro the idea of the digitisation of public services. Most Westerners (myself included fwiw) have, I imagine, largely forgotten about Ukraine’s comedian leader since the flurry of coverage following his election a few year’s back, but I was quite impressed with the tech solutions and approach he’s employed to bringing the country’s administration kicking and screaming into modernity (and I say that as someone who rarely if ever thinks technology is the answer).
  • A History of Selling Ski: If you work in advermarketing PR, this account of how the author sold yoghurt to the English masses in the 70s is EXCELLENT reading, partly as a glimpse into a different world (the line about the strippers towards the end is particularly choice) but also as an example of the fact that nothing changes as much as we ever think it does.
  • Hollywood Gets the NFT Bug: Or, “how Disney is going to screw Star Wars fans out of even more money”. If you can read this and think anything other than ‘wow, this really is an incredibly naked attempt to squeeze even more cash out of a franchise and with no real explanation of where the value lies, AGAIN’ then you’re either more visionary or more credulous than I am (we can decide which is correct in 5 years time, feel free to come back and raise it with me then). Every single person quoted in this has horrible Scrooge McDuck dollar sign pupils.
  • The Staged Photoshoots of China: How a rural area in South East China has created an economy around providing a stageset against which people can photograph a version of China that no longer exists, and perhaps never did in such photogenic fashion. File under ‘everything is kayfabe now’, and remember this when you’re employed as an extra in the ‘BeforeTimes London Office Diorama’ come 2036.
  • My TikTok Feed Is Disgusting: What does what your TikTok feed show you tell you about yourself? What does it tell others about you? Would you let someone else see your FYP? Would you feel embarrassed at the sorts of videos that you get shown above all else? Can we even be said to share a platform if our experiences on it are so distinct and so different? And is the logical endpoint to all this an infinite number of infinitely-tailored feeds, laser-cut to fit our tastes and keep us scrolling in a way that’s designed to be addictive just for us? Let’s all agree that the answer to the last of these questions is a loud ‘yes’, if nothing else.
  • TikTok Influencer Culture: Specifically, fashion influencers – the piece tries to draw out particular things that make the TikTok fashion community unique, but all I could think of as I read this was that all platforms tend towards beef culture and takedowns and controversy over time, because that’s what we like and the algos know that. I can’t see the 3-minute TikTok announcement doing anything other than accelerating the progression towards the platform becoming significantly more YouTube-y.
  • An Oral History of Terminator 2: The only thing that would improve this imho is slightly more from Edward Furlong about whether he thinks the film fcuked him up as much as it quite obviously seemed to, but this is a great read overall and one which happily cements the ‘James Cameron=ar$ehole’ narrative that has existed in my head for time.
  • An Oral History of All Tomorrow’s Parties: The legendary, much-lamented indie showcase, which for several years was the only reason anyone could ever have to visit a Pontin’s – this is a great read (admittedly probably slightly better if you know some of the principals involved, but still) which does a good job of capturing the peculiar hedonism of the events and the very real reasons why it all fell apart quite so spectacularly.
  • Semen Retention: I laughed so, so much whilst reading this – not so much at the individuals quoted, none of whom seem bad per se so much as perhaps a bit misguided, as at the idea that semen is somehow a magical fluid whose retention grants MYSTICAL BENEFITS like clarity of thought and emotion. In my experience, the only mystical benefit gained from retaining one’s semen is the distinct and unique sensation that all your excess weight is being stored in one’s testicles; however, should any male readers feel like trying out a retention experiment, please do feel free to get in touch and tell me of all the benefits you’re enjoying as a result.
  • Jeffrey Fang: A brilliant piece of journalism by WIRED which profiles Jeffrey Fang, who earlier this year made headlines as the Doordash delivery driver whose car was stolen while he was dropping off an order whilst his kids were in the back. The article recounts Fang’s life and how he ended up as a gig economy driver, and how his experience with Lyft, Uber et al changed over time as the perks for drivers dried up and it became harder and harder to make the sort of money that attracted Fang to the job in the first place. Slightly depressing in a uniquely-modern way.
  • Where Does It End?: 135 questions for the people shaping New York’s skyline, which could equally be applied to the people shaping the skylines of London or any other city where the red-lit cranes have continued to pop up even as the world has shut down. This is as much a superb piece of writing (and a clever use of form/style) as it is a series of arguments, but this in particular struck me as fundamental to the issue in hand: “If these buildings were to suddenly disappear, who would miss them? How many of those people are there?”
  • Writing For Games: Joe Dunthorne writes about his experience writing for an unnamed videogame. This is wonderful, about writing and the creative process and the oddity of writing for an interactive medium, and it’s an almost-perfect piece of short storytelling imho.
  • How Twitter Can Ruin A Life: I didn’t feature the ‘Attack Helicopter’ piece which is at the heart of this article in Curios when it came out, mainly because I didn’t know what to make of it and I was very conscious of not wanting to misinterpret or misunderstand something that it seemed clear to me was a serious and important piece of writing that I wasn’t remotely-qualified to opine on. This article looks at the article, its reception, and how the discussion around it and the flattening of context of nuance that can only occur on Twitter led to its author having to step back from the identity that they were painstakingly trying to create for themselves. This is a very sad story in many ways – take from it what you will (I think Chuck Tingle’s is good, fwiw), but my main feeling was of how miserable it is that all work dealing with any significant issue in 2021 is immediately subject to this degree of mistrust and scrutiny and the assumption that it might be an aggressive, covert operation against a particular group or ideology. I can see why, but I really wish this weren’t the case.
  • The Last Meal: Finally in this week’s longreads, a piece from Esquire in 2008, in which author Michael Paterniti is commissioned to go and eat the same last meal as Francois Mitterand, including the famous, unforgivable ortolan. If you’re upset about the idea of people eating animals in ways that are not exactly kind, then skip this one – if you can stomach it, though, this is a wonderful piece of magazine writing of the sort I don’t think gets commissioned much anymore. It’s also a VERY men’s mag sort of piece, lots of LITERARY FLOURISH and authorial presence, but that’s forgivable when it’s also so evocative. I don’t want to eat ortolan, but I will happily read others’ experiences of so doing – for the epicures amongst you, this is a must-read.

By Ines Longevial


Webcurios 25/06/21

Reading Time: 32 minutes

Oh hi everyone! Hi! There you are!

Summer has somewhat taken its gloves off in Rome this week; it feels like 35 degrees in the shade here, which you might think sounds nice until you remember that rather than lying on a beach in this heat you’re in fact expected to just carry on with your life, which means that all the tedious quotidian elements of the day-to-day take on a hellish, sweaty new cast. Doing the washing up is miserable at the best of times, but even moreso when sweat is bulleting from you like spines from a particularly-defensive porcupine; grouting the bathroom is NO FUN even when the temperature is temperate, let alone when the climate is seemingly trying to boil your brains. Basically what I am saying here is that it is TOO HOT and I am going to pop out and get an icecream later.

Before that, though, it’s time for me to once again damply lay my proffered haul of webgubbins at your shapely feet, look up at you in supplicatory fashion and hope that you find them pleasing – DO THEY PLEASE YOU??? DO THEY??? FOR FCUK’S SAKE IT’S LIKE TALKING TO THE VOID SOMETIMES.

Ahem. It’s the heat.

I hope it’s cooler where you are. While I go and find some icecubes to put inside me, you settle down and enjoy this week’s Web Curios; salty as ever, and not just from the sweat.

By Sawuko Kabuki



  • Wayfinder: A beautiful bit of interactive storytellingameplaytypething (it’s a technical term) from perennial Curios favourites the National Film Board of Canada, Wayfinder feels a *tiny* bit like beautiful, acclaimed artygame ‘Journey’ and is an exploration of humanity’s relationship with the natural world. To quote the site, “Wayfinder is a web-based generative art game that takes the player on a contemplative cause-and-effect journey through nature. Symbolizing the give-and-take relationship humans have with the natural world, players move a mystical character through forest, grasslands and tundra in search of poetic tokens dotting the landscape. When activated, they reveal words hidden in the wind, breathing new life into the nearby flora and fauna. Leaves stir and flowers spring up in the character’s footsteps. Birds and butterflies emerge. As the player continues on their journey, these uncovered words combine into verse, expressing our eternal need to capture nature’s fleeting moments in poetry.” The generative nature of the work means that everyone’s experience will be different, down to the poetry you piece together from fragments of text hidden in the world, which makes it a pleasant thing to experience more than once as every experience of it will be different. Soothing and beautiful and a nice antidote to whatever high-pitched buzzing is deafening the inside of your skull right now (it’s not just me, right?).
  • Neutrinowatch: Well this is very clever. Readers with excellent memories – or those of you who pay far more attention to the contents of Curios than it probably warrants – may recall a project which I featured a few years ago, called Sheldon County, which aimed to be an entirely-generative podcast, with the idea that each listener’s experience of the story of the fictional people in the fictional district of Sheldon County would be unique, based on procedural generation. That sadly doesn’t seem to have gone anywhere (it was a very ambitious concept), but Neutrinowatch is a slightly-scaled-back version of the same sort of idea – basically each time you listen to an episode of the podcast, it will be different, thanks to the use of the same sort of tech that allows targeted ads to be inserted into podcasts based on who’s listening. This is a really interesting idea that I very much feel has *something* about it, although I’m cautious as to the long-term viability of this particular iteration of it – it’s a nice gimmick, but I don’t know to what extent the resultant output (a podcast that is slightly different each day it’s listened to) is that exciting per se. Still, I can imagine a few scenarios in which this sort of thing could be used in interesting ways – a detective story in which as time passes earlier episodes are recontextualised based on what the protagonist has subsequently learned, for example, or the story of a romance whose early days are re-considered by the omniscient narrator as future events unfold (if you see what I mean. Do you see?).
  • The Digital Divine Comedy: This is a lovely bit of visualisation and datawrangling work by Italian studio The Visual Agency, which has gathered a bunch of artworks inspired by the Divine Comedy and arranged them on this site, viewable and navigable by chapter and verse of Dante’s trilogy (the only one worth bothering with by the way, should you ever be struck by the desperate desire to read them, is ‘Inferno’ – it’s a sad truth, but reading about good people being rewarded for their virtue, or normal people waiting to accede to heaven, is significantly less entertaining than reading about very bad people having their viscera worried at by hellhounds), along with explicatory narration about the work and its illustration of the text. The narration is all in Italian I’m afraid – sorry, but, well, you could have done something with lockdown and learned the bloody language, couldn’t you? – but even without that it’s interesting to dip into the various chapters and verses and browse some of the imagery that it’s inspired. A very boring point, but I really like the way it’s laid out – the navigation from book to chapter to verse and back up the chain again is handled very nicely indeed.
  • Wisdoms for Love: Honestly, I don’t understand this AT ALL. Wisdoms for Love is a…branching narrative meditative exploration of the self? An interactive story with the inexplicable aesthetic of an early-00s CD-ROM? A psychological test of some sort? A digital tarot reading? Seriously, I couldn’t begin to explain this properly even if I tried – which, er, is sort of what I’m here for, isn’t it? So. Wisdoms for Love takes you, the viewer, through a story, guided by a disembodied voice which opens by telling you that you care carrying items in your womb and which goes onto present to you the Divine Mother (in glorious CG, obvs) and, depending on the choices you make at certain points in the narrative, take you through a series of inexplicable, surreal, shiny and ever-so-slightly-sinister environments while the v/o burbles on about energy and discovery and stuff. You collect the mysterious ‘items’, each of which are named and designated as ‘rare’ or ‘common’ in classic videogame fashion, and there are enough of them that they can’t all be gathered on a single playthrough. At a certain point my choices led me to experience a room full of gigantic, very thicc, CG horses, all arranged in a sort of equine centipede formation. I really, really don’t know what to make of this, so if anyone fancies explaining it to me then I am ALL EARS.
  • Listen & Donate: Motor Neurone Disease is a VERY CRUEL condition – seriously, try for a second imagining someone losing their ability to talk then walk then move their arms and then their hands and then their ability to chew then swallow and then eventually breathe, trapped in a meat prison, all while they’re entirely conscious of what’s going on and they can do nothing about it; horror movie stuff. This site is by the quite remarkable French hiphop producer Pone, who was diagnosed with the condition a few years ago but who has continued to make music using eye-tracking software as an interface – it presents Pone’s story, and the story of his Listen & Donate music project whereby purchases of the vinyl or streams of the tracks will raise money for a project that trains carers to help sufferers of MND use tools that let them maintain independence. You can navigate normally using a mouse, or you can instead enable your webcam to experience a version of the eyetracking tech which Pone uses to communicate and compose despite his tetraplegia – I find eyetracking stuff magic-adjacent, and so am both charmed by the tech and moved by the story here; if nothing else, chuck this on repeat for a while and raise a few pennies for a good cause (the music’s good too, promise).
  • The Birds and the Trees: Nice bit of comms by the Impossible plant-based food people, who’ve designed this site (doubtless based on the INSIGHT – sorry! – that young people have different opinions about the climate crisis and the importance of acting to ameliorate it than their parents do, and that talking about it to OLD PEOPLE can be HARD) to offer young people ways of opening dialogue with their elders about the importance of looking after the planet (and of eating more Impossible plant-based burgers, one might imagine). The whole thing’s presented in the slightly-post-Adult Swim aesthetic that I sort-of associate with all ‘cartoons for grown-ups’ and which gives it a reassuring gloss of knowingness (I’m sure there were many dozens of slides created in the process of making this a reality that explained exactly how and why this was the right aesthetic choice and what this visual style connotes for the Gen-A/Gen-Z consumers of today, and the fact that making arguments like that bores me to literal tears explains why I am not a successful advermarketingprmong), and it’s a nice piece of brandwork from a company that’s seemingly quite good at this sort of thing.
  • Wall of Fame: Another nice bit of brandwork – see? I can say nice things! – this time by a company called Edding which I imagine makes markers and drawing tools and which I’m sure had I sniffed more solvents as a child I might be more familiar with. It’s basically a riff on the ‘infinite online canvas’ idea, and presents a series of white pages for the brand’s fans to collaboratively decorate as they see fit, I imagine with a hefty degree of moderation seeing as I can’t see any pr0nography or hatespeech on it anywhere, and with prizes available for the best drawings as judged by some influencer or another. Nice, on-brand, a fun place to visit to browse the (occasionally very talented) artists who’ve submitted work and (if I may take a moment to say) an example of ‘taking an idea from the wider internet and slapping a client logo on it’ which I have long been an advocate for here at Curios WILL NOONE LISTEN TO ME FFS? No, it appears they will not.
  • Prairie Dash: Right, enough of the positivity – back to snarking at branded webwork! This is a mobile-only game by some whiskey brand from the US – it’s called ‘High West’, apparently – in which for reasons I really, really don’t understand you play some sort of antelope-type creature and have to perform in a series of minigames to run, duck under barbed wire fences, weave through some trees, etc etc. There are several things that baffle me about this – let me list them in order. First, why am I some sort of antelope-type creature? Secondly, why is this meant to make me want to drink whiskey? And thirdly, when will this game EVER stop? It seems intent on continuing to serve up a neverending stream of these slightly-underwhelming minigames, with no purpose or end in sight – maybe the idea is to exasperate you to the point where you need a drink, in the hope that you’ll be conditioned to demand High West via some sort of logo-based mind control. Either that or someone started making this and just couldn’t really be bothered to think about how to stop it. Still, the polygonal dikdik (deer? Look, I’m not an expert on horned ruminants) is nice.
  • TRAC:COVID: I don’t know what it feels like in the UK at the moment, but Italian news this week has been watching rising case numbers with something of a side-eye (this is obviously in part political posturing, as Rome would quite like the semis and the final of the Euros to be moved here); still, they shouldn’t be too smug given Italian summer is very much happening and they’re preparing to open up clubs again (definitely not something that should wait until more people have been vaccinated, definitely not, oh no). Anyway, should you be in the market for MORE COVID ANALYSIS then you might be interested in TRAC:COVID, a project by the University of Birmingham which “investigates online conversation surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic using aggregated data sampled from Twitter (so individual tweets are not shown). The dashboard combines Corpus Linguistic tools (the linguistic and computational study of textual data) with data visualisations to allow the interpretation of a large number of tweets. Frequent patterns of word and hashtag use, word and hashtag combinations, change over time and the proliferation of web links can be viewed in the dashboard.”
  • Copyhat: The promise of artificial intelligence lies, at least in the more immediate future, in its ability to enable us to do more, and better – to augment our meagre human capabilities with the brute force analytical capabilities of machines, to apply the (at present, at least) unique human abilities of lateral thinking and creative conceptualisation to computers’ increasing skills at datawrangling and extrapolation. What we choose to do with this promise is of course up to us – which is why it comes as little surprise that Copyhat exists, a service which harnesses the immense power of machine learning and neural networks to, er, help you come up with better pickup lines for the apps. Yes, thanks to Copyhat, you too can come up with better email copy, ‘answers to philosophical dilemmas’ and, last but very much not least’, craft better Tinder openers. Look, I’m not going to make (too much) fun here – the project’s by a bunch of young guys from the Czech Republic and this sort of software, whilst easy to make fun of, is probably super-useful for people who have to do a lot of writing in a language that isn’t their own and with which they’re not super-comfortable – but, equally, NOONE IS GOING TO SEND YOU PHOTOGRAPHS OF THEIR MUCOUS MEMBRANES BASED ON A COMPUTER-GENERATED PICKUP LINE. This is a fact, and I stand by it, mainly because if it turns out not to be true then I think I will cry.
  • 100 Visions of Fatherhood: This would have been a PERFECT link to include last week in advance of Father’s Day – ffs internet! – but you can have it a few days late instead. 100 Visions of Fatherhood is a collection of beautiful images of fathers, sometimes with their children and sometimes without, fathers of all races and ages and shapes and sizes and, honestly, these are gorgeous and may well make you a bit emo for varying different reasons. The website featuring them – called The Luupe, which exists to connect brands and photographers, apparently – also has a similar collection of 100 photos of motherhood, which are equally gorgeous if perhaps somewhat less surprising (just because one sees more photographic depictions of mothers than you do fathers, in my experience at least); both these collections are gorgeous and worth spending some time with.
  • Old Time Radio: Thanks to Rob Dawson for sending me this – it’s his own project, cobbled together from the Internet Archive and with a simple front-end interface, which lets you select themed radio stations patched together from content from The Old Times, spanning action stories, horror stories, scifi, suspense, comedy, drama…I have been listening to this on and off all week, and there is SO MUCH GOLD in here; it’s beautiful time travel, if nothing else, but also takes you back to an era (an era, let me be clear, I never experienced – I am not that old) in which the radio waves were full of stories and life was better (life was not better AT ALL – there was widespread poverty and malnutrition, food was terrible and things were mostly VERY BORING and dangerous, but it wouldn’t be Curios without a slight whinge about this fcuking world we live in). As far as I can tell the material this draws from is all American, but that’s no bad thing as US radio in the mid-20th-Century was quite amazing; go lose yourself in this, it’s so so good.

By Steve Banes



  • 50 Books, 50 Covers: This is an annual thing in the US which I have featured in previous years – per previous years, I am slightly baffled as to why this selection of the 50 best covers of books published in the US in 2020 has been published in mid-2021, but then again perhaps I should stop being so impatient and just be grateful. For those of you who work in and around publishing, or indeed anyone with an interest in graphic design, this is an interesting look at cover design trends from the US – my personal favourite is this beautiful example for Interwoven by Kyle Meyer, but there are lots of gorgeous pieces of work here.
  • Content With Silence: I am going to CONFIDENTLY PREDICT that there’s going to be a resurgence in treasure hunt-type activations in the next year or so – the recent bubble of revived interest in Perplex City, the return to being outside, the desire for analogue experiences and REAL THINGS after 18 months of digital existence and insufferable chat about the metafuckingverse…all of these have me convinced that we’re on the cusp of a new Masquerade-style craze (we obviously won’t be now I’ve said that, but I can dream). Anyway, if you’re looking for datapoints to prove that I am write about this, have this project by musician Erland Cooper, who has recorded a new album, deleted the digital files, and buried the single extant tape recording somewhere on Orkney. To quote Cooper, “This year, instead of music, I will release a map of sorts. With this, you are welcome to travel, search and attempt to find the recording and dig it up yourself. I only ask that if you do find it, please bring it back to me where we will play and listen together. At that point I will release the unearthed tape and share it back into our digital world.” I love this idea, and I am very much looking forward to seeing who finds it and when and hearing the music – you can sign up for updates at the site, should you be as curious as I am.
  • Arkup: There was a piece I put in here a while back (the weeks are blurring, time is meaningless, I mark its passing by the vanishing links) about the small-but-enthusiastic community of people seeking to make on-sea living a Thing – this is the high-end version of that. Arkup is a floating house – not in the more traditional houseboat sense of things so much as in a rather more mansionboat sense (I have friends who live or have lived on houseboats and whilst they are lovely I don’t think anyone, including their owners, would ever describe them as ‘luxurious’ or ‘palatial’ or ‘the sort of place where one might choose to swing a cat, even a very patient one with a very thick skull’). Click the link and marvel at the oddity of seeing what is effectively a duplex flat being plonked onto a floating platform and presented as a viable means of luxury living. WHAT HAPPENS IF IT GETS CHOPPY??? Anyway, if you have $5.5million to spare you can probably afford to pay someone else to worry about the practical questions while you get on with the important business of looking fabulous on-deck as you drink sunset cocktails whilst staring blankly at the poor unfortunates condemned to live in non-luxury, non-floating onshore misery as their hovels burn into the night sky (look, this is the slightly-Ballardian image in my head, don’t ruin it for me).
  • Intelligent Relations: PR is a godawful, miserable profession – and I say this as someone who makes the majority of their living working in the industry. Vapid, largely-pointless busywork which despite its almost universal lack of import is nonetheless treated by its practitioners as somehow REALLY VITAL and with a reverence normally reserved for stuff that matters rather than with the disregard appropriate for an industry staffed largely by double-figure-IQ morons. Anyway, that’s all by way of preamble to the introduction of Intelligent Relations, a new company which is set to make PR even worse if you can imagine it. Intelligent Relations (it sounds…it sounds like an escort agency for the sort of people who bother applying to Mensa, is what it sounds like) is PR, but with AI! That’s right, AI! The MAGICAL SECRET SAUCE that makes EVERYTHING BETTER and definitely isn’t a sign that someone is attempting to sell you some magic beans! Just listen to this – “GPT-Powered Outreach, 24/7 analysis of all relevant public event data to identify opportunities and pitch your company’s stories faster than the competition…Relentless customized global outreach based on AI-ranked relevancy to your brand. Generate responses that start, nurture, and build personal relationships with media influencers. Put your execs and your company in the heart of the conversation. No agency. You own your relationships – not your PR firm…Precisely worded campaigns, aggressively scaled with technology. Faster than humans, more personal than email blasts.” So, er, you are outsourcing the writing of pitch emails, and followups, to a machine? Have, er, you read any non-tweaked GPT-3 generated copy recently? The only thing funnier than imagining how bad this service is going to be is this person’s Tweet about it, which managed to make my point about the industry more cogently than I could ever hope to.
  • Six Degrees of Ryu: A Twitter account doing the ‘six degrees of Kevin Bacon’ thing, but for videogame characters and Ryu from Street Fighter – each Tweet gives you the ‘Ryu number’ of a character from the gaming pantheon, should you be interested (proper game nerds only, this one).
  • Brave Search: The people behind the Brave browser have now created their own search engine – it’s basically a Duck Duck Go-alike, except their gimmick is that they’ve built their own search algos as opposed to DDG which effectively relies on Bing for its results. If you’re in the market for a non-tracking search engine and have never gotten on with DDG, you could do worse than check this out – given Google’s increasing brokenness for deep, legacy searches (honestly, it’s SO hard to find interesting and niche stuff these days), this might be worth playing with.
  • Blockchain Diamonds: This is about as stupid as it sounds (I think – as with much blockchain stuff, it’s slightly hard to tell exactly what the fcuk is going on here), although as ever with anything cryptoNFT-y I reserve the right to be totally wrong about this. It’s a platform called Icecap, which – I think – lets you buy and sell NFTs which are linked to actual diamonds, the idea being that you can trade in a secondary market linked to the assets whilst those assets are kept safe and sound in a vault and therefore don’t depreciate as they do on the open market; exactly how this differs in any meaningful way from trading stocks other than in its total, sketchy non-regulation is slightly beyond me, but I imagine that questions like that mark me down as a non-visionary hater and not worthy of consideration.
  • The VCA: The Vault of Contemporary Art is a V&A project which – and I love the V&A, so feel a bit bad saying this – feels like it’s a few years too late. It’s AN Other digital gallery space of the sort that, if I’m honest, I’ve seen dozens of over the past few years and which does very little interesting or novel with the concept; it’s another Myst-alike, basically, like Stuart Semple’s VOMA, or the Beeple gallery in Decentraland, or any number of other art ‘galleries’ in which you navigate through a sterile series of virtual ‘rooms’, ‘turning’ your ‘head’ to see flat jpg artworks on the ‘walls’ along with video explainers, which you can zoom in on (but not very well)…I suppose it just feels like something of a missed opportunity, particularly for a gallery which has a decent track record of embracing new formats and styles for its shows. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with this, and the works displayed in the current exhibition (by Ben Johnson) are great, just that it’s a bit…uninteresting. Sorry.
  • Streamerbans: As the increasingly-odd game of cat and mouse between Twitch and the (mostly-female) streamers pushing the boundaries of its Ts&Cs continues (the latest round of this, should you care, involved a few super-popular women being suspended from the platform for, er, doing slightly-baffling ASMR-adjacent content with a ‘sexy’ twist and dear God it feels so wrong to be even writing these words but there you go), the ability to keep track of who’s been banned at any given moment might become useful – this site lets you do just that. It also, perhaps more helpfully, keeps track of previous bans, letting you get an overview of a streamer’s track record which could be useful should you need to do due diligence ahead of potential partnerships or similar.
  • CMY Cubes: Are these a thing? Regardless, I was amused by the VERY SERIOUS nature of the website, which proudly announces that these are the ORIGINAL colour cubes (perspex cubes which are coated with film to colour them cyan, yellow and magenta – REVOLUTIONARY!) and that you should be wary of cheap knockoff imitations from China and that these come with a WARRANTY which obviously totally justifies paying $20 for a bit of plastic with some coloured film glued to it (beautifully, the website also gently cautions against touching the edges of the corners of the cubes as the film might peel off, which to me speaks of HIGH QUALITY MERCH). Still, cubes! With coloured sides! Amazing!
  • GAN Theft Auto: Or ‘playing a GTA map imagined by a computer’ – but my title’s better, so THERE. This is quite remarkable – obviously terrible from a gameplay point of view, but the fact that a neural net has been trained on GTA and can spin up roads on the fly which can then be played by a user is mind-blowingly impressive, and enables you to see into the future when virtual worlds can be procedurally-generated on the fly by AI which is conceptually fascinating and very exciting if you like the idea of infinite gaming worlds generated by an imaginary mind (and who doesn’t? NO FCUKER, that’s who!).
  • Moodlight: Open this, put it fullscreen, put some music on, take some mushrooms and just SIT. I may, possibly, be projecting a desire here.
  • Seismic Explorer: This is very cool – pick anywhere on the earth’s surface, select an area, and watch as this site shows you all the earthquakes that have happened in that area over the past 40 years, giving you data on how deep the quake was, its size and its exact location. Ok, fine, as a non-seismologist I can’t think of any obvious uses for this, but I suppose if you’re looking to move to another part of the world then it might be useful to check up on how likely you are to have to hide under the tables at regular instances.
  • Rugs: SO much fun, and such a nice musicviztoything (which I am not 100% certain I totally understand, but all the more reason for you to have a play). This is a site to promote the Rugs EP by a musician called Sam Greens – as the track plays, you can use the cursor to draw shapes on the screen, shapes which move and animate and (I think) emphasise certain elements of the song as it plays, so you’re effectively creating a responsive drawing which reacts to the music whilst (I think) shaping it in small ways at the same time. It’s possible that it’s less clever than I am giving it credit for, but I don’t really care – I love the way your brushstrokes come alive to the beat, and how every single person’s response to this will look and feel different; it’s a lovely piece of digital art, and fits the track perfectly.
  • Sequencer 64: A rather powerful online sequencer toy thing, which I reckon if you’re halfway musical you could make some very cool beats with but which requires a degree of understanding of time signatures and…well, the basic mathematical building blocks of music, really, which renders it utterly beyond my skillset – you can do stuff like stretch and split notes, and pitch shift things, and basically at this point I am just typing words without actually knowing what they mean. Sad but true – I really am a cloth-eared, sausage-fingered dunce when it comes to making sounds.
  • Imitone: More musical fun! Imitone is a clever toy which lets you play instruments with your voice (sort of) – you sing or whistle, and the software turns that into melody based on whatever instrument(s) you choose. This sounds VERY cool, and I’ve seen some people using it in the past week to quite remarkable effect – it’s in beta, and it’s a paid service, but if you make music then this could be really rather fun to check out and play with.
  • Fluid Simulation: Draw some boxes, click a button and watch them collapse into fluid particle form. This is very soothing if utterly-pointless (just how we like it).
  • 1D Chess: Not a joke! Instead, someone has actually reconfigured the game of chess so that it takes place on a single row of squares rather than a board of them, reducing the pieces to a single one of each type, and boiling the game down into something very different and yet instantly-recognisable. “1D Chess is a fun, innovative chess variant played on a single row of 16 squares. Each player begins with one of each piece and must take their opponent’s king to win. The rules are intuitive for new and expert players alike, but offer a refreshing twist on the classic game of chess.” This link takes you to a page where you can read about the game, download a board to print out, read the rules and (if you’re me) fail to really understand what’s going on – maybe you’ll have more luck.
  • The Toaster Museum: Beautifully, this site describes itself as ‘the world’s largest online toaster exhibition’ – there’s competition?! Still, should you want to peruse a seemingly-endless collection of toasters from around the world, across the years, presented by a man who really LOVES toasters – from the ‘about’ section: “I was deeply impressed, how much creativity engineers spent on flipping bread! Being a designer, this fact fascinates and inspires me every day. That could be one answer of the typical “Why do you collect toasters?”-question I often hear when people see my toaster-wall in my loft.” Anyone who has a ‘toaster wall’ in their loft is a friend of Web Curios (whether they like it or not; this friendship is non-negotiable).
  • Knights of San Francisco: I never feature app games in here, but for some reason I downloaded this a few weeks ago (it’s a couple of quid) and was utterly charmed by it – if you liked Choose Your Own Adventure books then this will be right up your street. The writing’s far better than you’d expect, the mechanics are fun, and the game does some really smart things with procedural generation when it comes to combat and writing – for the price, this is very much worth a look. Oh, and the music is really very good indeed, should you need another reason to support a one-man band developer and their work.
  • Maze of the Mini-Taur: Finally in the miscellenea this week, a GREAT little puzzle game. Escape the mazes by rearranging them as you play – it sounds more complicated than it is, although I started scratching my head quite hard around about level 11. Excellent timewasting, should you be in the market for it.

By Chen Ke




  •  Mon Copain Ray: I would imagine every single country has their own variations on certain well-worn internet tropes; every nation has its YouTube controversymongers and the attendant community of tea-vultures; everyone will have their own version of  the down-to-earth person whose food everyone loves; and everyone will have their own ‘man with an impossibly close and cute relationship with their cat’. This is France’s cat man (there may be others; it just so happens to be the one I found this week). Meet Ray, the feline companion of this Insta’s owner and a cat with a seemingly infinite degree of patience for being dressed up in 3d printed helmets, Ray, you are a VERY PATIENT BOI.
  • Lee Wagstaff: A Berlin-based artist with a very distinctive style, part optical-illusion part graphic design. These are very cool indeed (and he sells originals, should you be in the market for some art).


  • The Rise of Elevated Stupidity: This is a piece in Esquire and is about the US, but, honestly, it applies to literally the WHOLE WORLD – just swap out the names and specifics referenced in this piece for whichever ones work best for you where you are. The general gist of it is that we are in the grip of a new type of ‘discourse’ being enacted by a new type of actor – one that wears the trappings of intellectual seriousness (the big words, the endless appeals to reason and rationality and the desire for ‘debate’) but is in fact moronic. Witness literally EVERY vaguely right-wing kid on YouTube, witness the ceaseless, meaningless appropriation of academic language misused with abandon, witness “any recent argument against the rights of trans people. Strip away the feints at empathy, dumb down the big words, and what you are left with, roughly 100 percent of the time, is “But what if a boy puts on a wig and joins the girls’ soccer team, and then they win state?” These arguments are written in real publications and said into real news-network cameras and spoken at real lecterns for hefty appearance fees.” A good read (regardless of whether you agree with the author about the issue I just referenced).
  • An Interview With Marc Andreesen: Andreesen is now seemingly THE VOICE of VC – or at least a certain type of VC, the Valley VC with its continued conviction that It Is The Answer – and as such this interview with him (an uncritical hagiography in which Andreesen is given free rein to make all sorts of sweeping statements with nary a challenge in site) is worth a read, regardless of how little you might want to hear MORE words from a very rich technology investor from the West Coast of the US. Andreesen is clearly a very smart person, but SO MUCH of this left me wanting to tap him on the shoulder and draw him back and ask him to maybe elaborate a bit and perhaps explain the thinking behind some of these statements – from the opening assertion that we are seeing a ‘chronic collapse of state capacity virtually everywhere in our time’ to the following claim that ‘the private sector can and does deliver even under considerable duress, and even when much of our political system is devoted to stifling it with regulatory handcuffs and damaging it with misguided policies’, to the slightly-jaw-dropping “So much of legacy media, due to the technological limitations of distribution technologies like newspapers and television, makes you stupid. Substack is the profit engine for the stuff that makes you smart” (seriously mate, have you read many newsletters recently?) this is basically a succession of slightly-Randian fever-dream quotes and scared me quite a lot if I’m honest with you.
  • Ethical AI: A series of experts offer their opinions as to how questions of ethics and artificial intelligence will be addressed over the coming years, and recount their worries and hopes for the development of ‘ethical’ AI. There are some fascinating perspectives in here, although I don’t think I’m spoiling anything if I reveal to you that most of the experts aren’t…hugely positive about the likelihood of commercial AI development focusing on the ethical elementa as much as they feel it ought (‘amusingly’ I happened across an MoD White Paper this week which talks about the possibilities for human augmentation in military use, and states quite plainly that developments in the field should not be hamstrung or hampered by ethicists, just in case you were wondering how the thinking on the rights and wrongs of the development of cyborg supersoldiers is going). As Susan Crawford of Harvard says, “We have no basis on which to believe that the animal spirits of those designing digital processing services, bent on scale and profitability, will be restrained by some internal memory of ethics, and we have no institutions that could impose those constraints externally.”
  • Microsoft and the Future of Work: There is a LOT of writing flying around at the moment about the return to the office and whether it’s worthwhile (fwiw, I think I hate people less when I can see them, so for me personally I think occasionally going into a workspace is good to keep the bloodlust at bay; your mileage may vary); this piece looks at Microsoft’s recently trailed vision for the future of the office, which interested me more than some others because of the focus on the need to reconfigure spaces and rooms for a mixed home/office worker configuration. Don’t get me wrong, none of the stuff in here sounds fun or even necessarily good, but it’s kind-of interesting.
  • A Unified Theory of Peloton: This is the first in what is intended to be a series of posts by Ann Helen Petersen (via her excellent newsletter) in which she looks at Peleton as a brand and how it works, how it’s grown, what makes it successful, etc – this initial article looks at the way in which the brand has created a ‘family’ identity through its elevation of instructors to superstar status, and its leveraging of the parasocial nature of the relationship between instructor and sweaty bikemong as a means of selling more STUFF to said sweaty bikemongs. Super-interesting, whether you’re curious about Peloton itself or simply the more general questions around how to build brands and sell more people more things that they don’t necessarily need and which are all individually contributing to the death of the planet in some small-but-inevitable way.
  • How Juul Happened: An extract from a book which purports to give the inside story on how Big Tobacco pivoted to vaping as a way of getting a whole new generation hooked on tabs (they are still tabs – they’re just futuretabs), this article looks at how Juul managed to become a must-have item across North America before it had even launched, a strategy which can basically be summarised as ‘do that thing where you find the cool kids and ask them who the coolest person they know is til you reach the top of the cool pyramid and then give them a bunch of free stuff’. If you have reason to care about / be interested in how to sell tat to kids, this is probably a must-read.
  • GenZ Productivity Hacks: The more I read about GenZ as a monolithic collective, the more I once again realise that a) referring to swathes of people whose years of birth are separated by upto a decade as a single entity is moronic; and b) there is an AWFUL LOT OF CRAP being spouted. Witness this article, which is a look at the way in which GenZ is gravitating towards content all about maximising your efficiency and productivity via JOURNALS and METHODS and PROCESS and shiny-looking ring-binders and hang on, didn’t we do this with Bullet Journals about 5 years ago, and I thought GenZ was anti-hustle-culture anyway, and wasn’t that a millennial thing anyway, and and and and. For what it’s worth, and as I have written here before, I think that the anticapitalist stylings of GenZ have been vastly overplayed, and that, as this companion piece points out, hustle and ASPIRATIONAL YUNG BOSS BUSINESS CULTURE haven’t gone away, they have just been rebadged and rebranded as ‘efficiency’ and ‘portfolio lifestyles’ and, of course, the creator economy. If someone can explain to me the difference between someone 10 years ago talking about their ‘side hustles’ and someone now talking about how they are a ‘content creator’ and run a couple of TikToks on the side then, well, I am all ears basically.
  • The Disc Golf Celebrity: Or, ‘how anyone can now apparently earn an 8-figures sponsorship deal if they are good enough at something REALLY REALLY NICHE’. This is ostensibly about Paul McBeth, who has signed a $10m endorsement deal with some frisbee company based on his prowess at the definitely-real sport of disc golf, but in fact is more of an exploration of the increased monetisation opportunities available for people who excel in fringe areas. On the one hand, it’s sort of nice that people can get sponsored for being good at things other than kicking a ball; on the other, it’s sort-of sad that every single hobby in the world, however smol and pure, is eventually going to have a Monster Energy logo attached to it. It’s also a potentially-useful piece of inspirarional content for parents of small children – now’s your chance to think of a seemingly-useless skill you can train your kid up in, with the expectation that when they are the world’s best, I don’t know, enema lassoist, they’ll be able to clean up via sponcon.
  • Electric Vehicles Won’t Save Us: I appreciate that this is a somewhat miserable headline, but I think it’s important to keep banging the ‘stuff really needs to change’ drum as I think we have slightly lost sight of the urgency of the global situation over the past year (in fairness, we’ve been distracted as a species). This article points out that, whilst obviously switching to electric vehicles is an undeniable positive for the environment, it is not, at the same time, perhaps the silver bullet that we might like to think it is, not least because of the fact that the way we live – as determined by our reliance on vehicular transport – affects the environment in ways which won’t be improved by simply switching to EVs. Basically the overall message here is WE CAN’T KEEP LIVING LIKE THIS, which you’d have thought might maybe have filtered through by now but apparently not. Still, reusable cups!
  • The TikTok Content Farms: What do you think when you stumble into Industrial TikTok, in which you get to watch hypnotic conveyor belts or incessant machine production or cheery workers on a production line? Do you think ‘oh look, another wonderful example of the web bringing us closer together and enabling us to see small-but-interesting vignettes from people and places we’d otherwise never have known; how interesting!’ or do you think ‘hm, I wonder who’s shooting these videos and why?’? If the latter, then WELL DONE YOU CYNICAL BSTARDS you were right to question it – this piece examines how Chinese companies are increasingly using TiKTok as a means of marketing themselves and their wares to Western consumers, with factory floor staff as the smiling shills. “Factory TikTok, in other words, isn’t about workers documenting their own labor, but is primarily a marketing scheme devised by their employers, many of whom may be under increasing financial pressure. In the videos, workers often show off specialized skills set to happy-go-lucky background music, but rarely are people really the focus of the lens. Instead, the camera gravitates towards the material object, which just might be on sale at the link above. “You could actually take one of these videos and re-edit them with different messages and different music and turn them into a documentary about exploitation,”“
  • The Best of Voyager: This is a proper bit of past-spelunking; a GREAT post (the first in a series) in which the author goes back through old Apple Voyager CD-ROMs – Voyager being a company that produced much of the early CD-ROM content for Apple machines. This is fascinating – partly as a time capsule into past software land, but also as a look at how people experimented with form and function when granted the ‘power’ of CD for the first time as a computer storage device. Seriously, if you do webdesign/dev stuff at all then this is totally worth a read, as much for inspiration as curiosity.
  • Russians In London Courts: Or, how oligarchs are pursuing personal vendettas through London, because it suits us to take the money, and how crooked quite a lot of the murky investigation around said vendettas sounds. It’s quite hard to read this – an excellent piece of reporting in the NYT – and not think that there’s something slightly, well, infra dig about all this from a legal standpoint.
  • Lunch with Vlad: This is a quite astonishing interview, by the Financial Times as part of its ‘Lunch With…’ series, with one Vladislav Surkov, a man whose name was new to me but who scholars of Kreminlology will doubtless be familiar with as one of Putin’s right-hand men over many years who’s recently stepped back from the limelight and who, in this article by Henry Foy, reveals himself to be a quite astonishingly-unrepentant…what do I call him? Sociopath seems too loose, somehow. Amoralist? Is that a thing? Regardless, this is a chilling portrait of someone who is the literal embodiment of that old ‘omelettes/eggs’ adage, where ‘omelettes’ in this case are ‘a decade-long autocracy’ and ‘eggs’ are ‘laws, hopes, dreams and people’s skulls’. So so so scary – and I couldn’t help thinking by the end of the interview that that was exactly what he wants us to think.
  • The Telegram Billionaire: Another of those occasional articles that remind you that so much of the world is run by people we really have no idea of and whose motives are at best mysterious and at worst…questionable, and that there’s nothing we can really do about it. So it is with this profile of the founder of Telegram, previously just AN Other encrypted messaging service but increasingly the one you turn to if you’re a dealer or a nazi or some other flavour of unpleasant. Pavel Durov is a mysterious figure who, according to this profile by Der Spiegel, doesn’t much worry about how his platform’s being used as long as it makes him rich. GOD SAVE US FROM CODERS WITH NO ETHICS.
  • Fleeing Venezuela: It’s strange to think that as recently as a decade or so ago Venezuela was still seen by the West (or at least by clueless people like me) as a relative success (or at least non-failure) – ‘Chavismo’ was obviously a weird cult of personality but it seemed to hold the country together. Now, though, it’s become abundantly clear that without Hugo’s magnetism to hold it all together it’s a desperate mess – this account of the author’s smuggled trip across the border into Colombia is not only a brilliant piece of first person reporting but a reminder of why it is that people are motivated to cross borders under extreme conditions with nothing more than the shirt on their back.
  • My Dinner With Giorgio Armani: An excerpt from a forthcoming book by one Alexander Lubrano which I now want to read ALL of, this is delicious – a wonderful, waspish account of what it’s like to dine with a very famous fashion designer, and the peculiarity of admittedly-talented people whose sole interactions are with a world that seems to exist only to tell them how marvellous, fascinating and unique they are. On the rare occasions I have entered this orbit (HI, HANS-ULRICH, YOU CNUT!) I have been amazed not only at the self-absorbtion of the people in question but also the people who let them become like that – did nobody think to stop them?
  • Soldier on Speed: Your enjoyment of this article may well hinge on the extent to which you appreciate the slightly hyperbolic house style of Cracked magazine, but, honestly, I laughed SO MUCH during this account of the traumatic wartime experience of Finnish soldier Aimo Koivunen who accidentally ingested an entire bottle of military-grade Nazi speed when fleeing a Soviet patrol. Fine, yes, Aimo was on the wrong side, but you can’t help but feel for the man as you read about his increasingly farcical (and painful) attempts to survive.
  • Prison Gangs with Danny Trejo: When I was at international school I shared a room in my first year with a Spaniard and a Mexican; it was 1995, which also meant that there were a lot of VERY BAD post-Boyz’N’The Hood-style gangster films around, many of which attempted to ‘refresh’ the formula by making the gangs hispanic rather than black. Which all means that I know a surprising amount of chicano street slang for a white Englishman, and which meant that I enjoyed the occasional snatches of gangsta-spanglish dotted throughout this article immensely, as I did the story itself which is all about terrifying-looking (but by all accounts LOVELY) ex-con actor Danny Trejo choosing between two films about Mexican gangsters, and what happened to the people who chose the wrong film. This is, fine, a bit ‘latin gangster tourism’, but it’s really interesting and Trejo’s a sympathetic narrator.
  • The Most Musical Man in the World: I guarantee you, there is no mood you can find yourself in so bleak that it will not be in some small way improved by reading this, a profile of Brazilian musician Hermeto Pascoal. I don’t want to spoil it in any way – it is a delight in every possible sense, and I cannot recommend it enough. You really should listen to all the accompanying songs that are linked/embedded to, it really will add to the experience. Honestly, I have basically nothing in the way of ambition in my life and very few desires, but I would love to see this man perform.
  • Hell Is A City In Texas: Finally this week, a piece about mental illness and being locked up and how people cope and come to terms with the fact that their brain doesn’t work in the way they want it to and how you deal with that. Beautiful writing about the mental health stuff that, as I regularly allude to, we don’t like to talk about because ‘be kind’ doesn’t fcuking cut it and because it is messy and painful and hard and ugly and unpleasant and and and and. If you know people who struggle with serious mental conditions, this will speak to you I think.

By Dadu Shin


Webcurios 18/06/21

Reading Time: 35 minutes

Hello! Have we all been enjoying the football? Have we all been laughing at the new channel? Have we all gotten over our Prime Minister once again being forced to backtrack on his overoptimistic promises but definitely, absolutely guaranteeing that that will be the very last time???

Good! Who says that collective experience is dead in the fragmented internet age? Certainly not here, where literally DOZENS of you are once again preparing to leap head-first into the soupy morass that is contained within my weekly tureen of words’n’links (can one have a weekly tureen?) to engage in the shared joy that is Web Curios; a lumpy, indigestible joy, fine, and one liable to leave you feeling weakened rather than energised as you come to drain the final chunks from the murky depths, but a joy nonetheless.

So before you prepare to strap on a kilt/carve a fresh cross of St George into your sternum ahead of the BIG MATCH, why not take the time to read some stuff on the web first?;if nothing else it’ll give you something to talk about once the game becomes a tedious foregone conclusion from about the 55 minute mark (and which pub wouldn;t be enlivened by a bit of chat about…er…*scrolls down* the applications of AR in industrial construction??).

I am Matt, this is Web Curios, and it could reach 37 degrees here this weekend which by anyone’s standards is TOO HOT.

(Oh, and as a small adjunct, I was asked to do a podcast yesterday and because it’s an old colleague I said yes – if you’d like proof that the way in which Curios is written is literally the way I talk and think then you can find it here)

By Dromsjel  



  • The Afterlife Experience: We start this week with something that I found…quite hard, but very very beautiful indeed. The Afterlife Experience is a new project made by theatre/play/interactive experience company Coney to accompany the current performance of After Life, a play which starts a new run at the National in London in a week’s time – the summary on the NT’s site offers the following description: “If you could spend eternity with just one precious memory, what would it be? A group of strangers grapple with this impossible question as they find themselves in a bureaucratic waiting room between life and death.” And so, the accompanying web experience invites you to do just that – to think of the moment in your life, the singular memory, in which you’d consent to be trapped as though in amber, reliving it forever. The site lets you choose between two options – to take a guided journey into your own memory to find your own moment, and maybe record it for others to listen to in posterity, or simply to read or listen to others’ choices and the reasons behind them. Not going to lie, this absolutely destroyed me, but it is so so so lovely (and painful) that I would urge each of you to spend the 10-15 minutes it takes to do your own little mental journey, and then to take some time to experience those of others. You can call it meditation or mindfulness or self-care if that helps (you dreadful, dreadful people). Honestly, if you only click one link this week then a) who am I doing this for? Eh? INGRATES; and b) make it this one.
  • Reverso Hybris Mechanica: Look, I know that not everyone is quite as enamoured of the shiny-but-pointless luxe website as I am, and I promise that as soon as this current spate of them abates I’ll dial back the ‘look at the amount of money they’ve spaffed on this sh1t!’ posts, but we’re not quite at that point yet. This is a site for a watch by Jaeger which has FOUR FACES! And, er, ELEVEN COMPLICATIONS (is that an actual horological term? Is that a good thing?) and which speaks to its maker’s MASTERY OF TIME! And some really, really small bells which, according to the website, will, at the pull of a small lever, ‘unleash’ a melody (there’s a wonderful disconnect between the extremely-mannered design of the timepiece in question and the…aggressive tone the copy strikes when talking about the sounds it makes)! As ever, this is all very funny as long as you don’t spend too long thinking about how much the thing costs – obviously this is a hugely-impressive feat of engineering and the people who make it should feel very proud of themselves, but, well FOUR FACES! UNLEASH THE CHIMES! Sorry, but it’s very silly.
  • Remy Martin Gold Leaf: More luxe! What do you think is the very apogee, the acme, of luxurious decadence? Is it bathing in milk infused with pearl dust? Is it wearing only boxfresh trainers? Is it NEW PANTS EVERY DAY? No, it is none of these things – as the people at Remy Martin know (as do a certain subset of Come Dine With Me contestants), it is GOLD LEAF! Which presumably is why they have spent a not-inconsiderable whack on this website which, er, shows you a flake of gold leaf ‘flying’ through a variety of cognac-related locations (vineyard, cellar, etc etc) before landing on a bottle of booze to give it that truly high-class flourish that every true plute demands. It’s worth going all the way to the end of this just to get a feel for how spectacularly pointless this is – you click four times, see some stuff turn gold, and then get funneled straight to the ‘click to buy’ page. NO REMY MARTIN! This is not enough to persuade me to drop £200 on cognac – TRY HARDER.
  • You Laugh You Lose: Nicked off B3ta, this one (thanks Rob!), and SUCH a nice idea – You Laugh You Lose is a really simple premise, namely a challenge in which you try not to laugh as the site tells you jokes and uses facial recognition to track whether or not you’ve cracked a smile or not. Not that hard, or at least not for normal people who don’t break into paroxysms when reading jokes off a screen, but a really neat concept that’s executed really well and which neatly-illustrates the brilliance of modern webstuff – the facial recognition stuff, which is the hard bit, is now all basically available as plugin stuff. ANYONE CAN DO THIS! Sort of, with enough imagination. This particular gimmick, for example, is an excellent one for, I don’t know, promo for a new comedy show or audiobook or something – I’m sure you can think of better ones – but the general point is that we can do SO many fun things in-browser these days, so, er, can we? Can we try and be a bit more imaginative with the stuff we make, particularly when we’re spending pointless, dead-eyed corporate money?
  • Euro Probabilities: I would imagine all the serious gamblers amongst you have already put your children’s inheritances on the football already, but if you’re still wondering who to back (I am for the sake of this entry assuming you’re all DESPERATE to give bookies your money – to be clear, Web Curios thinks gambling is a mug’s game) then this site might prove useful. “The KU Leuven DTAI Sports Analytics Lab executed a statistical simulation to answer these questions. [Their] simulation takes into account the results in historical games to estimates each team’s skill level and predict the odds of each country’s performance. The probabilities are based on 20,000 simulations and will be updated after each game.” At the time of writing, the site has Belgium with a 33% chance of winning, but obviously Christ alone knows how accurate that will prove to be (it’s going to be France, isn’t it? ABE, basically) – still, as good a reason as any to yeet next month’s paycheck into Ladbroke’s.
  • All The Passes: Another football thing, while we’re here; this is a really hypnotic piece of dataviz which takes information on passes made in high-level football (it combines a number of datasets from the past few years including a World Cup, a lot of the Spanish league, some Champions League data, etc etc) and plots them on a pitch so you can move your cursor around and see a visualisation of all the passes going to and from that point on the field. It’s quite beautiful, and it would be lovely to be able to explore this from different angles; if nothing else, I imagine a VR simulation in which you could stand at any point on a virtual football field and then ‘enjoy’ the experience of all the balls flying at you would be quite an intense experience.
  • Portal Cities: Back in 2008, artist Paul St George created a videolink between New York and London – the London end was on the South Bank, and let passers by see and interact with people in NYC via mutual livestream, and it was SO much fun (and the whimsical steampunk way it was framed was kind of cute too, even if you sort-of hate steampunk as a vibe). I have basically attempted to suggest this at every single large-client brainstorm I have ever been involved in (I am so good at my job – SO GOOD!) with literally no success whatsoever, and so am particularly pleased to see that it’s being recreated in some small way by a team from Lithuania instead. Portal Cities does exactly the same thing, except this time the inter-city links are presented on Stargate-style circular portal-screen things, and the idea is that they will travel the world. There is currently one set up between Vilnius and Lublin in Poland, but the site says they plan to create links with Reykjavik and London in the future. This is wonderful, and I want these everywhere, permanently, please. After all, social media has shown us that being permanently-connected to other humans around the world is a really great idea with absolutely no disbenef…oh, hang on.
  • The Netflix Shop: Digital businesses shifting into physical product development is DEFINITELY a trend now (to the extent that if I am saying it it’s probably practically over) – here is Netflix, branching out into merch to accompany its most popular shows, all the clothes and accessories leaning into whichever aesthetic the programme in question best embodies and generally acting as a nice bit of additional marketing collateral which won’t make them any actual money (at least not in the short-term) but will do a nice job of creating mythos and community around their content while also borrowing some cool by collaborating with buzzy designers. Annoyingly, some of this stuff is quite cool (also annoyingly, it only ships to the US at present) – although I am sure people said that of the Neighbours-themed purple shellsuits that were available in the 80s (honestly, these were REAL – they had the show logo in the famous cursive across the shoulders and everything), so perhaps I am a know-nothing style-bozo (I am a know-nothing style-bozo).
  • Pr0nhub Remastured: More pretty superb comms from the clever people at Pr0nhub, who once again demonstrate that they are quite good at PR. This is (I presume) a way of gently promoting their in-house image recognition and visual AI tech via the medium of presenting a bunch of old-school bongo from the early-20th Century that’s been, er, ‘touched up’ (oh, fine, colourised) by AI. So you can watch the slightly-jerky movements of a pair of consenting adults from a century ago IN COLOUR! I would imagine that for the majority of us, reduced as we are to desensitised and barely-conscious meatslabs by the constant avalanche of highly-stimulating niche bongocontent we’re exposed to 24/7 (or that’s what it feels like), cracking one out to this selection of videos would be…challenging at best, but I have faith that one of you will give it a go. One small point – I get why ‘Remastured’, but the spelling makes the word horrible and, as Rishi pointed out to me, wouldn’t ‘Retouched’ have been a nicer name?
  • August: I really like this – August is a new feminine hygiene brand which wants to talk about periods openly and honestly and with none of the coy euphemisms that tend to characterise the multi-billion pound industry that exists around menses. There’s merch, and a subscription offer (for once, this is an industry where a monthly sub really does make sense), and you can build your own box of period products to suit your needs, and generally this is SUCH a good thing – and the brand’s nicely-done too (if, fine, very much OF THE NOW), and anything that gets people talking more honestly and openly about periods is A Good Thing (fine, as a non-owner of a uterus I have little skin in this game, but as someone who was brought up by a single woman and therefore got used to popping out to buy tampons from a pretty early age, I have always been slightly baffled by the silence around this whole area).
  • Jadu: Augmented Reality meets NFTs! The crossover we’ve all been CLAMOURING for! Jadu is actually an interesting idea – the platform wants to create scanned 3d visualisations – sort of digital AR holograms (they are not holograms, but, honestly, I struggle to describe this stuff so you’ll have to bear with me) of artists and creators doing their thing, which fans can download and place in-world with AR, and which are also available as NFTs to allow the artists to monetise said ‘holograms’ in perpetuity. You can read a thread here which explains the whole thing in slightly better detail – I like the ethos which positions it as a way of enabling the sorts of people who create dance crazes on TikTok, etc, to monetise their work, though as ever I am hugely skeptical of the future market for any of the digital assets that the platform’s going to create; is there really going to be a healthy resale market for an NFT based on a TikTok routine that went MASSIVE in late-July 2021 by the time we get to…well…November, frankly? Still, interesting in theory – the app’s iOS-only, sadly, so I’ve not been able to ‘enjoy’ the capering AR avatars myself, but do let me know how you get on.
  • Free Your Bones: “Your bones are wet. Fix this.” Can someone please tell me what this is about? Anyone?
  • Blankos: Another metaverse-y type thing! Blankos is a Roblox-style (sorry, sorry, I know that’s lazy, but it’s the closest comparison to hand) platform which lets users create avatars, play games together, design their own games, trick out their characters and, er, trade NFTs in a marketplace! There’s something quite bleak about this imho – it’s VERY shiny and feels very high-production value, but it also very much has the design and aesthetic of the sort of post-Funko Pop vinyl tat that you see cluttering up the end-of-aisle displays (or your favourite manchild’s shelves) and feels squarely-aimed at this market; the fact that the trailer on the website talks about ‘playing games with your friends’ and ‘toys’ and then adds in a completely-unnecessary and very ‘2008-era-XXXTREME CONTENT’-style ‘FCUK YEAH!’ in the voice over gives you some idea of who it’s really for (not children). Oh, and apparently Burberry is one of the early brands getting involved. Can we…can we make sure that this doesn’t win the metaverse race, please?
  • GB Newswipe: So, GB News! Are you watching it? No, of course you’re not, unless you’re a journalist or media commentator, in which case that’s seemingly all you’re doing, tweeting out an endless stream of dunks and commentary and OWNS, all for those sweet, sweet numbers…IT HELPS THEM WHEN YOU TWEET ABOUT THEM FFS! Gah, look, I can’t be bothered to do the whole ‘is it important criticism of a right-wing media outlet or is it simply playing into their hands by giving them the oxygen of publicity they crave and turning them into a genuine talking point that is therefore worthy of discussion by other, more mainstream outlets and by so doing helping them gain a foothold in the news landscape of the UK?’ (GYAC IT IS BOTH) thing, so, er, I won’t. This link is to a site which lets you Tweet at advertisers which have been seen on the channel, asking them to stop – the reason I’m including it is a) because from a comms point of view it’s useful to be aware of how easy it is to set these sorts of things up now; b) because, again from a comms point of view, it’s important to remember that the people using these services aren’t necessarily your customers, and so it’s perhaps worth taking a more nuanced point of view on the import of such movements to your brand than ‘oh no some people on Twitter are shouting’; and c) because, honestly, looking at some of the brands on here, if people think the worst thing they are doing globally is advertising on a right-wing joke of a news channel in the UK then WOW will they be upset when they do some proper thinking about how modern capitalism works. Anyway, if you want to do some laughing at how sh1t GB News is, you could also look at this Twitter feed which is collecting the best (worst) of it – while you laugh, though, it’s worth taking a moment to think about who is paying for this channel, and why they are doing it, and what the long game might be.
  • The Brimley/Cocoon Line Generator: You will remember the Brimley/Cocoon Line from Curios past (don’t tell me the truth about your memory of Curios past, it will only serve to upset me), of course – “When ‘Cocoon‘ reached theaters on June 21, 1985, Wilford Brimley was 18,530 days old (50 years, 9 months and 6 days)”, and the Brimley/Cocoon line is the point in one’s life at which one reaches this age. Using this website you can calculate the point at which you or indeed anyone else who’s birthday you happen to know will reach this exalted milestone – useful for very long-term party planning.
  • Pattern Generator: Seeing quite a few of these around recently; this is a particularly nice little toy which lets you create pleasing, vaguely-textiley patterns in-browser which you can then export as tiles, SVG or CSS – super-useful if you do visual design and want to be able to spin up lots of different patterns and textures with relative ease.
  • Team Halo: I really like this project. Team Halo is an initiative by the UN, in partnership with the London School of Tropical Medicine and other partners, which is working to fight vaccine misinformation online. Rather than creating a website and putting information on it and then hoping that people find it, the project instead recruits medical professionals from across the world and offers them training and guidance on making social content (primarily Insta and TikTok) which addresses commonly-held misconceptions around vaccines. Such a clever approach, and admirably light-touch; the content being posted is hugely diverse, and the lack of prescriptive aesthetic guidelines or content themes means that the doctors and other medical professionals involved can make stuff that they feel comfortable with rather than forcing themselves to fit into a template as defined by the project. Imho this is an object lesson in how to approach these sorts of things – kudos to the people involved, I am very impressed.
  • Click Here To Save The World: Websites which ‘talk’ to you are nothing new, but I really like the effect they engender – creating a strange bond between user and site and a weird intimacy that you don’t feel with video. This is really nicely-written, and super-effective (it worked on me, at least) – if you’re in the business of trying to make people do, think or feel something (aren’t we all, dear, aren’t we all?) then I urge you to check this out. Thanks to Alessia Clusini for pointing it out.
  • Uncharted Streets: One of my favourite ever London publications was a small magazine called Smoke, which was pulled together on a semi-regular basis over several years by various contributors before quietly disappearing. Smoke was gorgeous – eclectic and varied and full of odd, different voices that all loved the city, and who were given space to write about their favourite bus routes or the weird beauty of Penge high street, or London’s Campest Statues (one of my favourite ever semi-regular magazine features, that). Anyway, one of the founders of Smoke has started Uncharted Streets, which is set to be a series of pamphlet-books offering guided walks around various parts of London – Leyton has been written, and there are walks in the works for Deptford, Vauxhall and Brentford. I am basing this entirely on previous output here, but if this is halfway as wonderful as Smoke was then these will be ace – if you love London then you will love these. Fcuk I miss London.
  • Fridai: No, it’s not a typo, it’s just a really stupid name. This is a fascinating idea, though, and a proper glimpse of the future (or, more accurately, ‘a’ future) – FridAI (AI DO YOU SEE????) is a voice assistant which uses voice recognition and language processing to help gamers and streamers interact with their machines without having to take their hands off the controls. So you can use voice commands to record your play, search for other gamers to play with, look for tutorials, and even, for certain games, activate in-game commands, etc – basically like Alexa but with a very specific usecase. Limited appeal, this – unless you’re a streamer running stuff on a very high-end rig, I can’t imagine this is either necessary or that it would work – but it’s an interesting look at how voicerecognition will be in everything in ~10 years or so.
  • XYZ Reality: Cool and interesting technology in a boring setting is, to my mind, often more interesting than ostensibly more ‘fun’ applications of said technology – so it is with XYZ Reality, which is Augmented Reality for the MASSIVE CONSTRUCTION INDUSTRY! Not in any way sexy, fine, but as someone who’s spent the past decade or so being shown massively-underwhelming AR stuff by various vendors (remember Blippar? God, that still exists!), it’s so nice to look at something using the technology where I can absolutely see the use-case for. This lets engineers and architects plan out exactly where all the big pipes and boxes need to go (er, I am not totally comfortable with all the detail when it comes to large-scale construction projects, you may be surprised to learn) and then lets the people building the things see exactly where said big pipes and boxes need to be placed in the real world – SO clever.
  • iOS 15 Humane: A nice piece of speculative UX/UI work, imagining what a new Apple OS might look like if were designed with the goal of helping people use their phones more sensibly and less like lab rats desperately hitting the foodswitch.
  • Sharkle: ANOTHER ‘press the button, get taken to a random website which we promise will be moderately-diverting!’-type site (why so many of late? Has there been something dumped on Github recently that makes these newly-trivial to build?), this one with a strong skew towards little webGL arttoys like fluid simulators and the like. Fun, silly, pointless and as far as I have been able to work out very unlikely to link you to some malware-spawning bongo-horrorshow.

By Eric Yahnker



  • The BBC Programme Index: God I love the BBC (and not only because it has paid me money on occasion). Stuff like this – a new searchable interface for the BBC archive, letting you search for ANYTHING and get results from old editions of the Radio Times, listenable and watchable content from iPlayer…”Since its inception in 2014, BBC Genome has been a work in progress and we have introduced many changes and improvements to the website over the years. With help from a host of fantastic volunteer editors who have picked up on the small typographical errors that come with scanning and converting what’s in millions of listings into plain text, we’ve accepted nearly 900,000 edits that have been submitted to our listings. We now display four decades of the Radio Times magazine on the website and we link through to thousands of programmes on iPlayer and Sounds…Programme Index, like BBC Genome before it, is a spine of data – this time stretching back nearly 100 years. You can use it to browse nearly 10 million network and regional BBC radio and TV listings, including scans of the earliest Radio Times magazines, and to search more than 200,000 programmes that you can watch on BBC iPlayer and listen to on BBC Sounds.” Brilliant.
  • Homesick Sounds: Remember a year ago when we were all still getting used to everything being shut and there were all these websites that cropped up which let you recreate the sounds of coffeeshops and the office and suchlike as a way of making you feel vaguely like everything was normal and not in fact going to tits? Well now that you’re all being forced to go back into work again by uncaring bosses (or, er, maybe rushing back to the office because you LOVE YOUR COLLEAGUES and stuff), perhaps you want to recreate the now-familiar and much-loved domestic soundscape of your home working environment – well now you can! Homesick Sounds lets you add all sorts of background noises, from children to lawnmowers to next door’s screaming row to your partner’s INCESSANT FCUKING ZOOM CALL…this feels like you could quite easily nick and reskin for some cheap and lazy branded content kudos, should you be that sort of lazy ‘creative’ (and I, to be clear, very much am).
  • Ælfgif-who?: A newsletter by Florence Scott, a Leeds-based historian who’s studying for their Phd and who is writing this to share the stories of women who lived in early-medieval England (so between 550 and 1100 AD – no, I didn’t know that off the top of my head, no need to feel inadequate I promise). These are short-but-fascinating, and I have really enjoyed the archive which has taught me about racial diversity in medieval England and the history of the ‘real’ Lady Godiva amongst other things. Properly niche and stupendously-interesting.
  • IRL: This is interesting – apparently doing reasonable numbers in North America at present, IRL is basically Facebook Groups and events without the horrible Facebook bit. So it gives you the ability to create community groups based around interests, etc, assign roles, apply moderation, arrange meetups, share calendars…all the things that you would do within the Facebook ecosystem if you were, say, 50ish, but which if you’re 20 you probably don’t like or know Facebook (the app) well enough to make use of. Nothing to suggest that this will break out and become A Thing, but I can sort of see the need for / appeal of something with this featureset that doesn’t rely on you being attached to the Big Blue Misery Factory for it to work.
  • Come Internet With Me: This is the sort of thing I LOVE. Jay Springett is, I think, an advermarketingpr person who is pursuing this wonderful little project on their YouTube channel – in each video, Jay goes browsing on the web for about an hour with a different guest, talking about how they use the internet and what they find, and exploring topics and ideas around whatever that edition is ‘about’ (jellyfish, say, or tornadoes) and how we interact with and interrelate to the web and the browser, and how it shapes our thinking and our lives. It’s not exactly high-octane viewing, fine, but I find these sorts of personal explorations of how we engage with the online absolutely wonderful – I know that ‘video about the internet’ is a bit ‘dancing about architecture’, but there really is something gently-compelling about this (to my mind, at least).
  • Autopilot: My immediate reaction to this, as evidenced from my notes, was ‘oh fcuk off’, and upon reopening the link it hasn’t really changed. Autopilot is designed to help you get off to the perfect start every morning, to help you remember to run through the steps that YOU need to create YOUR optimal environment to be the very best person YOU can be and oh dear God really? Really? Do we need an app with a series of checklists that we can personalise to take us through the optimal way to brush our teeth or have breakfast or take a fcuking sh1t so that we can ensure our day is PERFECT? LIFE IS NOT A CONTROLLABLE PROCESS IT IS SOMETHING THAT HAPPENS AT YOU FFS AND THE LESS YOU APPRECIATE THAT THE MORE MISERABLE YOU WILL END UP BEING AS THE LACK OF AGENCY YOU FUNDAMENTALLY HAVE ENDS UP WEARING AWAY AT YOUR SOUL UNTIL ALL THE SOFT AND TENDER BITS ARE EXPOSED AND RENDERED JAGGEDLY PAINFUL FROM LIFE FRICTION! Ahem. Sorry, that came rather out of the blue. Still, if you’re the sort of person who thinks that their life would be ameliorated by having a carefully-optimised series of checklists to work through before 7am each day, this may well prove a boon.
  • Future: Or, ‘Venture Capitalists Try Their Hands At Tech Journalism Because How Hard Can It Be?’ Andreesen Horowitz, storied VC outfit and strong advocates for the technooptimistic viewpoint which suggests that everything will be just fine if we stop worrying our pretty little heads about anything and let the clever men with the big ideas take care of everything (and if you wouldn’t mind making the financial incentives for this a bit better that would be great too, ta), have grown tired of the endless and unfair sniping of the tech media at the poor, misunderstood geniuses of the valley and decided to start their own tech publication. So if you’re sick of reading reporters like Taylor Lorenz question exactly why something like Clubhouse can be worth theoretical billions when it’s a mess of conspiracy theories, racism and no-moderation, or why so much of Silicon Valley seems not to really give anything resembling a fcuk about the long-term implications of what it creates (HATERS!), this may be the place for you. Basically every article on here so far is of the ‘why that thing which stupid people think is bad [eg tech bubbles, financial speculation, billionaires, etc] is in fact GOOD, actually, if you are like us in possession of a superstar VC galaxy brain viewpoint’ – thanks, VCs! THANKS FOR MUNIFICENT WISDOM!
  • Weird Food: “What’s a weird food thing you do that is actually delicious?”, asked cartoonist Jamie Smart on Twitter, and DEAR GOD PEOPLE ARE SICK. Honestly, read this thread and feel safe in the knowledge that however odd your own personal food habits may be they are NOTHING compared to some of the people in here (unless you are one of them). Strawberries and scrambled eggs? Scooping up melted vanilla icecream with salt and vinegar McCoys? This will be particularly good / bad for any of you who aren’t English, I feel.
  • Paralives: An indie game currently in development, Paralives basically looks like The Sims but with a far greater focus on being able to make proper Grand Designs-style domestic architecture projects. You can back it on Patreon if you so desire, but even if you don’t fancy committing actual cashmoney to a videogame which will come out at…some indeterminate point in the future, I encourage you to take a look at the trailer because honestly it looks SO COOL and I could happily lose a day or so creating my perfect living space before spending an equal amount of time crying at the realisation that all my dreams are unattainable and it’s likely to be Barratt Homes all the way down.
  • Smily Didgeridoo: English readers will likely only be aware of the didgeridoo for two reasons – either you came to it via now-disgraced handsy-art-lover Rolf Harris, whose antipodean stylings introduced an entire generation to the odd tones of the aboriginal wind instrument; or otherwise you had a flatmate at university who’d been travelling and had decided that a didge would be a GREAT way of simultaneously showing off their well-travelled nature, their musical chops and their creativity (they were wrong, inevitably; what it in fact showed was that they were a cloth-eared cnut who was both selfish and, objectively, tone-deaf). I had no idea that there were didgeridoo superstars, but apparently they exist and the fabulously-named Smily Didgeridoo is one such superstar. Smily is Japanese, and was apparently briefly YouTube fanous for having made a working didgeridoo out of a spider crab (history does not recount how the spider crab felt about this), but the whole website is ace and Smily’s sound, which combines dodge with beatboxing, is, ok, VERY CRUSTY but at the same time quite fun.
  • The Submarine Cable Map: The latest in a long, long line of websites for things which, fine, are a bit boring but which through decent-ish webdesign become slightly less dull than they would have been otherwise (there really should be a compound noun for this, shouldn’t there? Where are the Germans when you need them?), this is a map of all the undersea cables currently crisscrossing the depths, designed by Telegeometry and sponsored by Telecom Egypt, and, look, I won’t pretend to now have a deep and abiding love for undersea cabling and a desire to learn more about it and maybe pay money to Telecom Egypt to fit me some undersea cabling ofg our very own, but it was quite interesting to see where it all goes, which is frankly more than I would have hoped for and therefore a BONUS SUCCESS! See, the bar is SO LOW with this stuff, a tiny bit of nice design makes all the difference,
  • Clockwork: When thinking of ‘industries set to be banjaxed by the rise of the robots’, I confess that I hadn’t given manicurists a second thought – seemingly, though, they too are going to be feeling the cold hand of the automated revolution on their shoulder sooner rather than later, or at least they will if this is anything to go by. Clockwork is a brand of automated manicure, offering you a both-hands nail service delivered with machine-guided precision, all done in 10 minutes, for the price of $8 (is that cheap? I have disgusting, bitten nails and have no clue how much one pays to prettify them). You have to be in San Francisco to avail yourself of the service, fine, but if this stuff works then I would imagine it will become pretty widespread pretty quickly. So, er, if any of you reading this are nail technicians, or know nail technicians, I might consider retraining. Sorry.
  • BBC Micro/Acorn Playback: This is so SPECTACULARLY geeky even by the standards of Web Curios and will only really be of use to those of you – ha! There will be noone who fits this description, obviously, but just in case – who happen to have a working BBC Micro or Acorn knocking about at home. You DO??? Amazing! In which case all you need to do is hook up your browser-enabled device to the audio jack of either machine, and this website will let you load a whole bunch of old cassettes onto the old systems, so you can play literally hundreds of games from the early-80s so you can, er, ruin your childhood with a clear-eyed perspective on how limited and frankly dull all said games were when compared to stuff you can literally play for free in your browser right now. Still, as a creative endeavour and engineering project this is undeniably-impressive and pretty much as close to a perfect Curio as it’s possible to get.
  • What’s After The Credits: A site which tells you whether or not it’s worth sitting through the credits of a film for some sort of easter egg which the director may or may not have chosen to include right at the very end. Simple and useful and frankly the sort of thing they ought to include in reviews.
  • My Bear Love: Look, this is very much NOT LIKE ME, but for some reason I found this tiny, pointless site – which features a bear looking sad in front of a rainy backdrop, which becomes happy and multicoloured when you click it – oddly-affecting in a way I can’t adequately describe. NO REALLY I’M FINE I PROMISE.
  • The Bongo Tells: Or, to give the Reddit thread its full title, “Ladies: What is a dead give-away that a man watches too much porn when he’s in bed with you?” These are very funny, but probably significantly less so if you’re someone having to deal with this sort of thing on a regular basis. If nothing else you will feel VERY SORRY for the clitoris after reading a few of these.
  • Welcome To Factus: A lovely piece of interactive fiction, designed to help promote scifi novel Ten Low which has just been published. It’s very well-written, does a decent job of worldbuilding, and has the slightly-dense and slightly-heady vibe of the writing in Disco Elysium (which, if you’re not familiar with it, is the best videogame I have played in literally years and which I recommend UTTERLY unreservedly, even if you don’t normally play games at all).
  • DDD: Finally in this week’s miscellanea, this little game which requires you to get the ball into the hole by bouncing it off other balls. Simple, soothing, fun.

By Kelly Reemtsen



  • Cats Will Eat You:  NOT ACTUALLY A TUMBLR! Still, despite the fact it’s built on WordPress it feels like a Tumblr, and that’s how we do taxonomy here at Web Curios (badly, it turns out). Anyway, Cats Will Eat You is work by an artist whose name I can’t quite scry from the site, but I like their style.


  • Katrin Vates: Embroidered treescapes. The technique here is glorious.
  • 36 Days of Type: The Instagram account of the (I think) annual project in which designers reinvent numbers and letters in whichever way they desire. There are some lovely examples of typography and number design here, and so much visual inspirations should you be in the market for such a thing (and who isn’t? NO FCUKER, that’s who!).
  • Star Trek Design: Nice design, from Star Trek (that might be considered oxymoronic by some, but I’m presenting this without prejudice because, well, Trekkies suffer enough, don’t they?).
  • Edvin Cindrak: The 3d animation displayed here is gorgeous, but mainly I am a fan of this person’s name – EDVIN CINDRAK! So powerful! I am very jealous both of Edvin’s talent and their excellent handle.
  • Masayo Fukada: Beautiful paper-cut art by someone with incredible patience and VERY STEADY HANDS. I would love to see an animation done in this style, but imagine that there are not enough hours left before the inevitable heat death of the universe for it to be made.


  • Theses on Techno-Optimism: I’ve been looking for a good counterpoint to the ‘this is the greatest day to ever be alive in the recorded history of humanity!’-rhetoric peddled by a lot of alt-right-adjacent people over the past few years, and this essay neatly provides it. It’s a superb critique of the idea of techno-optimism – not that it’s criticising the idea of being broadly optimistic about technology so much as it is criticising the idea of expecting technology to solve everything. In particular, it looks at the tendency for techno-optimism to lead us to ignore, or devote insufficient effort to, non-tech solutions to extant problems, because they are hard and messy and tend to involve people who we all know are difficult and unpredictable – why address the systemic inequalities that cause current income differentials when you can just put your hopes into a vague belief that we’ll live in a post-scarcity society one day thanks to *waves vaguely* matter compilers and AI! This line in particular says it all, and made me do a proper ‘laugh and then feel really cold and sad because oh God it’s true’: “At moments when social progress seems stuck, technology can provide an appealing alternative. After all, real progress on serious social issues can be slow and filled with backsliding, but over the last ten years the Playstation really has gotten better.”
  • Four Americas: Ok, this is very long and VERY Ameri-centric; I do, though, think that by the end it offers some interesting parallels to the development of political discourse more broadly that makes it worth reading even for those of you not obsessed with American political theory. In particular, its characterisations of ‘Real America’ and ‘Just America’ as two new poles on the political spectrum can usefully be transposed across the Atlantic (and indeed to many other countries around the world right now) – while the tone of its descriptions can feel sneery, the broad points the piece raises about the intractability of difference that exists between these factional groupings, these ‘Americas’ which exist in parallel and in superimposition and in direct contact, and yet which seem incapable of dialogue, feel resonant. Read this and then think about the GB News thing again, basically.
  • The Terrific Triviality of Twitter: Or ‘Why The Twitter Mob Is Nothing To Be Scared Of’, which is perhaps more true for the author than it might be for other victims of said mob, but which is nonetheless an interesting point on the twin illusions that Twitter perpetuates, namely those of numbers and consequence. The piece posits that the numbers of people who are angry at you when Twitter is angry at you is in fact vanishingly small, and that the consequences for those who are the subject of said anger are in fact never as wide-ranging or far reaching as they are painted as being, and that a better appreciation of both these questions would be of benefit to all of us. Which feels trueish, but at the same time equally feels like it doesn’t quite take into account the category difference between being ‘today’s main character’ and something like Gamergate. Also, the closing line depressed the fcuk out me: “Humans have never before lived in a society where everyone is getting yelled at all the time by strangers. But we’re in that society now, and we will eventually adapt to it.” – really? Must we?
  • Why We Will No Longer Use Allyship or Privilege: This is a piece on the website of MA Education Consultancy, an organisation that exists to help organisations improve their anti-racist practice, which explains why they will no longer be using the terms ‘Ally’ and ‘Privilege’ in their work and in their language. Even if stuff like this normally makes your teeth itch, I urge you to read this – it’s a really good explanation of how language works in these contexts, and why terms that become canonical can lose their power and become counterproductive. Also, the points they make about ‘privilege’ being an unhelpful term with regard to the emotional reaction it elicits is, I think, a really important one. Really good writing in a space where you don’t always find really good writing.
  • An Illustrated Field Guide to Social Media: This is VERY LONG and quite academic, but if you are interested in being taken on an anthropological/sociological journey around social media platforms, specifically some of the less-popular and discussed ones, to get a feeling for how community and communities work in these different spaces and how that is shaped by the platforms themselves, then you will very much enjoy and appreciate this.
  • Rare Breed: I’m including this not because I necessarily agree with it and more as a warning as to the sort of inspi/aspirational bullsh1t floating down the LinkedIn sewer towards you. This is by a couple of people who run a consultancy and have written a book and are now flogging said consultancy and book with articles like this – the central premise of which is that actually, contrary to what we’ve been told over the past few years, businesses SHOULD let odd, unconventional geniuses just get on with it, even if it makes everyone else miserable and uncomfortable. “Rare Breeds value truth and individuality over conformity. They are out of the ordinary and outspoken, unapologetically moving in one direction while the herd moves in the other. Rare Breeds are the ones who realize visions other people insist are impossible. They rebel against business-as-usual and never let “the way things are” get in the way of “the way things could be.” Their nerve and imagination open up rich veins of opportunity for others. Although they can make some people uncomfortable by saying what others won’t, Rare Breeds also show up every day as the highest, most impactful, most honest versions of themselves, inspiring those around them to do the same.” Doesn’t this…doesn’t this sound like every ar$ehole who thinks they’re Steve Jobs? Doesn’t this sound like the worst people you’ve ever worked with? And I say this as someone who’s just about self-aware enough to know that this is, deep down, how they think of themselves, and who’s own attitude at work is, much as it pains me to admit it, very much ‘I’m special so I don’t have to do what you tell me actually’. I don’t think pandering to this sort of thing is a good idea. And despite what the article says, I don’t think that ‘asking people to wash’ is an unreasonable ask, however good the fcuker is at their job.
  • The Airbnb Crisis Crew: A really interesting look at the bit of Airbnb’s business that deals with the mess when things go wrong – and they do, often. The reason you don’t hear about it so much, though, is that the company has adopted a (very sensible imho, at least from a corporate reputation perspective) ‘throw money it the problem’ approach, where if something goes VERY WRONG with your rental then they will spend whatever it takes to mollify you and make the problem go away. The piece looks at how the strategy emerged and evolved, and how it now works with the business operating at international scale – think about it hard enough and it all starts to seem quite grubby, it’s fair to say.
  • A Definitive History of House: If you like House music (or techno, or any of the post-house derivatives with names that were faintly-ridiculous even when I used to go clubbing and now, at the distance of a decade or so, are just silly) then this insanely-comprehensive history of the genre, taking you from its Chicago origins through its various genre-evolutions encompassing soulful house and prog house and tech house and bungalow (NOT REALLY! Dad joke for you there, and I don’t even have kids), and with plenty of links to the music so you can listen to what you’re learning about. A labour love in scholarship, by Joe Muggs.
  • Flying Cars: I first came across the exciting world of electric flying cars when I was working with VC firm Atomico several years ago – one of their recent investments at the time was in a company called Lilium, which is one of the brands named in this article competing to win the future of personal flying vehicles. Whether the future is flying taxis or private vehicles or a combination of the two, there’s a LOT of money and buzz behind the technology; I remember back in the day there was talk of Lilium supplying Vegas with flying taxis by 2022, though, so I’d also take some of the timescales being talked about in this piece with a reasonably-sized shovelful of salt.
  • Staging the Iliad in Hades: This is less an interesting and well-written article so much as it is an interesting idea – a bunch of Twitch streamers and other interested parties are banding together to read the Iliad in-game, using popular 2020 game Hades (set, of course, in the Greek underworld) as a backdrop. I love this, mainly because i have a massive soft spot for storytelling and emergent play in-game – the whole thing kicks off on 20 June, and should be available on YouTube afterwards and I will try and remember to chuck it in the videos once it’s live. BONUS THEATRE IN GAMES: here’s someone attempting to perform Hamlet in GTAV with…limited success.
  • Zola: You may, back in the distant past of Twitter when things were only 140 characters and the world was so different, recall a THREAD that went viral and basically made THREADS a thing, which opened with the now-iconic phrase “Y’all wanna hear a story about why me & this bitch here fell out???????? It’s kind of long but full of suspense” and which told the story of the narrator’s wild weekend with a fellow stripper in Florida. The thread was written by A’ziah King and it’s been made into a film, which is just gearing up for release having been snarled up in production limbo and then in COVID hell – this is a promo piece for the movie, and in all honesty there’s a bit too much Inside Hollywood ‘this is how the sausage gets made’ for my tastes, but King is a fascinating character and honestly I could happily read a longer profile of just her with none of the associated film stuff. It’s worth going back and reacquainting yourself with the story while you wait for the film, which honestly sounds like it could be quite a lot of fun.
  • A Very Expensive Vegan Meal: I have no problem spending a reasonable whack of cash on a decent meal – I don’t have kids, I don’t have expensive taste in clothes (or indeed ‘any’), I don’t buy gadgets or tech or…things, really, so I feel OK about occasionally dropping three figures on a nice dinner (and wine, lots of wine). I confess, though, to seeing the price of this meal and wincing slightly – $730 for two without booze?! Are you MAD? Leaving aside the fact it’s vegan, that’s just an astonishing sum. Reading the account of the meal, served at New York’s Eleven Madison Park, you do start to get a feeling for the ‘reason’ for the cost – there are dishes here that require a couple of chefs to work for 8 hours to prepare, which require time and effort and skill, and you’re paying not just for the ingredients but for the expertise and effort that goes into making them sublime but, well, IT’S $730 FOR VEGETABLES, MARJORIE! I don’t doubt that this is a remarkable experience, and I am possibly only being snarky because I will never go and I am getting slightly antsy at the fact that I am now living in a city which, while blessed with some of the best natural produce in the world and a cuisine I love, believes ‘using parmesan rather than pecorino’ is the height of culinary innovation, but equally if the chef needs to spend an hour every morning seated on the floor grinding seeds by hand in a process that they describe as ‘very painful’ then maybe, just maybe, it’s not worth it.
  • JFK8: A look at Amazon’s New York City fulfilment centre over the course of the pandemic, and how it can work as a microcosmic view of the company’s attitudes to its warehouse staff overall. Look, I think anyone who’s been reading Curios for any length of time will have a reasonable appreciation of how I feel about Amazon and Bezos, but leaving my own personal animus to one side I would urge all of you to read this if only because I think it’s very, very important for us all to have a better appreciation of how we get all these wonderful products delivered to us so seamlessly and quickly at the tap of a button, and what the human cost of this might be, and how brands such as Amazon have become very very powerful by hiding the thrashing guts of the machine beneath a smooth-looking exterior. It’s like that analogy about the swan – serene on top, paddling frantically underneath, except instead of frantic paddling it’s a mincer and the water is thick and bloody with chunks.
  • Logging Off: This is a longer-form articulation of an argument Ryan Broderick has been making for a while now – namely that for all internet creators, the goal is increasingly to get offline as quickly as possible so that they can stop riding the content/algo merrygoround – this piece looks at three long-standing internet stars (Bo Burnham, Jenna Marbles and Shane Dawson) and how each of them has retreated from the performative side of social media, albeit for varying reasons. It’s worth dwelling on this as we continue to w4nk ourselves dusty with breathless talk of the creator economy – what’s the long game for these ‘creators’? It’s…mental illness and madness and horror, isn’t it, unless they can unshackle themselves from the flywheel.
  • Turf: I tend not to include longreads from the Guardian in here, as I imagine that if you’re reading Curios you’re probably the sort of pinko lefty (LIKE ME!) who basically always has the site open and reads about 90% of everything they publish (filter bubble? eh?) – still, I’m making a rare exception for this, as it’s a PERFECT piece of Curios longform and is SO much more interesting than you might think a deep-dive into the world of football groundsmen (that is, the people whose job it is to look after the grass on a professional football pitch) would be.
  • The High Crustaceans: Does getting a lobster very stoned indeed help make dispatching the poor animals any less cruel? And should we therefore do lungs with crustaceans before sending them to a buttery grave? All these questions and more are answered in this very funny (if not hugely scientific) essay which I swear smells strongly of patchouli oil.
  • The King of Squirrels: Just to be clear, this is about animal trafficking and so you should avoid it if you’re of a sensitive disposition when it comes to the critters (NO SAZ DO NOT CLICK!). Rest of World looks into the trade in rare species taking place in Vietnam and other East Asian countries, profiling Phan Huynh Anh Khoa who built up and ran a veritable empire flogging tigercubs and sugar gliders and all sorts of other Insta-friendly pets across national lines. It’s a good crime yarn, but the underlying story here (as it often is) is about how Facebook pays about 10% of the attention to what is going on on its non-English/Spanish/French/German Pages as it does on Western language pages.
  • Kip Kinkel is Ready to Speak: The name Kip Kinkel meant nothing to me before reading this – Kinkel was one of the modern eras first US highschool shooters, who murdered his parents and two fellow students in 1998 before being subdues and arrested. Kinkel is now serving time in a US jail – this article is a superbly-sensitive piece on the man he is now, the 23 years he has spent in various correctional institutions serving his time, and the question of the extent to which it makes sense to hand out life sentences for crimes committed by adolescents with mental illness.
  • An Oral History of Planet Hollywood: Man, the 90s were a very silly time indeed, and Planet Hollywood was a very silly restaurant. Still, this is an entertaining look back at a time in which ‘Burgers, backed by Arnie and Bruce Willis and Sylvester Stallone!’ was enough to secure you international franchising. SO MUCH COCAINE is the overriding vibe here, to my mind.
  • The Hype House From Hell: Fine, you might think you’ve read enough stories about hype houses and the horrible people who run/inhabit them, but I promise you that this one is the daddy of them all and, in Pete Vincer, features one of the best characters I have read all year, a man who if he wasn’t ostensibly real you would think had been made up by an over-eager scriptwriter who’d dialed up the ‘zany, out of control frat-boy’ character elements too high. This is ostensibly the story of how a talent house for podcasters, funded in part by Chinese media giant Ximalaya, went wrong, but really it’s just an excuse for increasingly insane anecdotes about Vincer, delivered by a supporting cast with an increasingly-wearly and disbelieving air. The writer here does a superb job of communicating just how tired of his sh1t everyone quoted is, but Vincer really is a force of nature who you will simultaneously sort-of-like (despite him being objectively appalling in every way) and never, ever want to meet in your life.
  • In All The History of Wanting: Lishani Ramanayake writes for Guernica about her mother and her family and female desire and the control of that desire by men. This passage in particular leapt out at me, not least because my mother tells a remarkably similar story about my grandfather father in Italy in the late-50s: “I imagine my grandfather finding my mother like this, giggling as she spied on boys she was not meant to be talking to, her stick-thin brown legs finding purchase on the limber branches of the araliya tree. I imagine the force of his anger, the pinch of his hands as he pulled her down, as he dragged her inside the house, as he twisted one hand into the dark torrents of my mother’s hair and pulled, hard. The sharp slice of the scissors. “Nothing is more important than honor,” he would have brayed, spit speckled on his face. Eyes wild with fear and rage. And falling all around him, like soft, clipped feathers, my mother’s hair. How it tumbled from her shoulders and settled, with a sigh, on the marbled floor below.”
  • On Aging Alone: Finally this week, this is a beautiful piece of writing by Sharon Butala, which I promise is less miserable than you might think (even if it’s not exactly happy) and offers a calm and rational and reasoned perspective on the particular loneliness of aging and its place as a necessary part of being alive.

By  Chris Austin


Webcurios 11/06/21

Reading Time: 34 minutes


It’s slightly odd not being in the UK for a major football tournament and therefore not feeling the same mixture of terror that England will finally win one and that I will never hear the fcuking end of it, and excitement at the national soul-searching and recrimination when they inevitably don’t (as you can imagine, I tend to be…unpopular in pubs when England play; I have been ‘asked to leave’ on more occasions than I am comfortable admitting).

Still, before that happens it’s ALL TO PLAY FOR! So while we wait to see whether the right-wing media and government’s attempts to somehow denigrate and weaponise the idea of anti-racism has borne fruit (thanks guys!), let’s all come together as one and enjoy a whole week’s worth of internet, arriving in your inbox like some sort of appallingly-timed two-footed tackle designed to snap your productivity off at the knee (it’s that sort of quality of simile that you can expect throughout this week’s edition, you lucky, lucky people).

Settle back, then, into the dentist’s chair as I upend several bottles of pure web ethanol into your waiting and entirely-metaphorical mind-mouths – DON’T BE SICK!

By Molly Bounds



  • Discriminator: There have been a spate of rather nice interactives over the past year looking at facial recognition tools and how they work, all designed to highlight both how oddly, creepily, not-quite-accurate they are, and to point out to us that giving uncritical credence to the assumptions made by said tools is possibly quite a stupid idea; this is ‘funny’, because said tools have all appeared at a point where it’s largely too late to do anything about the fact that said tools have been out in the wild for quite a few years now, and oh is that a horse’s arse we can see disappearing into the distance as we fumble to get the gate shut? Anyway, tortured metaphors to one side, this is another excellent bit of webwork which takes the viewer through some of the history behind the largest facial dataset ever assembled, what it was used for, and some of the problems inherent in said assembly and use – it’s a really lovely webdoc, which weaves in your webcam and the facial recognition tech almost-subtly rather than beating you over the head with HOW CLEVER. Also, it does that excellent thing where it shows your face on a telly and puts words into your mouth, which is one of the few elements of the early-2010s ‘consent to this website scraping all of the Facebook data of you and your friends and something cool will happen!’ design boom that I miss and would like to see more of (except, er, without that data than being used to peddle psychogeographic snake oil; I don’t miss that bit at all).
  • Upland: I accept that Web Curios quite often features links to things that I don’t fully understand – I like to think, though, that I make a reasonable attempt to get my head around concepts before sharing them with you (I might often fail, but I try). On this occasion, though, I am reasonably-certain that attempting to parse this sentence is possibly beyond me, and probably not worth my time; I mean, listen: “Join a brand new NFT metaverse that is mapped to the real world and quickly becoming the largest and most dynamic blockchain-based economy in existence. Buy, sell and trade virtual properties mapped to real addresses. Build your dream house, start a virtual business and earn UPX coins or U.S. dollars by selling your NFT properties in a free and open marketplace. Make friends in Upland, make friends for life. Ready to join one of the most positive and diverse player communities in the digital world today?” So, er, it’s a virtual world thing? Mapped to the real world? Which wants me to ‘build’ ‘property’ and ‘sell’ it to other users? Who want to buy it…because? Oh, and the trailer’s animated and features llamas, but no actual explanation of what the everliving fcuk is going on. It seems like some sort of combination of…monopoly, a Second Life knockoff, a ‘community’ and, frankly, a massive grift. No fcuking clue what the llamas are about, though; if someone is motivated enough to get under the hood of this, please do let me know.
  • Lamborghini: As a non-driver I always feel like something of a fraud waxing lyrical about the beauty of sports cars, but Lamborghini really do make some pretty pieces of carbon fibre (and tractors; the tractors are ace). Their website’s quite shiny too, in the slightly-standard car company way of LOTS OF VIDEOS and 3D EXPOLRABLE MODELS OF CARS; what really makes this stand out, though, and what reduced me to actual paroxysms, is the voice-over they’ve applied to the videos. As far as I can tell, the script was written in Italian and then translated into English before recording, meaning there’s a certain…idiosyncracy to the language which is both charming and amazingly shonky from a company that’s going to ask me to drop 6 figures on an incredibly-fragile road rocket. Honestly, the only thing that could make me love this more would be an option to toggle the voice-over between the standard version and one that sounds exactly like the Dolmio puppets (I can say this, i am half-Italian, I promise this is acceptable-borderline-racism).
  • Prejudice Free: A lovely site which lets you explore data around the opinions and values of national populations: “Over the past 5 years, 120,000 people were interviewed around the world about their opinions and values as part of the World Values Survey. This website will take you through a short data-driven journey to show you how some socio-demographic factors, often outside our control, might affect how people around you think.” A significant number of major nations are represented here – you select the country you’re interested in and then explore public opinions about homosexuality or abortion, asking you your opinion on either topic and showing where you sit compared to the population of the selected country. Simple and effective datavisualisation, done well.
  • TurntableFM: …is back! In beta, fine, but still! TurntableFM, for those who don’t recall its earlier incarnation(s), is a site that basically lets anyone set up ‘DJ rooms’ where they can stream music of their choosing to an audience of whoever wants to listen in; this new beta comes in website or app form (requiring an Apple Music or Spotify Premium login to power the streaming), features some light social elements and a nice skin with your little avatars DJing and dancing together and generally having a gay old time of it in the digital ‘club’. Social audio hasn’t quite ever taken off in a big way, and it makes me slightly-bullish about Turntable’s prospects, not least because of the goodwill the brand has amongst internet hipsters (ha! there is no such thing, obviously) – although of course Discord is now massive and actually lets you do much of the same stuff (if you fiddle with it) so maybe this is too little too late. Who knows? Regardless, sign up and use it to prove to a bunch of strangers on the internet that it really ought to be YOU who controls the aux cable at the afterparty (it shouldn’t, you are a gurning mess and should go home NOW).
  • This Italy Does Not Exist: The project’s actual title is ‘Strolling Cities’, but, well, I prefer mine. This site presents work which I think is featured at the current Architecture Biennale in Venice (it’s…hard to tell thanks to the copy all being written in what can charitably be described as a sub-dialect of International Art Wank) – the basic premise is that a GAN has been trained on a bunch of images of 9 Italian cities (Milan, Venice, Rome, etc), and then linked to a text-to-image generator, which is then fed poems by a selection of canonical Italian writers to generate imagined visual depictions of said cities based on said poems. Which, obviously, is a car crash of a description; sorry about that, you’d think I’d have learned how to describe this sort of stuff properly after all these years but, well, it seems not. You can watch the videos, listen to the poems and lose yourself in fugue of ASMR-y non-spaces, or you can type in your own scene descriptions and see what the machines throw up – either way, I love this immoderately and frankly could happily sit in a darkened auditorium with this washing over me for a couple of hours with no complaints whatsoever.
  • The CyberSpa: What do YOU think noted peddler of online security gubbins Kaspersky does in terms of marketing? Would you expect it to, I don’t know, maybe offer a sober reflection on the threats facing internet users at the hands of malicious actors here in the third decade of the 21st Century and then outline the products and services it offers to keep said users safe? Would you expect some reassuring testimonies and some impressive-sounding tech details that you don’t really understand but which feel reassuring? Yeah, well you’d be wrong, mate – what Kaspersky actually seems to be into is offering you, er, a digital spa opportunity!! Yes, that’s right, don’t worry about the army of bots attempting to DDOS you into oblivion; instead, listen to some anodyne new-age background music whilst clicking on different coloured clouds and, er, watching some digital ‘flames’ flickering! Contort your face as a webcam watches you to ‘energise your jaw chakra’ (I am making this up, but I promise it really is this fcuking stupid)! WHY DOES THIS EXIST? WHICH MORON SIGNED THIS OFF? I can, if I squint really hard, possibly come up with some bullsh1t intellectual throughline here (it’s either some appalling digital ‘wellness’ thing – Kaspersky keeps your machine well, so why shouldn’t it also keep your mind well too? DO YOU SEE????? – or some sort of link between how relaxed you can be when you know you’re protected by their software and how relaxed this meditationwank will make you), but, honestly, everyone involved in commissioning this should feel very ashamed.
  • IBM Harmonic State: While we’re doing ‘stupid corporate websites’, this one made me laugh quite a lot. Do you remember IBM Watson? The FUTURE of artificial intelligence for business! Which, er, didn’t actually do most of the things that it said it would (By the way, any of you working for Publicis who read this and laugh, shall we talk about Marcel? ahahahaha)! No, you probably don’t, given that after three years of claiming that their AI products were basically some sort of digital cross between Sherlock Holmes. Marie Curie and Jesus IBM has gone rather quieter about its magical qualities. So, if you can’t sell your snake oil based on its ostensible performance any more, how do you sell it? Er, by creating a series of (in fairness, reasonably-diverting) little browser games which task the player with catching little balls of light in a manner not-unreminiscent of Tempest (for those of you old enough to remember that)! These look nice, but, well, WHY? After all, who wouldn’t be ready to drop a six figure sum with IBM based on playing a selection of timewasting games with a vaguely-neon aesthetic? NO FCUKER, THAT’S WHO!
  • The Museum of Other Realities: You’ll need a VR headset to enjoy the works in here, but the Museum of Other Realities collects a selection of works/experiences in virtual reality which you can download and explore. Rather than being a ‘virtual museum’ (can we all accept now that they are…all quite crap? Good), this is instead just a bunch of art-toys to experience; to my mind, a far better way of thinking of these things than attempting to create a VR ‘space’ in which to interact with the works themselves.
  • City Roads: Pick any city you like, and this website will render its roads in pleasingly-minimal graphical style. You can change the colours of the roads and the background, zoom in and out, and then export the resultant image as a vector or PNG to do with what you will; with a bit of fiddling (and not even too much), you can create some rather cool abstract-ish images; also, sections of these would make rather cool tattoos imho, should any of you be in the market for a piece of ink as recommended by some random webmong’s newsletter.
  • Scream It Off Screen: This is SUCH a nice idea, and a really neat twist on the ‘gong show’ talent format; Scream it on Screen is a monthly short film competition, with screenings on the first Friday of each month on YouTube. Filmmakers submit their shorts during the month – the rules are that they have to be their own work, between 3-15m long, and safe for YouTube, but otherwise anything goes – and they are then screened as a livestream, with viewers reacting in realtime to either vote the films off mid-run, or to let them play in their entirety. The range and breadth of styles and content here is amazing, and if you have any interest at all in cinema or filmmaking this is worth a look – this is the selection from last week, should you be interested in checking it out.
  • The Black Artist Database: I can’t recall I featured this in the past (it used to go under the name ‘Black Bandcamp’), but no matter if I did – it’s a good idea that deserves a re-up. The Black Artist Database is, as the name suggests, a database of black musicians which you can search by location and genre (it’s broadly focused on what it terms ‘underground electronica’, but that’s a pretty broad church tbh and you can find a lot of different styles in here). An excellent resource for finding new musicians to work with on commercial projects.
  • Learn Morse: My girlfriend has a taxidermy fox which we call ‘Morse’ – I miss him very much. That has literally nothing to do with this website, though, which is instead a really nicely-designed tool to help you learn the rudiments of Morse Code through simple repetition and nice, friendly, big fonts. There was a period in my life when I was slightly-obsessed with getting a tattoo of the Morse Code for ‘It Probably Doesn’t Matter’ tattooed on my inner-wrist; is that a terrible idea? It’s probably a terrible idea, isn’t it? Still, I’m not exactly overburdened with things to do at the moment, maybe getting a permanent record of regrettable nihilism will help fill those empty hours between birth and death.
  • Splendour: I can’t in all honesty say I really get VR festivals – I mean, the theory, fine, but the actual experience of them (or at least the few, limited ones I’ve had) have been largely-underwhelming; once you get over the slightly excitement of having a virtual avatar and being able to look around in a virtual world at a virtual performer on a virtual stage, you’re left with the reality that the graphics inevitably look crap, the audio’s never that great and that without the booze and the people and the (let’s be honest) drugs, you might as well just stream some music and play WOW because it would basically be the same thing. Still, if you’re less of a miserable naysayer than I am, you might be interested in checking out Splendour Festival next month; it’s Australian, meaning you’ll be staying up til the wee hours to enjoy it live, but it’s using Sansar which as far as I can tell is the market leader in virtual gigs and the lineup looks pretty decent (apart from the inexplicable appearance of the Killers as headliners, so it could be worth a look.
  • Fcukoff YT: A small piece of code which will change the text on the YouTube ad skip box from ‘Skip’ to ‘Fcuk Off’, allowing you to wave an impotent finger at the digital media industrial complex whilst still feeling the toothgrinding frustration at once again being forced to watch a 10 second promo for B2B accounting software before you can ‘enjoy’ another series of Italian Come Dine With Me (don’t judge). Small, pointless ‘victories’ like this are what we live for, after all.
  • Pitchfork Reviews Explorer: What’s the current status of Pitchform as taste arbiter? I get the impression that it’s very much a dad website now and the sort of thing that young people rather disdain should they in fact be aware of it at all; still, Web Curios is not and has never pretended to be ‘cool’, or indeed ‘young’, and as such feels no qualms recommending this new site, which lets you enter any artist you like and see both their Pitchfork reviews history mapped on a sliding scale from lowest-scoring to highest and which will also show you other albums by other artists that the publication considers to be ‘related’ and which you might therefore like. Which isn’t new as a concept, of course, but the value here depends on the extent to which you feel Pitchfork’s taste and nous matches your own.
  • Mathigon: A website all about maths, presenting complex concepts in geometry, number theory, logorithms and all those things that I never really understood and which I feel slightly-sheepish attempting to talk about, in an engaging, simple and accessible fashion. There are courses and games and, honestly, if your kid is into maths (or struggling with it slightly) then this might be a wonderful resource. It might not, though – I don’t know your kids ffs.
  • Geneva: I know that just because there is A Popular Version of a thing doesn’t mean that people shouldn’t continue to make new versions of a thing to attempt to improve it, or optimise it for different groups of people, but, well, HOW MANY DIFFERENT COMMUNITY MESSAGING PLATFORMS DO WE NEED? Slack, every single social platform in the world, Discord, now this…why the proliferation? Geneva, in its defence, looks very nice, and all the features seem very sensible – groups, rooms, text chat, voice chat, video chat, events, roles and responsibilities…it all seems useful, don’t get me wrong, but it does make me wonder if there’s enough different here to make it fly. Still, if you can’t get on with Discord – actually I can’t get on with Discord; maybe this is for me? – then you might want to check this out as a reasonably-comprehensive-looking alternative.
  • Go Rick Yourself: Is Rick and Morty good? It might be, but it sadly very much falls into the camp of ‘things I might have once enjoyed but which now I know I will never, ever even attempt to consume due to the fact that everything I have seen to do with it on the internet makes me think that its fans are awful’ – which I know is as much my problem rather than said fans’, but, well, it is what it is. Still, if you’re the sort of person who had some sort of minor psychological meltdown at the prospect of some branded tie-in McDonald’s sauce, or who understands what the fcuk ‘pickle rick’ is (I hate the fact that there are parts of my brain occupied with remembering this stuff, honestly; a term I do not understand and do not want to understand but which I am seemingly condemned to carry in my mind until the heat death of the fcuking universe), then you might enjoy this webtoy which lets you create your own character / avatar in the art style of the series.
  • Better Reddit Search: Advanced search for Reddit. Useful for all sorts of things, but you and I both know that the main purpose for this will be the pursuit of whatever appallingly-niche bongo you’re secretly into.
  • Comrade Crackers: Possibly my favourite joke site of the week (BUT IS IT A JOKE???), Comrade Crackers exists for one purpose and one purpose alone – to turn parrots into communists. Load up the site, press play on the Soundcloud file, and leave your parrot to commit the first part of the communist manifesto to memory; over time they will hopefully get to the point where they’ll spontaneously croak out some dialectical nuggets, thereby hastening in some small way the inevitable-but-sadly-delayed collapse of the capitalist superstructure. As the site itself says, it’s parrot praxis! (there’s also a capitalist version, should you instead wish to turn your avian friend into some sort of Randian monstrosity; but don’t do that, do this instead).

By Lauren Hare



  •  Star Turnz: I have no idea who was the first person to popularise this sort of image collage – you know, the ones where you take a bunch of photos of a famous taken from different angles and then run through them quickly so it looks like they’re turning their heads as you watch – but then again neither does anyone else either; such is the ‘joy’ of online attribution and crediting in the marvellous digital age. Still, this is a Twitter account that posts nothing but these, by one Duncan Robson; maybe it was their idea first. Let’s imagine it was, it’s nicer that way.
  • TikTokHot: This is potentially interesting and useful; it’s a rolling chart of what is ‘hot’ (sorry) on TikTok in terms of hashtags, profiles and, most usefully/interestingly, music. It’s powered by a marketing platform so it’s basically a sales tool for their TikTok analytics software – still, it’s a really good way of getting a snapshot of who and what is trending on the platform, particularly given the uniquely-opaque nature of the TikTok culture and the odd little niches you can find yourself in based on whatever the algo thinks you’re into. The music stuff in particularly could be hugely useful, depending on how up-to-date it is; definitely worth keeping an eye on this when considering what tracks to license for your next piece of appalling genz/genalpha-focused advermarketingprcontent.
  • Community Lens: Sort of the exact opposite of the last link in terms of seriousness/vibe, this (can local community data be said to have a ‘vibe’? Probably not tbh, but it’s MY newsletter and MY rules (it’s this sort of attitude that in some part explains Web Curios steadfast refusal to ‘go viral’, isn’t it? Amongst other things). If you do anything to do with local community engagement, or are doing local-level campaign planning, or (even better) if you’re job doesn’t in fact attempting to flog tat to people at all, and you’re just interested, then this is super-useful. Plug in whatever postcodes you want, and this will spit out a bunch of data and maps covering economic status, crime, health stats and all sorts of other things; this is in no way ‘cool’ but is SUCH a great project and a really good, robust piece of digital datawork.
  • The All About Photo Awards: I had never heard of this photo competition before – it invites entries from anyone around the world, and the entry criteria appear to be no more than ‘send us a really good photo, doesn’t really matter what it’s of’ – but there are some absolutely astonishing images here, up there with your SWPAs and your National Geographics and the like. There are some dead bodies in here, be warned, but nothing hugely graphic; I think there are two that stand out for me in particular, one of a corpse being managed by hazmatted workers in Ethopia during COVID, and another of a bottle lit like a Morandi still life, but pick your favourites.
  • Seeing CO2: Do you struggle to conceptualise the enormity of the damage we’re doig to the planet? Is it hard to get a real idea of the volume of carbon dioxide we’re continuing to pump into the atmosphere every second, despite our increasingly-hollow species-wide promises to ‘make a difference’ and ‘do better’ (promises slightly undermined by our continual insistence on BUYING MORE TAT ALL THE FCUKING TIME)? You may find this website helpful, in that case – it lets you drive around an orange landscape in a pleasingly-boxy little car, collecting ‘facts’ about CO2 emissions (there are lots of them! They are bad!) whilst at the same time seeing helpful visualisations of the sheer quantity of the stuff being belched into the skies. I’m not…totally sure what knowing that 100sq Kilotons of CO2 is a quantity larger in mass than the Great Pyramid of Giza does for me, or indeed the world, but I suppose I am sort-of glad that I now do.
  • Slide Ventura: This is very silly, very pointless, and VERY old web. Your enjoyment will be directly-linked to your recollection of, and affection for, Ace Ventura: Pet Detective (turn the volume up).
  • Elocance: Do YOU find you don’t have time to read all the emails and PDFs and documents and THINGS demanded of you by your high-powered executive career? Does this upset you and stress you out? Would you like a MAGICAL TECH SOLUTION? Well GREAT NEWS! Elocance is a tool which takes your documents and does some text-to-audio magic to turn them into a podcast which you can then listen to at your leisure, presumably when at home and needing something to distract you from the horror of your domestic reality. In theory, this is a great idea, particularly for people who find reading dense documentation timeconsuming; in practice, I have…doubts about how well this will work when it comes to turning a ppt into audio. Also, this is exactly the sort of thing which I can imagine being used by bosses who are TOO BUSY to read emails during the day and who will therefore plough through them all on their headphones and then do that really annoying thing of responding to the one-by-one at a distance of about 7h distance. FFS, BOSSES, YOU SH1TS.
  • TurnSignl: If you want an(other) indication of how fundamentally broken the relationship between the police and the people they ‘serve’ is in the US, and in particular the relationship between the police and black people, look no further than the existence of TurnSignl, an app that exists to provide live, on-camera legal advice to anyone in the US who gets pulled over by the police and wants to have a lawyer on hand talking them through the interaction to make sure they don’t get shot dead. “Next time you’re stopped by the police, be safe and be empowered with on-demand legal guidance from an attorney. TurnSignl is an application that offers easy, expert, and affordable legal help at a touch of a button. TurnSignl’s vetted attorneys help guide the entire interaction with law enforcement and their experience allows them to de-escalate police-citizen interactions.” If you can read that without getting a proper pang of ‘the future is broken’ then you’re possibly not thinking about this hard enough – whilst the website makes no explicit reference of who the service is for, it doesn’t take a genius to work out that this is an app made by black people for black people because white people simply don’t have to worry about this in the same way. Horribly depressing.
  • Papercraft Spaceships: Fancy making some intricate papercraft models of space shuttles and space stations and satellites, using nothing more than paper, scissors and glue? Who doesn’t want to have a collection of beautifully-folded replicas of the Apollo space missions hanging from their ceiling? NO FCUKER, THAT’S WHO!
  • Shed of the Year: A regular Web Curios favourite, this year’s Shed of the Year competition features some absolute beauties, not least in the ‘unexpected’ category (SURPRISE SHEDS, MOTHERFCUKER!) – I am particularly fond of ‘Granddad’s Arcade’, and the ‘Creme de Menthe Summer Bar’ but these are all great (and will make you realise that you have done NOTHING with your lockdown, comparatively).
  • RaveDJ: Seeing as we’re now upto the early-00s in the ever-accelerating nostalgia stakes, does that mean that we’re soon to see mashups enjoying a surprise return to prominence? That we’ll get to enjoy classics like this and this again? I do hope so. Til then, though, you can mess around with RaveDJ which lets you pick two tracks from YouTube to smash together in a spastic attempt at ‘mixing’ – the results are inevitably quite terrible but at the same time not quite terrible enough to make you stop trying to make a good one; I can confirm, though, that Napalm Death and Timmy Mallet (feat.Bomballerina) do not a happy partnership make, should any of you be curious.
  • Tier Zoo: If you are into videogames and videogame culture and the way in which people talk about videogames and the idea of ‘the meta’ in gameplay, then this YouTube series which analyses the natural world as though playable characters in a gigantic MMO-type game will amuse you no end. Played pleasingly-straight, this talks about birds in the context of the ‘cenozoic balance patch’, or elephants in the contecxt of whether they are game-breakingly-overpowered mid-game units – if these turns of phrase mean nothing to you then you may not slip quite so seamlessly into this as I did, but I promise you this is funny even if you don’t quite get the vibe.
  • Picrew: OK, this is all in Japanese and I am relying on a slightly-iffy Google Translate to get the detail here, but as far as I can tell this is just a tool to let you create your own slightly-anime avatar – but my GOD is the creation engine overpowered. You have to register to use it, but once you’re in you have a literally astonishing array of elements to mix and match as you see fit; check out the Google image results to get an idea of the range. If you’re willing to put a bit of time and effort in, you can make something genuinely impressive and reasonably-unique to use wherever and however you wish – if nothing else, you could pass time when you’re meant to be working by creating an avatar for each of your colleagues (there is no WAY they could reprimand you for timewasting when your reason was SO CUTE).
  • Anti-Waste: I really like the idea behind this company – it makes lamps out of old umbrellas, which it disassembles and combines with electrics to create some rather beautiful (if slightly-’I live in a warehouse, you know, and have lots of coffeetable books, and one of those esoteric magazine subscriptions that sends me a different limited-edition Scandinavian interiors bible each month’; you know what I mean) lights. They cost around £200, which is obviously a lot of money but which doesn’t feel insane for something that’s not mass-produced and which is Good For The Planet (in the general sense).
  • Metasub: This is very much one of those things which is right at the edge of my ability to properly understand it; from what I can make out, this is the website of a project designed to attempt to identify the biological indicators of urban spaces. “Just as there is a standard and measurement of temperature, air pressure, wind currents– all of which are considered in the design of the built environment– the microbial ecosystem is just as dynamic and just as integral and should be integrated into the design of cities. By developing and testing standards for the field and optimizing methods for urban sample collection, DNA/RNA isolation, taxa characterization, and data visualization, the MetaSUB consortium is pioneering an unprecedented study of urban mass-transit systems and cities around the world.” So basically attempting to take the biological/bacterial ‘temperature’ of urban spaces and mass transit systems around the world, which is AMAZING – I mean, I would love to know what the microbial makeup of the tube says, for example, or what the microflora of Kensington is like compared to that of Catford. Can we use this to make TUBE CHEESE???? Can someone, er, explain this to me in words I can actually understand?
  • Web Badges World: A collection of the small, often animated, badges that used to accompany Web 1.0 sites, used to give an idea of their content or their owners membership of a specific online community or webring or similar. I know it’s easy to scoff at this sort of digital memorialisation of the seemingly-trivial, but for many early(ish) internet users, these sorts of things engendered a real sense of community and belonging in the same sort of way as patches sewn on stained denim (but, er, objectively a bit less cool, fine) and as such they’re very much worth preserving and remembering. I would really like Twitter to add the ability to add one of these, custom designed, to one’s bio – come on ffs, no one is going to pay for Twitter Blue, get on with the important stuff instead lads.
  • Wet Pants Denim: Have YOU ever wanted to film an hilarious / terrifying scene in which someone wets themselves, but don’t want to actually get them to wet themselves and aren’t sure how to mock it up convincingly? Do YOU know someone with a public p1ss fetish who would really appreciate the idea of you wetting yourself in public, only you don’t actually want to wet yourself in public? Well you’re in luck! Wet Pants Denim is the premium (only?) online purveyor of ‘jeans that look like the wearer has wet themselves, except they really haven’t!’, and their garments are a knock-down $70 plus shipping! I sort of wish I had affiliate marketing on Curios at times like this, as I can only imagine the number of you who will be desperately throwing your credit card details at these people.
  • I Fcuked My Computer: Has there ever been a sadder url in Curios? I posit that there has not. IFMY (I don’t want to have to type it out again, is too sad) is ‘an erotic indie game’ which in practice is a couple of Telegram sexbots, one male and one female, which you can ‘interact’ with in ‘sexy’ fashion and oh my god no it’s just too miserable. I can’t quite tell if there’s some sort of ‘BIG IDEA’ here or whether it’s just a not-very-good w4nking aid, but, whatever you may decide to do with this, DO NOT SEND IT ANY NUDES. Web Curios accepts no responsibility for pictures of your junk being used to blackmail you at some future point in time. This is absolutely filthy, FYI, so be prepared (it is also perhaps the least-erotic thing I have ever experienced, though maybe I’m wrong and it’s actually super-hot and I am the weird one here; I can’t really tell anymore).
  • Palworld: I don’t usually feature paid-for videogames in here, let alone ones that aren’t even out yet, but the trailer for this floated across my field of vision this week and I was floored. Palworld looks like a Pokemon knock-off, from the creature design to the palette to the art style, and contains many of the series’ classic tropes – capture creatures, bond with them, explore a fantasy world, do battle… – and quite a few things that seem…well…a bit off. Exploit the animals! Revel in the absence of labour laws preventing you from working them to the bone! Use them as meat shields! Steal their eggs! This is a WONDERFUL extension of the thing that anyone who’s spent more than 5 minutes thinking about the concept of Pokemon has landed on at least once – to whit, am I (the player) the bad guy here? Am I…exploiting these creatures? Isn’t this basically dog fighting but cute? Even if you don’t like games, I encourage you to watch the trailer as it’s tonally fascinating.
  • Feels: Last of this week’s miscellaneous links is this simple game, which is basically Where’s Wally? but with emoji rather than a shy, bespectacled man who probably just wants to be left in peace ffs. More fun than it should be, and definitely good for 15 minutes of timewasting at work (also, literally any retail brand with a reasonable catalogue could rip this off using images of its products, which actually isn’t a terrible idea now I think of it that will be £1k please thankyou).

By Max-O-Matic



  • Endless Svmmer: An aesthetic that we’ve already seen rinsed hard by the people with their ‘Vacation Inc’ project, this peddles that 80s WASP luxe-by-the-pool-on-the-beach-high-cut-swimsuit vibe very hard indeed. Not sure what the project is exactly, but there’s an accompanying fake newspaper and a Discord – follow the rabbithole…


  • Kindafiction: The digital design of Agatha Yu, whose pastel-coloured work goes from 2-3d and who has a genuinely lovely style to it; the sort of stuff that really looks like it would be hugely pleasingly tactile despite existing only onscreen, if you know what I mean.
  • Polly Pick Pocket: An Insta feed devoted to Polly Pocket, the tiny doll playsets that were (and quite possibly still are) inexplicably popular with girls when I was a kid (Transformers are OBVIOUSLY better, don’t @ me). This may tickle some deep nostalgiawrinkle in your lizard brain, or it may not. Click and see!
  • Dice Ideas: Portraits, made of dice! Lots of dice! Being used as pixels! It’s a cool effect and the sort of thing which you could probably do worse than bookmark for future campaign use.
  • Cult Class: Collage art, but a decent example of what is (to my mind) an increasingly played-out medium (that sounds wankier than I mean it to; it’s just that this particular aesthetic has become SO prevalent over the past few years that it feels like it needs something of a rest or a refresh to become interesting again).
  • Monsterlool: The second Insta this week to be dedicated to ‘toys from the past’, this account is dedicated to Bratz dolls – photos of them, drawing other people as Bratz dolls, that sort of thing. You may enjoy this because of your connection to the dolls in the past; I found it fascinating because the overall facial aesthetic of Bratz, derided as ‘weird’ and ‘plastic’ and ‘unnatural’ by many when the dolls first came out in the early-00s, is now…just what people look like? It’s basically the instaface, no?


  • What The Silicon Valley Idealists Got Wrong: I know, I know, you don’t need to read another piece about ‘why the web is bad and social media is evil and not what we were promised at all’ – and yet, I promise you that this article by Nicholas Carr is worth your time. To be clear, I don’t particularly enjoy the style of the piece or Carr’s tone, which feels ever-so-slightly paternalistic and a touch patronising; also, I appreciate that a lot of the assertions which Carr makes about the effect of the web on society could almost certainly be countered with equally-respectable-sounding academic citations; still, though, the two main points he makes really resonated with me. In summary, Carr draws a distinction between information and knowledge, and connection and community, and argues that the people who built the social web confused the former with the latter in both instances with…damaging effects.
  • Generation Alpha – The Shrewdest Consumers Ever: This article is included not because it’s hugely well-written or revelatory, but more because it made me so deeply sad and miserable about the world in which I live and my role in it that I felt compelled to share it with you so that you too could ‘enjoy’ the sensations it engendered in me. It’s basically about how luxury brands are targeting younger and younger consumers in China, and how they are going about it, and contains some honestly-chilling lines – I mean, look at this one: “Quite naturally, Gen Alphas have inherited the hedonic values of their parents by accompanying them to shopping malls, gaining early exposure to luxury brands.” Or this one: “A Louis Vuitton bag may be out of their reach, but consumerism is integral to a child’s identity” Is this ok? It doesn’t feel ok.
  • Liveshopping Politics: A fascinating portrait of the politicisation of livestream shopping in China – although on reflection not one that should probably have come as a surprise to me because, well, China. Viya is widely-regarded as one of THE streamers in China, a woman who can shift tens of millions of sales with a recommendation and who is increasingly being used to peddle soft-propaganda for the state as part of her daily streams. It was inevitable that this was going to happen – the state expands to fill the media available to it, after all – but there’s still something weird about what I can only describe as ‘politically-weaponised livestream qvc’. Still, in many respects this isn’t hugely different from the government in the UK paying influencers to peddle public health messaging, I guess (although, er, the influencers in question are less likely to go on an enforced reeducation holiday should their messaging not pass muster).
  • Reckonings: This is an excellent article which is as relevant for us in the UK as it is for the American audience it was written for. It looks at the way in which Germany confronted its actions during World War II as a nation, how it spent several decades forcing itself to look right in the eyes of Nazism and the Holocaust so it could get a better understanding of how it happened and why it happened, and how the country and society should talk about it and process its guilt, and how to work to make sure that it never happened again. It compares this with the way in which the US has singularly failed to do the same with its history of slavery, and how that lack of reckoning has led to the current difficulties faced by the country when it comes to talking about its racial history and how to work to address the ills it wrought. Which, one might argue, could equally be argued about the UK and its legacy of colonialism – or indeed Italy and its fascist history (something which has never been adequately been addressed and which lack of critical thinking about leads to a modern world in which it’s seemingly considered entirely ok for modern Italians to declare themselves ‘fascists’ without any shame whatsoever). This is a really important piece of writing imho.
  • Sinofuturism and Chinese Science Fiction: FULL DISCLOSURE – I haven’t read all of the stories in this anthology of essays, because, well, this is basically a whole academic journal’s worth of stuff and I am not quite sufficiently interested in the subject matter to spend 4 hours on it. Still, the one essay I did read (the snappily-titled “Sinofuturism as Inverse Orientalism: China’s Future and the Denial of Coevalness”) is super-interesting, and if you’re one of the many people over the past few years who have read Liu Cixin’s Three Body Problem series then you will find something fascinating in here to latch onto (and also, if your job involves attempting to make sense of China and Chinese culture, the essays in here touch on a lot of broad topics that might be of interest).
  • The Bitcoin Conference: I don’t imagine for a second that it is fair of me to judge the value of a conference by the photos of what its attendees look like; that said, scrolling through this piece and examining the pictures, it’s fair to say that I didn’t get the overwhelming impression that the assembled masses were some of the world’s…winners. Don’t get me wrong – there were a lot of very wealthy and successful people speaking, but the huddled masses hanging on their words rather gave the impression of being at the bottom of the pyramid rather than its apex (IT’S ALL A SCAM). This is a suitably-view-from-above take in the NYT; the truest thing in here is the quote from the owner of the venue that hosted the whole shebang in which he compares the whole thing to a religious movement – yep, one of those televangelical ones where they pass a hat down the aisles every 5 minutes and you’re invited to buy into high-tier Jesus membership for a low, low $500. IT’S A FCUKING CULT FFS.
  • What Happens To Your Bitcoin When You Die?: Worth reading if you’re currently HODL-ing and want to be able to hand this on to your kids or godchildren in the hope that theirs will be the generation that can finally cash out of the goddamned ponzi scheme, or if you work with the sort of brand or company which could reasonably make some light PR hay out of creating THE WORLD’S FIRST BITCOIN-FRIENDLY WILL (PROBABLY ON THE BLOCKCHAIN). That will be another £1,000 in consultancy fees, please and thankyou.
  • Twitch At 10: Underrated as a transformative website imho, Twitch’s influence is yet to be fully realised but, as this piece points out, it’s one of the central building blocks of current conception of ‘the creator economy’ (ffs) and has radically changed the way in which a significant proportion of the world thinks entertainment is or can be. It’s also the platform which has done the most to normalise the sort of parasocial relationships which characterise ‘creation and consumption’ in 2021, for better or ill, and is (I think) going to be seen as one of Bezos’ smartest Amazon acquisitions a few years down the line.
  • Why Is Everyone So Mad at Gabbie Hannah?: I had no idea who Gabbie Hannah was before reading this – this is neither a good thing or a bad thing, just something I’m pointing out as it’s another example of the infinitely-siloed nature of modern culture (monolithic and yet fragmented – we need a new analogy for this. Giant’s Causeway? No, not that, it’s fcuking terrible, Jesus) – and now I do know I feel nothing but pity for them. They don’t seem like a very nice person, to be clear, but they also don’t seem very well, or very happy, or like they are going to be ok any time soon, and more than anything this made me feel (and not for the first time recently) that there is something so so so so rotten at the heart of the performative creative life that harms people on a fairly deep level and that the psychological toll of this constant performance (which we all enact, obviously, though to a lesser extent than these pros) is probably going to come back to bite us all in a few years’ time.
  • Welcome To Planet E-Girl: Or ‘Is This Empowerment? Pt. X of Y’. This Wired article looks at the concept of the E-Girl in streaming – you may not know the term, but you’ll know the aesthetic they embody, all pastels and ahegao-faces and kitten-ears and knee-socks and basically the sort of look that inhabits some sort of weird hinterland between otaku wankpillows, anime-cat-women, camgirls and hyperpop lead singers, and which is designed to create the sort of lucrative parasocial relationships that are the goal of many streamers but which have their own oddly-problematice dynamics and cultural roles at their heart – and attempts to unpack it (with, it must be said, limited success). Interesting enough, but mainly made me feel…icky, if I’m honest with you.
  • The TeachInfluencers: Or, how TikTok thirst traps are now dominating language learning in Brazil. Or, more accurately, how ALL businesses will be parasocial one day. This is really interesting – the piece looks at how a bunch of English teachers in Brazil have become super-popular on TikTok, combining a strong content game with good looks, nice voices, a punishing content-production schedule and, oh yes, some light linguistic instruction. Is this the future of everything? We’ll base all our future purchase decisions on whether or not the seller is able to create a deep and meaningful human connection with us via the medium of to-camera first-person vids with impeccable lighting and the odd thirst trap thrown in? I am so fcuked, if so.
  • Microfishing: Fishing seems like a really relaxing way to spend a day, aside from the worms and the occasional danger that you might catch something and then have to spend several unpleasant moments removing a barbed spike from the mouth of another living being while it gasps for breath and flounders in terror (yes, fine, angling, I know). This is a look at the growing pastime of microfishing – that is, going fishing for VERY SMOL fish, which are more numerous and often easier to catch, and are generally sort of fascinating. It’s a good piece – interesting, full of cool photos of fish, and smart enough to make you realise as you read it that it’s not so much about fishing as it is about the fact that microfishing could be read as yet another sign that we’ve really fcuked things up, nature-wise. Happy fishing!
  • You Ain’t Never Been No Little Girl, Taylor Townsend: Tennis player Taylor Townsend, a few years back a top-ranked US junior who’s still on the circuit but who, it might have been argued, didn’t quite fulfil her early-years promise, writes movingly on what it was like being a black girl on the Junior Tour at the age of 16 when your face and your body and who you are doesn’t quite fit with what the world around you seems to expect of a tennis player, and how that made her feel, and what that did to her, and how she responded. As with all the Player’s Tribune pieces, this is a brilliant piece of writing that really captures Taylor’s voice; given the recent treatment of Naomi Osaka, this feels like a timely read about the sport deals with people who don’t fit its traditional model.
  • Calm: A brilliant profile of the ‘mindfulness’ app Calm (have I mentioned how much I fcuking hate the term ‘mindfulness’? I really, really fcuking hate it), its steady rise to proper global phenomenon status, and the people behind it – Alex ‘Million Dollar Homepage’ Tew, and Michael Acton Smith. Couple of things here that are worth noting; firstly, the irony of two very rich men who spent a large part of the 00s doing an awful lot of cocaine (this is a fact, but one which I am prepared to excise from the record should the lawyers come calling) waxing lyrical about the benefits of calm meditation; and secondly, Acton Smith’s excited insistence that Calm can pivot into all sorts of products like films and music and candles and and and and…look, Michael is a smart and in many ways visionary man, and he is far richer and more successful than I will ever be, but he also absolutely killed Moshi Monsters by focusing on an endless line of brand-devaluing merch deals and brand extensions rather than the actual business-critical task of making the thing work on mobile, so forgive me if I watch this coming brand expansion with skeptical interest (feel free to remind me of this paragraph when we’re all sleeping on Calm mattresses and going on Calm holidays in a decade’s time).
  • Finding Satoshi: The reason I know Michael is that I worked with him on the end of his ARG Perplex City (we did the PR for the BIG REVEAL ANNOUNCEMENT, when someone won £100k for finding a cube buried in a forest); this article in WIRED is about how the game’s hardest, most esoteric puzzle was solved. This is everything that I loved about the idea of Perplex City – I can honestly say that being involved in that, even tangentially, absolutely changed my life in some small ways, introducing me to ideas and theories I would never have encountered otherwise, and it’s still one of the loveliest relics of the ‘old’ internet (pre-socials) that I can think of.
  • The Madman and the Dwarf: A short history of the friendship between Toulouse Lautrec and Vincent Van Gogh; it’s fair to say that neither sounds like the sort of person you’d relish hanging out with, but this contains so many wonderful details and occasional laugh (wince) out loud moments that it’s worth reading despite the slightly-unappealing nature of both its subjects.
  • May You Live Long Enough To Become The Standard Of Beauty: Blessing J Christopher writes about the collision of Western beauty ideals, propagated throughout the world in the 90s and 00s, and life in Nigeria, and what it feels like when what you are is not what you are told is beautiful. Embarrassingly this is something I had never, ever thought about before; this is a gorgeous essay.
  • The Traveller and his Baggage: Ok, this is VERY VERY LONG, but if you want to read a truly amazing story of a mass murderer, the French resistance, a Paris-wide manhunt, police entrapment and a hugely-entertaining trial, this is PERFECT. Honestly, its length is totally justified by the end – this is so much fun (if that’s not a massively-inappropriate to thing to say about an essay with mass murder as its subject and the second World War as its backdrop).
  • A Star of the New York Times: The first of two superb pieces of short fiction this week, this one is about the ‘friendship’ between two journalists in the late-90s, and is SUCH a good example of the genre; the tone and style is very much ‘US 20th Century literary fiction’, fine, but if you like that (and I do), then this is superb.
  • You Owe Me: This, by Eliza Smith, is a far more modern-feeling piece of writing which imagines a future in which men have finally been made to pay reparations to women for the microagressions (and the macro ones) they perpetrate. The skill here is in making this a far lighter read than it could have been given the premise; this will stick with you for days post-reading, I promise you (and could form the basis for some interesting domestic discussions).
  • The Man: A Compilation: Finally in this week’s longreads, a poem by Rebecca Hazelton. I sent this to a friend earlier in the week, who replied that it appeared the author had met their ex-husband; I would imagine every woman who reads this will identify with it to varying degrees, and every man will feel a varying number of painful shocks of recognition (and if you don’t, well, you might want to think about that). Superb, uncomfortable writing.

By Natalia Gonzales Martin


Webcurios 04/06/21

Reading Time: 33 minutes

SALVE! Benvenuti a una nuova edizione di Web Curios, la rubrica settimanale di ‘cose che ho trovato sull’internet’ piu’ comprensiva (o almeno piu menefreghista dal punto di vista editoriale) del mondo!

Actually, no, let’s not do that; I don’t think I can afford to alienate all 17 of you by suddenly pivoting to Italian (and badly-written Italian at that). Let’s try again.

Hello! Web Curios, for the foreseeable future, is coming to you from Rome (before you get jealous of the glamour, trust me when I assure you that there really is none) – I promise you, though, you really won’t notice the difference (other than perhaps a few references here and there to how much I fcuking despise this country’s bureaucracy and said bureaucracy’s inability to move on from 1990s-era webdesign). It is hot, I am lonely and I miss my girlfriend. Still, on the plus side I get to go downstairs and get pizza for lunch as soon as I hit send on this fcuker.

So, without further ado, on with the words and the links; be nice, I’m feeling a touch on the fragile side. I’m still Matt, this is still Web Curios, but everything else appears to be in something of a state of terminal flux.

By Amanda Ba



  • Synthetic Messages: This is SUCH a clever idea, and one which I am very annoyed (but, if I’m honest with myself, entirely unsurprised) that I have never thought of before. It’s a really simple concept (though I imagine the execution is…er…tricky) – Synthetic Messages is a project which aims to promote news about climate change by working to convince news outlets across the world that the stories they post about how we’re fcuking the Earth seven ways from Sunday are the ones that deliver the most bang-per-buck for advertisers – with bots! Effectively underpinning the whole thing is a botnet trained to find articles online which report the climate emergency and then click the everliving fcuk out of all the ads said bots find on said articles, thereby (in theory at least) sending said articles soaring up the publications’ internal lists of ‘stuff what makes us money’. As the project’s authors explain, “In an algorithmic media landscape the value of news is determined by engagement statistics. Media outlets rely on advertising revenue earned through page visits and ad clicks. These engagement signals produce patterns of value that influence what stories and topics get future coverage. Public narratives around existential issues like climate change are shaped by these interwoven algorithmic and economic logics, logics that are presently leveraged by the fossil fuel industry.” SO MANY APPLICATIONS FOR THIS! My immediate thought is to wonder whether it is technically illegal to apply the same tech for any article which includes a positive reference to your client or business, thereby tricking news organisations into thinking that writing anilingual puffpieces about Company X is the best way to arrest the terminal decline of their business, but I’m sure you clever, creative folk can come up with more fun ways in which to rip this idea off. SO GOOD.
  • Twitter Blue: I tell you what, not having to include a section on s*c**l m*d** at the top of Curios each week really has made waking up at 6am each Friday to write this fcuking thing slightly less unpleasant – hey, digimongs! Turns out that stopping pretending to care about this stuff really is good for your soul! Still, on occasion stuff happens that feels worth commenting on – in this instance, it’s the partial rollout of Twitter’s ‘Premium’ service, Twitter Blue, launched yesterday in Australia and Canada and which gives users willing to pony up a few quid a month a set of…largely-underwhelming new features. You’ll read a lot about the undo button, which gives you a window of regret after hitting ‘publish’ before your Tweet hits the ether, and the ability to search your bookmarks, and to unroll threads in-app, but to my mind the most interesting part of this (so far strangely unreported) is the fact that paying cashmoney for Twitter grants you access to ACTUAL REAL HUMANS to deal with your complaints (as they describe it, ‘dedicated subscription customer support’). Which, let’s be clear, is basically saying ‘yeah, if you pay us then we’ll pay proper attention to the racial abuse or general trolling you’re being subjected to’. Which…doesn’t seem great? Or fair? Or like the sort of thing that should really be going unremarked?
  • Endless Letter: A Russian webproject that collects fragments of letters written by soldiers from the front throughout the second world war (from ‘41-’45). Fair warning, these are slightly devastating, and I was basically leaking from the eyes from the opening cinematic. I appreciate that there’s possibly a degree of stereotype-projection here (there really ought to be a word for this – the ascription of certain perceived national characteristics to historical materials – and in fact there might well be, but I have no idea what it might be if there is), but I think there’s something quite perfectly, bleakly…well…Russian about the prose in these missives.
  • The Field: A POINTLESS AND OVERWORKED LARGE-SCALE CORPORATE WEB PROJECT! I do, as you know, love me one of these. The Field is a project by the Wall Street Journal’s ‘Custom Events’ team – in fairness, they’ve probably not had the best of years, and credit to them for pivoting to digital like this – which presents a PSEUDO-VR IN-BROWSER EXPERIENCE (which you could also experience with a headset if you have one – you won’t want to, but you can)! Two of them, in fact – one looking at the way in which the pandemic has affected the environment, and the other a sort of guided meditation type thing, designed to explore ‘wellness’ (GIVE ME FCUKING STRENGTH CAN WE STOP USING THIS STUPID FCUKING MEANINGLESS TERM PLEASE?) via the medium of, er, a voice over and some abstract blue graphics. There’s all sorts of grandiose talk here about creating a meeting space online, and STORYTELLING, but, honestly, what we have here are two very, very dull ‘experiences’, one of which takes 4 minutes to say ‘nature is healing!’ and the other which I simply couldn’t stand for longer than half of its eleven minute runtime. Look, if you’re a violently-rich company considering paying the WSJ to make you a digital event…don’t! Pay me a fraction of that amount instead to tell you you’re a moron instead!
  • The La Liga Superfan Sweepstakes: This is rather odd. La Liga Superfan Sweepstakes (trips off the tongue!) is part of a wider initiative, by a company called Greenpark Sports (‘the mobile metaverse for sports fans!’) which invites fans of Spanish football from across the world to create a (pleasingly-customisable) little CG avatar with which they can…well, in the first instance, get the chance to win a football shirt, but more broadly the ‘appeal’ here is ‘to use your avatar to compete in minigames and quizzes to win points for your team on a global leaderboard, and to wander around a virtual world talking to other superfan avatars about…stuff’. Greenpark sports obviously have ambitions to become THE people who make pleasingly-customisable CG avatars for sports fans; I can’t in all honesty imagine why anyone would invest time or energy doing this purely for the opportunity to earn virtual points for their team so said team can climb a virtual leaderboard, but then again what do I know (rhetorical)? Realistically, though, this is the sort of thing that might well end up becoming popular in some form or another, but (and this is where I obviously guarantee that this will become HUGELY successful) it won’t be on this platform, which will eat an awful lot of investor money and will be completely forgotten by 2023.
  • Poparazzi: The problem with taking a week off Curios, other than linkonstipation (wow, that’s an unpleasant portmanteau that I will try really hard to never, ever use again) is the risk that stuff that is all buzzy and zeitgeisty and new when I find it becomes old and played-out by the time I write it up. So it feels slightly with Poparazzi, which very much had its moment in the sun last week but which seems rather to have had the shine taken off in the past few days. Still, seeing as it was On The List, Poparazzi is AN Other photo sharing app, whose gimmick is NO FILTERS and NO SELFIES and basically just being a place where you post photos of other people and they post photos of you – the idea being that it both provides an unfiltered portrait of your life (LOL! Can we all accept that ‘verité’ as a concept in media is a bit dead) and also centres you as the MAIN CHARACTER (hence the name, DO YOU SEE?). Anyway, I could give you a detailed rundown of What It All Means And Why I Think It’s Bunkum (although in all seriousness I do think there’s something vaguely-interesting in the whole ‘you are the centre of this world’ vibe of the whole thing) but Ed Zitron did it already, rather well, here.
  • Tianenmen Trolls: Thanks to Ged for sending this my way; it’s a project by Taiwanese organisation researching digital surveillance and authoritarianism which examines the different ways in which the Chinese state each year acts to suppress and derail online discussion of the Tianenmen Square massacre on its anniversary – which, lest we forget, is today (June 4). “On June 4th every year, the world comes together to mourn the Tiananmen Square Massacre, grieve the pro-democracy protesters who were killed, and condemn the totalitarian rule of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). However, a propaganda drive to whitewash the Tiananmen massacre also kicks in at the same time on social media and private messenger groups, to speak up for the CCP and to attack the students in the pro-democracy movement. Doublethink Lab has collated messages intended to whitewash the CCP’s atrocities, and were able to categorize them into three groups, each with their own motives and narrative strategies.” This is really, really interesting – it’s presented really well, but most-fascinating is its analysis of the differing ways in which the information is used and manipulated by the State to attempt to deny and deflect the story. Obviously fascinating for anyone interested in China and its use of the web, but equally useful for any of you working in or around misinformation, propaganda, trolls, fringe politics and the like.
  • Who Is We?: Thanks to Lauren for this (which, by the way, came via her excellent newsletter which I really do recommend – it always contains stuff I have NEVER seen, which I promise you is no mean feat – and which you can sub to by emailing her here) – it is WONDERFUL (but I confess to only having a…vague grasp of what the everliving fcuk it’s actually about). Part of the Dutch entry to the Venice Architecture Biennale, Who Is We?…oh, look, here: “Who is We? questions the dominant structures and histories we inhabit and inherit, presenting an urbanism that is female, of colour, Indigenous, queer, and multispecies.” Clear? Leaving aside the slightly enervating use of international artanddesignwank English in the descriptors, the site is a joy to explore and the UI – painting your way into discovery of the various elements that make up the exhibition (which, honestly, will make more sense when you click) is glorious and something I have never really seen before, and once you get into the individual elements there is so much interesting thinking about space and place, and the intersection of both with gender identities (look, there’s literally no way of talking about this stuff without sounding like a pseud, just go with it). Beautiful.
  • This Bacon Does Not Exist: My initial reaction on seeing GAN-generated art, particularly stuff that’s been trained on portraits of faces or people, is ‘wow, that’s very Bacon-esque’ – and lo, it came to pass that Shardcore took the Bacon canon, fed it to a machine and saw what it spat out. These are beautifully unsettling, horribly lovely images, and the greatest compliment I can pay them is that they wouldn’t look out of place amongst the Tate’s collection.
  • Authentic Artists: ‘Authentic’ is an interesting word which I feel is doing quite a lot of heavy lifting in this particular context – Authentic Artists is a company which basically makes virtual musicians – the website itself is a bit light on detail, but it’s worth checking out the sizzle reel linked to on the homepage before checking out the Twitch channel, which gives you a better idea of what it’s all about. In summary, it seems that they create DJ ‘characters’ in CG, which perform sets mixing real tracks and their ‘own’ compositions; there’s obviously some money behind this somewhere, as the CG is competent and the latest Twitch stream had actual proper semi-superstar DJ Mike Shinoda as hypeman, but I still struggle to see what the appeal is of watching something that looks like it’s escaped from Crash Bandicoot pretending to mix and crossfade. That said, this week I also came across FN Meka, who is a virtual rapper and whose numbers on TikTok are fcuking insane – obviously this another one of those weird, increasingly-common examples of a totally different web that I am completely unaware of, existing in parallel with mine, but I was astonished at how polished and popular the stuff was (though it really does still look like videogame cutscenes rather than anything bigger, to my eyes at least). I think there’s going to be a breakout digital character doing brand work soon-ish; I also found out about Magalu this week, who’s the digital avatar of a Brazilian chain of shops and who’s also racking up some serious numbers on TikTok, which makes me think it can’t be long til a big international brand makes their own and goes big on this sort of thing. It all makes Lil Miquela look a bit shonky tbh.
  • Chair Simulator: MSCHF’s current drop, this is literally what it says on the tin – a videogame, available free on Steam, which lets you ‘play’ at sitting in a chair. ‘Sit, earn points, buy chairs’ is the basic gameplay loop here – I presume that this is some sort of pointed satire of something or other, but I am more impressed by the fact that the Steam page suggests it’s been downloaded multiple thousands of times, and that 1200+ people have felt motivated enough to write a review of this, which suggests that MSCHF has at its disposal a significant coterie of online ironists who will literally do anything the company tells them to.
  • AJ Tracey X Spotify: You’ll need to open this on mobile to play it – it’s sort-of worth it, for a 3 minute distraction from whatever it is you’re meant to be doing, but as ever with these sorts of things I was left wishing that the developers had maybe gone a little further. This is a promo for AJ Tracey’s latest album, the basketball-inspired ;Flu Game’, and it lets you play a short street basketball game on your phone whilst listening to snippets of album tracks via Spotify. Except, well, it’s all over in literally 3 minutes, it’s a bit shonky, and even Tracey sounds bored to fcuking tears by it as he delivers the instructions – seriously, it’s worth playing to the end just to hear how underwhelmed he sounds as he checks out of the experience (apologies to Mr Tracey if this is just what he sounds like). There are SO many talented devs out there making SO many interesting and fun indiegames across so many different genres and platforms that it just seems like a wasted opportunity to cobble together something this perfunctory, is the thing (it’s not bad, to be clear, it just feels like it could have been a lot better).
  • Jamie Janković x White Pube: The White Pube are ace – if you’re not aware, they’re a pair of art…ists? Critics? Enthusiasts? Whatever, art people, who for the past few years have been engaged in some of the most interesting and trenchant criticism of the London (and UK, and global) arts scene, from the perspective of the sort of (young, non-male, non-white) people who don’t normally get to ‘do’ arts criticism; they’re also refreshingly interested in taking an arts perspective on the sort of media that are usually disdained by the trad scene (games, social media, etc etc). This month they’ve given over their website to the ‘trans femme/non-binary filmmaker slash artist slash poet’ Jamie Janković, who shares their experiences of how videogames and digital worlds have enabled them to explore their own sense of self and gender. Super-interesting for anyone interested in games, art, gender issues and the general idea of ‘I’ in virtual space (and who isn’t interested in the general idea of the ‘I’ in virtual space? NO FCUKER, THAT’S WHO!)
  • GNOD: I’m slightly embarrassed that I haven’t come across or featured GNOD before, given it seems to have been around since about 2002 – still, better late than never. GNOD is a proper labour of love, and a super-interesting long-running project by Marek Gibney who has been working for years on developing his own series of recommendation engines for music, art, films and literature (and ‘stuff you can buy’) – the site links to all the various different recommendation engines he’s built, which as far as I can tell he continues to build and add to. I had a play around with the art and music ones, and they are a really interesting alternative to the larger algo-led networks; like a hand-knitted Pandora or Spotify or something. I am slightly in awe of the effort and endeavour on display here, not to mention the intelligence underpinning it all.
  • Spacecasts: Regular readers will by now know that I abhor the podcast (I CAN READ FASTER THAN YOU CAN TALK WHY WILL YOU NOT LET ME JUST READ YOU SELFISH FCUKS???), but for those of you who don’t, and for those of you who have the terrible FOMO that Clubhouse and Twitter Spaces engender (the thing with both of these being that they are LIVE and you HAVE TO BE THERE) then Spacecasts might well be of interest. It’s a podcast series that offers selected Twitter Space and Clubhouse conversations as a ‘listen again’ service – given the nature of both, this is only likely to be of interest if you have a burning desire to hear people talk frothily about THE TRANSFORMATIVE POWER OF TECHNOLOGY and stuff like that, but should you feel a stirring in your loins at such a prospect then, well, fill your boots.
  • Eezy: Eezy is the latest in the seemingly-infiniite line of apps that promise to use ‘AI’ to help you fill all those empty hours between birth and death, offering you personalised recommendations for stuff do do in the city you’re in or, more tragically to my mind, in your own home. I don’t mean to be rude, but if you need a machine to tell you what to do with your time in your own house then I think you perhaps need to take a long, hard look at the direction your life has taken. “How do you make the right choice of where to go in the city, with so many options?” Oh, I don’t know, maybe display some base-level curiosity? Jesus wept.
  • Gamestop Does NFTs: I have nothing to say about this, other than “ahahahahahahahahahahahahaha”. If this ever sees the light of day I will be very, very surprised indeed.
  • Random Website: A site that will take you to another, apparently entirely-random, website at the press of a button. What’s nice about this is a) that the sites really do seem to be random; I have no idea how they are selected, but I got sent to the Dusseldorf Chamber of Commerce just now and I refuse to believe anyone would have programmed that in; and b) you can, should you desire, choose from a dropdown from a selection of site types, such as ‘blog’, ‘memes’, ‘wiki’, and, inevitably, ‘nsfw’. I would STRONGLY ADVISE AGAINST choosing the NSFW option, not least because I don’t think any of these have been vetted and I don’t want to feel responsible for you either contracting some unpleasant malware or alternatively being jailed for being sent somewhere borderline-illegal. Caveat emptor, as ever.
  • The Big Picture Photo of the Year: Beautiful nature photos – my personal favourite’s a toss-up between the mouth-to-mouth crows and the seal with mask, but pick your own!
  • Sophisticated Company Name Generator: I imagine this is made by a North American – this is based  solely on the fact that it uses English place names as its base, and I know that lots of Americans have a sort of ‘oh my gosh that is SO CUTE!’ attitude to English place names like Chipping Sodbury and Little Malling and suchlike – and I wasn’t expecting to enjoy it, but I am an idiot because it turns out that you really can make GREAT business names from English places. BRB, off to register ‘Risley Elton’ as an upscale crockery business.
  • Anonymous Cubed: A Twitter feed which shares panels from a new comic strip, drawn by Hank Pattison and Zeta Ray Zac, all about the adventures of the eponymous, cube-headed Dadaist detective. It’s worth clicking through to the links in the bio and checking out the full strips; there are only a few, but the art style’s lovely and I laughed out loud in parts; fine, this may not be a ringing endorsement (I am slightly hysterical at present), but I think this is worth checking out.

By Barbara Kruger



  • Steve Keene: I don’t know whether Keene can be counted as an ‘outsider artist’ – after all, his work’s been used on album covers by bands you might actually have heard of, and he’s got a Wikipedia entry and everything. He could, though, have legitimate claim to being the most prolific painter working today – estimates suggest that he’s produced literally hundreds of thousands of works over a career spanning 5 decades, using a technique more akin to industrial production than ‘traditional’ painting (he paints colour-by-colour, lining up 30+ canvases (well, wooden boards) and using one pigment at a time across each before moving onto the next to improve the efficiency of the process). What’s even more astonishing is that the work is (in the eyes of this humble observer at least) actually pretty good, distinctive in style and vibrant and all of those other words that I flail and clutch at when trying to talk about art. Anyway, this is Mr Keene’s website, through which you can buy a job lot of 6 of his works (a random selection) for a frankly knockdown price of $150 including shipping – as soon as I have finished this I am absolutely shelling out.
  • Everything You Ever Said: A project whose concept is at present more successful than its execution, EYES is nonetheless a fascinating idea. Created by Dr Nick Kelly of the Queensland University of Technology, the idea behind it is to use machine learning to effectively seek to alter the meaning – or underlying meaning – of any body of text. My garbled explanation of this is as follows – linguistic analysis has created a ‘meaning’ web of language, which Kely can then use to identify portions of text which relate to a specific concept (‘fear’, say, or ‘happiness’) with a degree of fuzziness (so not just looking for the words ‘scared’ or ‘fear’, for example, but also adjacent words and concepts) and through so doing grant the user the opportunity to swap those out for other words with fuzzy associations to whatever the user chooses. Fcuk, this stuff is HARD, and I am probably getting it wrong anyway – sorry, Dr Nick. Anyway, you can have a play with it at the link above – it produces mostly garbled messes, but they are interesting garbled messes, and we’re all about the interesting garbled mess here at Web Curios.
  • Vote For Your Favourite Minecraft Block: I don’t know why you would want to do this, but if you have a kid who’s into Minecraft and you’re basically at the end of your post-half-term tether, just plonk them in front of this and enjoy a few hours of silence while you inject yourself with heroin or whatever it is that those of you with progeny do to cope.
  • The Rogue’s Lexicon: Oh yes, this is superb. The Rogue’s Lexicon is a book, published in 1859 by one George Washington Matsell, which is basically a dictionary of the sort of language that BAD SORTS might have used in 19thC America. My days there are some wonderful examples of language in here – feel free to go through and pull out your own and pepper your speech with them next week (no of course it won’t look like an awful affectation!), but some examples plucked at random just now include ‘Nazy’ (meaning drunk – a GREAT word which I reckon you could probably pass off as modern slang), ‘Fam Grasp’ (to shake hands – again, this is basically London 2021), and ‘Ottomised’ (dissected, specifically of a human corpse). SO GOOD.
  • Vatican In Exile: As a general rule I try not to feature sites on here that are quite obviously the work of the mentally unwell – it seems mean and unfair, and a bit punching down-ish. I will, though, make an exception for this one, because, well, maybe they’re not mentally ill at all and maybe there is something weird going on with the Catholic Church (it wouldn’t, er, be the first time, eh lads?). Vatican in Exile is the website of Pope Michael, who you may be surprised to know is in fact the actual Pope. Not that charlatan in the Vatican, whose rinsing the office at present; no, the REAL papacy in fact sits in, er, Topeka, Kansas, and this website explains why (there was a schism, you see, and the Roman lot have strayed from The True Path). We may scoff, but this sort of thing went on all the time in the middle ages – seeing as I’m now living in Rome, I might pop down to the Vatican once I’m done with this and see what Frankie’s got to say about all this.
  • Updating Happiness: The Wellcome Collection is one of my favourite museums – this is a small digital art-toy that asks you a few questions about what makes you happy, and generates an image based on your responses that you can download and use for whatever you wish, and which will be (anonymously) added to their exhibition.
  • Owls Near Me: Do you want to know what sort of owls you’re likely to be able to find nearby, should you be in the market for, er, owlspotting? YES YOU WOULD! Apparently I can get a glimpse of the fabulously-pointy long-eared owl, which will give me something to look forward to on these long, lonely Italian nights.
  • FUSER Live: This is fascinating (to me at least). Many years ago – we’re talking…2005? 2006? The agency I was working for got to the final round of a pitch for PlayStation, specifically to do Singstar (you may be amused to know that I fcuked it up literally within the first 15 minutes by making some comment about how PS had transformed gaming into something vaguely cool whereas previously it had been seen as the preserve of semen-smelling teenagers masturbating frenetically inbetween games of Sensible Soccer, a viewpoint which I was surprised to see went down…poorly with the rather conservative North Americans we were pitching to. So it goes), and there was all sorts of stuff alluded to in Sony’s internal plans about basically making Singstar an international online X Factor, which obviously never happened because 90% of people were on 56kb domestic internet, Now, though, that’s all changed, and the recent-ish ‘Play at being a DJ’ game, FUSER, has a proper integration with Twitch, where the best players get to have their 15m of fame by being granted access to the game’s official Twitch channel, to DJ to a (potential) live audience. Fine, it might not catch on, but it feels like something that might develop into A Real Thing at some point or another. The music’s fcuking awful, mind.
  • Babble Comics: Such a good idea, this. A work-in-progress project by a single developer somewhere, who had the idea that comics might be a good way for kids to learn languages – the idea is that you can read the comic online as normal, but by clicking on the speech bubbles you can hear the text read out loud, helping you connect the words on the page with accurate native pronunciation. This is only partially-finished, but it struck me as a really ingenious idea.
  • Marine Mammal Rescue: Another EXCELLENT Twitch channel, this time showcasing marine mammals that have been rescued by a charity in Vancouver. This is SO SOOTHING – look at the sleeping mustelids! – and is included in the main for my girlfriend and her cat, both of whom will enjoy this but perhaps for slightly different reasons.
  • Rugs In Games: You may not think that what your Twitter stream has been missing is occasional posts about rugs found in videogames, but you are WRONG.
  • AI Captions: Typically excellent work from data visualisers and wranglers The Pudding, who have turned their attentions to AI in an attempt to get a caption written by machine to win the New Yorker caption competition. For those of you unaware, there’s a contest online each issue which anyone can enter and which is voted on by three panelists, with the final selection voted on by the public online – the Pudding is getting an AI to generate captions and then putting those to a public vote, with the best each week being entered into the contest. It’s only on week 2, but it’s worth following to see how this progresses – I reckon they’ll win one by the end of the year (but then again I also think that a lot of New Yorker cartoons are terrible).
  • Thangs: If you’re one of the approximately 17 normal people in the world to own a 3d printer, this database of open source models of stuff to print might well be of use. For the rest of us, it’s another opportunity to hark back to 2010 or so when we all thought that this was the future and we would by now all be printing our own pants out of cornmeal.
  • Tattour: I love this idea. Dani Polak is a very tattooed person – they have built a website which effectively uses their tatts as QR codes to tell the story of each. “I consider my tattoos little works of art. I spend a ton of time researching artists and their work before getting tattooed. But what art is, has always been debatable. This is something that intrigues me. That’s why I created tattour, a mobile website that uses image recognition, machine learning and lifelike speech synthesis to guide you through my tattoos, just like you would in an actual museum. I collected my tattoos all over the world and most of them come with a great and/or personal story. Since my tattoos are all fairly visible, I often get questions regarding their meaning, the artist or its origin. This audio tour gives you insights on the artists and the details of the artwork itself, but also on the backstories that come with the tattoos. Every tattoo is scannable and links to a webpage with details and the specific audio clip.” I think this is SUCH a clever use of tech – although equally I think that if I were to meet Dani and ask them about their tattoos and then they were to attempt to make me scan them with an app, I would probably lose patience quite quickly. Still, wonderful concept.
  • Zosya: I will never ceased to be amazed at the incredible things that modern coders can do with old tech. Witness Zosya, a Russian studio which is coding new games for the ZX Spectrum, which can be downloaded and played via emulator. If you’re old, like me, you will remember the ZX Spectrum with false fondness, knowing in your heart of hearts that all the games were basically garbage and every single one looked like someone had stuck a bunch of wine gums and jelly babies to a telly – now click the link and look at what these people are making. Honestly, this is witchcraft and SO impressive, and almost makes me want to download software to play them (but not quite).
  • Schmooze: Surely we’re running out of spins to put on dating apps? Schmooze is the latest to appear, its particular gimmick being that…er…you swipe left and right on memes based on what you find funny, and your matches are delivered based on that. So there’s no aesthetic selection, no curation of profile, just the raw, unfiltered connection one gets from the knowledge that you both get an inexplicable kick out of, I don’t know, and endless parade of BTS memery. Is this good? Is this bad? I can’t even tell any more, but the one thing that I am certain of is that I am TOO OLD FOR THIS.
  • Orbis: This is quite the thing. Orbis is by Stanford University, and is basically Citymapper for the Roman Empire. Plug in where you’re going from, and where to, and it will tell you what the optimal route would have been, how long it would likely have taken you, how much of the route would have been on a donkey versus by sea, and how many bushels of wheat and denarii you’d have had to part with to get there. HOW??! Honestly, this is basically magic.
  • DoomCaptcha: All Captchas are obviously terrible; this one turns the concept into a small game based on Doom, because in the same way that all arguments online eventually end with someone invoking the Nazis, so anything involving modern computing will at some point or another invoke Doom (it is the law).
  • Little Ball Creations: I’m going to make a sweeping generalisation here and suggest that everyone finds marble runs vaguely-soothing; there’s something about seeing small glass spheres careening around a track that speaks to a deep part of our soul, probably something to do with our innate powerlessness in the face of fate and the fact that free will is basically an illusion and whatever we do fundamentally doesn’t matter because we’re all on rails and deep deep down we know this to be true (hm, that sentence didn’t end up quite where I expected it to, how revealing). This is a wonderful YouTube channel that combines that ‘truth’ (obviously not a truth at all, Matt, you moron) with the generally-pleasing world of intricate craft – it consists solely of videos of marbles moving around intricately-constructed wire cages, and the craftsmanship on display is superb, the marbles hypnotic, and basically the whole thing is a vaguely-ASMR smorgasbord of zone-out pleasure (for me at least; your mileage may vary, but know that if this doesn’t move you in some small way then you are WRONG).
  • Remix Rotation: This is really rather cool, and if you’re into dance music, whatever the genre, is very much worth checking out. “Select one of 36 CHANNELS (genres) on the homepage to play full-length videos from YouTube which correspond to music that DJs are buying right now and downloading for their mixes from Beatport, JunoDownload and Traxsource. You can also use RemixRotation recommendations to add music to playlists in your Spotify account” As a way of keeping tabs on what’s ‘hot’ (sorry), this is hugely-useful.
  • Uji: A self-described ‘generative art thing’ – play with it, make shapes, you can create some rather cool mathematically-inspired imagery from it.
  • Diecast Racing: Another slightly niche YouTube channel, which features nothing but videos of, er, die-cast model cars, racing each other on plastic tracks. Which, fine, doesn’t sound hugely-exciting, but took me right back to being about 5 years old and may well do the same for you. Also, if you have small kids I reckon you can totally use this channel as a babysitter for a few hours, or as a respite from whatever godawful cartoon you’re currently being forced to watch on repeat.
  • Joust: Joust is an OLD videogame, which featured knights on ostrichbak attempting to knock each other off said ostriches – this is that game, in browser, as a massively-multiplayer experience. It’s janky as all hell, fine, but it’s also unutterably satisfying to chase a stranger around the screen, flap-bouncing from platform to platform as you attempt to stick their ostrich up the bum with a digital prod.
  • Roots: Finally this week, a super-enjoyable little game which sees you attempt to grow a plant by extending its roots as far into the ground as you can. Soothing in its repetitiveness, there’s a charming simplicity to the gameplay and it will provide you with a neat 20 minutes of distraction from the fact that judging by what I can see on Slack, Summer is now over in the UK.

By Tatum Shaw



  •  The Darling and the Dirty: Rather excellent collage art. Seemingly on hiatus, which is a shame as the style here is gorgeous and whilst stylistically of a type it’s equally sort-of sui generis in feel. ‘Sui generis’? FFS MATT. Sorry about that.
  • Tokyo Street: Photos of Tokyo by Lukasz Palka. It seems ridiculous to say that Tokyo is ‘overphotographed’, but I do feel I’ve seen a lot of pictures of the city of a certain style; Palka’s work feels somehow fresh, though, and is worth a look.
  • Vinyl Sleeves: This is a sadly-dead Tumblr, last updated 6 years ago, but its collection of gorgeous 60s record sleeve design is a wonderful repository of oldschool graphics and such good stylistic inspiration, should you be in the market for it.


  • Cats of Brutalism: Brutalist architecture + looming felines. Threatening in ways you couldn’t possibly imagine.
  • Brad Walls: Walls’ schtick is that he takes photographs of stuff from above, often swimming pools. If you find the idea of looking at a lot of shots of azure swimming spaces in bright sunshine in a year in which you’re unlikely to go anywhere slightly depressing, perhaps skip this one.
  • Nakauchi Kiyoshi: Generative code art by a Japanese software developer, which is unique enough to present an interesting spin a slightly-played-out genre.


  •  Amazon Prime Is An Economy-Distorting Lie: This is a slightly-dry article about the economics of the Amazon Prime business model, but a very good read if you’re at all interested in exactly how the company has created its stranglehold monopoly over online retail and exactly what that is doing to the competition. This is interesting in particular because it gets to the heart of one of Amazon’s greatest canards – to whit, that it’s ‘all about the customer’ when in fact, along with every other publicly-listed company under the sun, it’s all about the extraction of maximum shareholder value. The fundamental truth at the heart of this piece – that Prime, by design, forces prices up rather than providing consumer discount, and distorts the marketplace like few other retail initiatives (if any) ever have – is worth internalising next time you feel compelled to renew for another year (seriously, the telly is garbage and you DO NOT NEED THAT PARCEL IN 24H).
  • Only Gojek Knows: Gojek is an Uber-esque business operating in Indonesia; this piece (another example of superb journalism by the continually-excellent Rest of World, which I cannot recommend subscribing to enough) offers a dispiriting portrait of the opacity of its systems and how that opacity serves to create a strongly-imbalanced power dynamic between the company and the drivers that work for it. As ever with these things, the more you read the more it feels like a peculiarly modern and baroque form of psychological torture – you are bound by rules that you’re not privy to, that you can’t ever quite see, and which can and do change at a moment’s notice with no means of control, which I am pretty sure a psychologist would say is a recipe for some not-insignificant mental health issues.
  • Caught in the Study Web: This is a wonderful piece of research and exposition, all about the particular peculiarities of online study communities that have sprung up online over the past few years, and the different ways in which students commune and support each other across the web. Partly of interest simply because it’s…well…interesting – it’s simultaneously heartening to see that young people are finding each other and coming together to support and encourage each other through the often-lonely pursuit of academia, whilst also being incredibly indicative of the intense competitive stress that modern educational systems and structures engender – but also because, to my mind, it is an object lesson in good planning research. I sort of want to use it as a go-to example of ‘what it looks like to really get under the skin of an online community and understand the ecosystem around an area of interest’, and to send it to the next person who sends me ‘research’ that consists of ‘three things I got from page one of Google’, along with some choice and very personal insults.
  • The Art of Negativity: I am not, it may surprise you to learn, a ‘glass half full’ person (the glass is nearly empty, and likely full of p1ss), so this article very much spoke to me. Its premise is not so much that being a miserable cnut is necessarily good per se, so much as that the current trend towards blanket positivity and optimism is perhaps not necessarily helpful, whether intellectually or emotionally.  You should read the whole thing, but, well, PREACH: “In its stress-inducing suppression and dangerous infantilism, the almost dogmatic nature of toxic positivity inhibits raw human emotion and invalidates the necessary negative feelings we all have in life. The blindly optimistic lunge towards a meretricious idea of positivity is one deeply traced by the logic of 21st-century capitalism and its ceaseless drives for production. We should not police our emotions. Perpetual happiness is impossibly perilous and the attempt to suppress the lows of life can create deep-seated stress, which is detrimental to physical health and mental wellbeing.”
  • Status Anxiety as a Service: This came to me via Elle Hunt (thanks Elle!), and is a neat exploration of the way in which Twitter by its nature serves to exacerbate and highlight the stratified nature of society and that the way it functions – the mechanics of the platform as well as the way in which we (users, media, players of the Twitter metagame) – work to reinforce that. In a week in which various media commentators have expressed a degree of discomfort at their relationship with the platform and the way in which they report on it, this feels like a timely and unpleasantly-accurate depiction of it and its status as a mirror of a particular aspect of a particular facet of society.
  • Boys Who Hate Women: I noticed about 7 or 8 years ago that men a generation younger than me were starting to refer to women and girls as ‘females’ – and never in a nice way. It’s always stuck with me, that little verbal tick, as something of a tell as to the way in which a speaker was contextualising a woman, internally if not overtly, and it came back to me in this slightly depressing piece in VICE by Hannah Ewens, in which she looks at the reasons why so many young men in the UK are increasingly feeling angry and resentful towards women, and how this anger and resentment is often stoked by outside actors on a path towards some dark political places. I have said this before and will say it again and again and again – there is a fascinating history waiting to be written that draws a red thread between Neil Strauss, Gamergate and the current weird place we’re at as men in the culture wars – can someone write it, please?
  • Journey to the Centre of the Bowling Ball: Brilliant article about something you would never think would be interesting but really, really is – what’s inside a bowling ball, what shape it is, and how that affects bowling, and the slightly-odd people who’ve made it their life’s work to make the perfect ball (whatever that means). A superb read, even if, like me, you struggle to get treble figures when facing down the pins (I am so, so ashamed of this admission).
  • A Brief History of Netflix Personalisation: It’s not that brief, but if you want to get an understanding of how hard Netflix has worked to get to a point where it can reasonably-accurately predict the sorts of things that millions of people worldwide might each want to watch at any given moment, it’s fascinating. Also, I don’t quite know what to think about the closing lines – on the one hand, it’s sort of cool, but on the other there’s something slightly-upsetting on a human level about this: “Here’s the long-term personalization vision: twenty years from now, Netflix will eliminate both the “Play Something” button and its personalized merchandising system, and that one special movie you’re in the mood to watch at that particular moment will automatically begin to play. My guess is that Netflix will achieve this vision within twenty years. They’ve come a long way in the last twenty years, so I think this is feasible.” I really do look forward to the next round of the ‘free will vs determinism’ fight once all this stuff gets really good.
  • A Dozen Fragments on Playground Theory: This is all about game design, but I promise that if you’re involved in making anything, of any sort, you should read it – not just because it offers a series of really interesting observations on the gap between design, intended use and actual use, but also because it’s really rather beautifully-written and the principles it describes could, if you squint a bit, be applied to almost anything at all.
  • The Kit Industrial Complex: I follow a few American Chelsea fans on Twitter, and at least one of them is ALWAYS sharing photos of amazing kits from teams that I had never heard of but assumed that they were somehow linked to; this article explains to me that in fact there are a whole load of very small local US clubs who have made a thing out of making and marketing their kits as fashion/design items. If you’re a football fan, this is a decent read; if you’re the sort of person who can get away with wearing football tops as fashion, there will be stuff in here you really want to buy; and if you work in marketing, there’s almost certainly some godawful ‘learning’ about branding you can extract from this like the soulless vampire you know deep inside you really are.
  • Kenya’s Smart Cities: More superb journalism from Rest of World (seriously sign up to the newsletter if nothing else), this time looking at smart cities in Africa and in particular the Konza Technopolis Development Authority (KoTDA), a yet-to-be-completed vision of the future, sold to Kenya by Mckinsey and currently under construction. This is such good journalism, drawing a picture of a sort of miserable new colonialism in which Western consultancies sell an expensive vision – white papers! Economic models! – at great expense, leaving behind building sites and a lot of quite-possibly-unworkable theory, which attracts all sorts of investment without seemingly ever actually going anywhere. I read a piece recently that the Smart Cities boom (or at least the boom in the idea of Smart Cities as a desirable thing) was very much in abeyance, leading to a potential situation in which these developments will never be completed in any meaningful sense; I quite hope i’m proved wrong, but it doesn’t look superhopeful right now. Special bonus shout out for musician Akon, whose proposed (and wonderfully-hubristic) Akon City development in Senegal features a building shaped exactly like a Rampant Rabbit vibrator on its website homepage (no, really, look!).
  • The Paris Hilton Sex Tape: It feels rather like the present is having something of a reckoning with the early-00s, and rightly so; this is a really good article in Vox, looking with 2021 eyes at the way in which the media treated Paris Hilton in the wake of the release of the ‘One Night in Paris’ sextape; it’s…really horrible to read, and I say this as someone who almost certainly thought and probably said some awful things about Hilton at the time myself. You may not be surprised to see Piers Morgan’s name crop up, but the whole media industrial complex was a total sewer at the time when it came to women – especially young women. This made me feel very grubby, as indeed it should.
  • America Has A Drinking Problem: English readers will look at this headline and LAUGH (God knows what Russians will make of it), but this is actually a lot more interesting than the title suggests. It’s written as an accompaniment to a new book by Edward Slingerland, on the history of humanity’s relationship with drink, and is less about the US and more about us as a species and why we like drinking, and what the booze has done for us and to us, and why we can’t stop. As someone who could reasonably be described as ‘a heavy drinker’ (and that with the sort of euphemistic eyebrow-raising that suggests there may be a problem there but that we’re not going to talk about it) who has just moved to a country where people really do NOT drink every day, and where if you drink like an English person in public people will be at first amused and then quite quickly alarmed, this resonated quite hard.
  • Cooking Backwards: Gorgeous writing by Pamela Petro, about going through old familial recipe books and the way in which food and memory and family all intertwine. If you are the sort of person who has their mother or father or grandparents’ recipe books on a shelf, or who keeps notes in the margins of a sauce-spattered copy of Elizabeth David, this is very much for you.
  • The Australians Have Lost Their Goddamn Minds: I don’t quite know how to describe this, so all I’ll say is that it is a baffling and very funny whirlwind tour through the Australian meme landscape. I understood about 30% of what is being written about or referred to, but I laughed a LOT. Click all the links (but not at work, probably).
  • The Space Between Vertebrae: August Lamm writes beautifully about pain – physical pain, the sort that changes your life and doesn’t go away and is there all the time like some sort of persistent background noise. I’ve always thought that in many respects problems of pain are problems of language – the subjectivity and intensely-personal nature of pain, and the inadequacy of words to communicate something so intimately felt, make it one of the loneliest things I can conceive of; bridging that gap is impossible, but this is a superb attempt at communicating the reality of hurting. As Lamm writes, “It sounds like fiction because it can’t be real. Pain can only be felt individually. To the rest of the world, it is fictional. When I walk down a city street, passing thousands of strangers along the way, not a single one of them registers my pain, obvious though it may be to me.”
  • Sisyphus at the Selectric: I know, I know, you don’t want to read a load of words about one of the ‘great old white dead men’ of modern literature. BUT! Honestly, this is stellar, and whether or not you know or care about its subject it’s absolutely worth your time. James Wolcott ‘reviews’ three recent biographies of Philip Roth, including THAT one, but more than a review this is a wonderful, biting, portrait of the author and his life, and contains more lines that made me laugh out loud than is seemly in an LRB article. Honestly, I enjoyed this so much – whether you think Roth is a great or simply an overrated misogynist who we should probably stop talking about (he is both, fyi), the prose here is joyful and you will, I promise, enjoy it.
  • The Anxiety of Influencers: As a rule I wouldn’t recommend a piece which might usefully be summarised as ‘stuffy academic hangs out with teens and documents his experience in Harper’s’, but, as with the previous essay, this is so much better than that precis makes it sound. Barrett Swanson spent some time in a TikTok hype house in LA; his account of it is bleak, baffling, hilarious and poignant, and imho a shoo-in for the end of year ‘best of’ lists.
  • There I Almost Am: Finally in this week’s longreads, this is a superb essay on twinship and self, but, mostly, about jealousy. I can’t recommend it highly enough. It is painfully honest and superbly-written and I am jealous of how good its author Jean Garnett is.

By Frances Waite


Webcurios 21/05/21

Reading Time: 36 minutes

HI EVERYONE! Slightly early this week as I have a lunch reservation to get to – yes, I know you don’t give a flying one about my movements, but I feel I ought to justify the slightly cobbled-together nature of this week’s roundup. I mean, it’s still good (a word I have taken to using as a synonym for ‘voluminous’ rather than as originally intended, but still), but just a bit…unfocused, maybe.

You will, I hope, forgive me the distraction; I am in the middle of some Minor Life Upheaval, which will cause me to take next week off due to my having to take a one-way flight to the mothercountry. The next time you get one of these it will be from ROME! It won’t make a blind bit of difference to the quality, but see if the sunshine has an appreciably positive effect on my mood and the prose style.

So, I will see you again on 4 June; you can spend the intervening two weeks gnawing on this week’s words and links and seeing whether it really is possibly to click everything without wishing to cause either me or, perhaps more usefully, humanity, untold harm.

Once again, then, it’s time to wearily staple back your eyelids in preparation for the Clockwork Orange-esque kaleidoscope of stuff on the internet which I’m preparing to fire into you – consider this horrible prose the metaphorical syringe through which the necessary VACCINE OF LINKS can be administered. Some might argue that the cure is worse than the disease and, frankly, maybe they’re right.

Still, whether you like it or not, here’s Web Curios.

By Arja Heinonen-Riganas



  • Fly With Karol G: I don’t feel we’ve 100% nailed the digital album launch, personally. I mean, obviously there have been various experiments at various points looking at simultaneous livestreams of launch parties, and EXCLUSIVE DIGITAL CONTENT DROPS and stuff like that, but all it ever seems to amount to is more of the same sort of content that we never accessed when it was the BONUS CD-ROM CONTENT you were briefly subjected to in the 90s. Which is basically what this is – Karol G is one of those artists who I am certain is VERY FAMOUS to huge numbers of people and yet because of the fact that there is no longer any such thing as a meaningful sense of online monoculture…hang on…yep, she’s a Colombian popstar and is therefore SUPERFAMOUS, which rather explains why she’s gotten the full Spotify multimedia treatment – this is the site that accompanies her new album, which invites you to, er, get on a virtual plane made of gold and watch/listen while Karol G talks you through each of the tracks while sitting in a digitally-recreated little first class booth and it’s VERY shiny and nicely made, but I also feel slightly confused as to what the point is in creating such a shiny-but-ultimately-flat home for all of this; I mean, you could have done this as a YouTube playlist and got just as many views and not forced poor Karol G (for some reason I feel it’s important to use her full name here) to spend so much time looking slightly-uncomfortable in a CG Learjet. Still, the music is almost infernally catchy, and I have now heard of Karol G, so I suppose she still wins. WELL DONE KAROL G!
  • Sonic Blooming: Oh this is lovely! I feel slightly surprised that I’ve not come across a variation on this idea before, but I’ve had a brief root around in the archives and I couldn’t find anything (which admittedly could have more to do with the fact that I describe things in a way which can charitably be described as ‘baroque’ and that does tend to make search something of a challenging task FFS PAST MATT WHY COULD YOU NOT EMPLOY SOME SORT OF PROPER TAXONOMY), meaning this is ORIGINAL THINKING (by the artist responsible, to be clear, not me). What would roses sound, if you made music from their growth? I know, I know, ME TOO! Well, wonder no longer – Crystal Cortez is an artist and programmer (and has a fantastic name), and has worked with the International Rose Test Garden in Portland to create soundscapes based on data taken from the roses as they grow – to quote the artist, “ I have used a process called “Biodata Sonification”; attaching sensors to the plants in the garden to collect their electrical impulses. I have translated these impulses into musical pitches and sound that make up half of the composition you will hear. The other half of the composition is made up of field recordings I’ve collected in the space over time. Soundwalkers are encouraged to dive deep into these soundscapes as they explore each garden.” This is such a lovely concept; I would be fascinated to see this applied to different plant types somewhere like Kew, which I imagine would be a glorious cacophony.
  • The Virtual Factory: Part of the Manchester International Festival, The Virtual Factory launched last Summer but, well, I was Off Curios and so this is the first I’ve heard of it. The project is ‘inspired by’ a new artistic space in Manchester, called ‘The Factory’, and is hosting a series of 4 digital works over the course of the year. Currently on show is the second of four, called ‘The Neon Heiroglyph’ by Tai Shani – “Inspired by Shani’s research into ergot, a fungus that grows on grains from which LSD is derived, The Neon Hieroglyph is a dreamlike CGI journey from the cellular to the galactic, from the forests to the subterranean, from the real to the almost unimaginable” – and, honestly, I once again find big-ticket digital work commissioned by a major Arts Council-funded body significantly less-whelming than I do a significant proportion of the random webspaff I stumble across on a daily basis. Don’t get me wrong – it’s not bad, just that I feel in 2021 if we’re doing BIG DIGITAL ART stuff then it should feel marginally more interesting than ‘odd CG videos’ as frankly that doesn’t feel like quite enough.
  • Tru: I don’t want to discourage anyone from attempting to break the current TikTokZuckerbergian digital hegemony, but it’s hard to see how a new social network can gain traction at this point; not least because I don’t think there’s any time left for discovery or trial, what with us all now basically being content creators for the onlinevideoconsumptionindustrialcomplex full-time these days. Still, this piqued my interest slightly – Tru is A N Other ‘new social network that promises it’s going to be different, honest’, the gimmick here being the paper trail it creates for any content posted on the network using….CRYPTO! No, wait, hang on, this doesn’t quite have the standard ultragrifty feel of most crypto stuff of late (not to say that it isn’t one, to be clear, just that if it is it’s a slightly better-disguised version than normal) – see, look: “The system is not a blockchain, but can work with, or without, any blockchain.” Maybe it’s not a total con after all. Anyway, the supposed appeal of ‘Tru’ is the fact that you should in theory be able to trace the source of any information on the network, which (again in theory) is designed to allow for the creation of better, stronger, more trusted networks and information flows. This obviously won’t ever be more than a niche concern (come back and laugh in 2050 when TruNet is everything and we’re all paying for things with TruTokens), but I think the basic premise underlying it has something going for it. Oh, and seeing as we’re here, this is Something Good – ANOTHER new social network, launching later this year and mining the same ‘vaguely vaporwavey DIY post-MySpace aesthetic’ that we saw last week with mmm (and in the past literally a million times before). Part of me admires the hope here – but the fact that this one claims to have raised $3.75m suggests to me that there is TOO MUCH VC MONEY floating about.
  • Black People Made TikTok: Depending on when you read/find this this title may not make any sense – still, at the time of writing, this TikTok account owned by one Kahlil Green is posting a series of super-interesting videos in which Green breaks down how significant trends and creative tropes across the app – the sort of things which have effectively built its popularity and contributed to its increasingly central status to whatever passes for ‘mainstream culture’ in 2021 – can in almost all cases be traced back to black people. Not just choreography – expressions, memes, filters, editing styles, all sorts of things. I am not, to be clear, enough of a connoisseur of TikTok culture to be able to offer a critique of all this, butGreen’s arguments hold weight, and it’s interesting in the broader context of the broader debate around the exploitation and appropriation of content in the digital age and on this platform especially. Also, though, it makes me wonder whether future Phds analysing digital culture are just going to end up being superhyperspecific – literally, ‘The Cultural Semiotics of TikTok, May 22-6 2021’ – because trying to pick this stuff apart is, honestly, just mindflayingly tough.
  • Music Makers and Machines: In the wake of renewed interest in the history of electronica, following the recent (excellent) BBC show on Delia Derbyshire, this Google Arts project feels particularly timely; Music, Makers and Machines is a history of electronic music, with articles and videos and explainers and historical deep-dives and, basically, if you’ve ever spent significant amounts of time in a loud, thumping dark room wondering whether or not you’ve just ingested antacid or something which will make you feel like the top of your skull is attempting to crawl very slowly down the back of your neck to hide in a corner somewhere, then you should find something to love in here. So much to love – and it also includes links to a bunch of decent Google synthtoys, so you can play with a digital Moog while you reminisce about the days when it was possible to buy amphetamines and everything was better than it is now (NB Web Curios definitely does not want any readers to inform it as to where it can buy amphetamines in 2021).
  • Medieval Memes: Simple, cute and the sort of thing that makes me want to send it round all people working in museums digital with a short note that says ‘copy this’ – Medieval Memes is a small project by (I think) the Dutch National Library which takes illustrations from tomes in its collection and lets anyone who wants make memes out of them to then share. The reason this is PARTICULARLY great is a combination of the images they offer you to use – one of the early ones you scroll past is a depiction of Attis, just after he’s castrated himself after having been driven mad by the goddess Minerva, which isn’t the sort of thing you necessarily expect to be allowed to add a caption to and send speeding around the web. Even better, there’s no filter on the captions you can apply, meaning you can create some spectacularly filthy memetic creations (look, it’s a trying time and I am finding small comfort where I can).
  • River Runner: I’m sure this is just (ha! ‘just’!) making smart use of some publicly available datasets and Google Maps data, but I am slightly in awe of its cleverness. River Runner lets you click on any point on a map of the US, and then shows you what happens to a raindrop that falls there – so you get a wonderful view of the topography of the area you’ve selected, showing you the runoffs and rivers than send the droplet careening towards the sea. So, so neat; a lovely piece of coding.
  • A New Session: Thanks Former Editor Paul for sending this my way – those of you of A Certain Age will find this particularly pleasing, I think. A New Session is an art project which exists on an open source Telnet CMS, creating a digital magazine in the oldest of oldschool formats (you need to access the command prompt to get into it – and yes, I am aware that for most of us this is uncomfortably close to getting under the hood of how the devices that we depend on actually work, but it’s honestly worth playing around with, just to make you appreciate how much you really needed to want to be online back in the day because, really, they didn’t make it easy for you). A New Session is “an imagined do-over, an attempt to decenter the corporate monoliths of the modern internet in favor of something simpler, something queer, something trans, something better. From the ground up.” – it’s interesting-if-very-arty, and worth a look; to my point earlier about the MIF thing, I find this a far more interesting project, for all its lo-finess.
  • Yat: I can’t remember when I first heard about this – it was last year, in The Hiatus, and I signed up out of vague interest and now the fcukers keep emailing me and they’ve basically now bullied me into telling you too, and I HOPE YOU’RE HAPPY, YAT. Yat is the latest attempt by enterprising grifters to sell you something that doesn’t actually exist – in this instance, they’re selling EMOJI STRINGS! Yes, the idea here is that they are letting anyone bid for the ‘right’ (look, it’s on the fcuking blockchain is all you need to know) to ‘own’ (yes, I know, I know) any combination of emoji they like – the grift here, of course, is that the fewer emoji in your string, the more ‘exclusive’ and therefore expensive they are. Prices are ‘on application only’, and whoever is behind this obviously has a decent rolodex as they have seemingly managed to get ACTUAL FAMOUSES on board; ?uestlove has apparently got one – Jesus, Matt, listen to yourself, why are you even dignifying this sh1t with a writeup? – so, well, if you want to spend a significant amount of cash to own the right to use, I don’t know, Rainbow-Heart-Shrimp in perpetuity then you might want to get in on the ground floor. Amazing, but not necessarily in a positive way.
  • Than Average: An interesting little social experiment, which asks you a whether you are more or less…something than average. Do you think you sleep more than average? Do you think you are happier than average? Better looking? Kinder? More confused? Tell the site, and it will tell you where your perception fits with those of the other visitors; note, of course, that it’s not telling you whether you’re more or less X than average – just how common your self-perception is. This strikes me as the sort of data you could possibly do some rather interesting things with – if nothing else, I would love a psychologist to tell me what these sorts of questions reveal about people – and there’s something perfectly-narcissistically compelling about RANKING YOURSELF, which we all know is what modern humans love to do most (thanks, the web!).
  • The Finnegan’s Wake Elucidated Treasury: Brought to my attention by a truly ASTONISHING longread which you can look forward to later on, this is an amazing website which seeks to offer some sort of…not explanation, exactly, but companion to James Joyce’s notoriously…tricky novel, a book which most people who’ve attempted it take great pains to tell you isn’t worth the hassle, which is charitably-described as ‘not an easy read’, and which, like Gravity’s Rainbow, inspires messianic devotion in those who’ve wrestled with it and…not so much ‘won’, I imagine, as ‘survived’. Anyway, this is a digital companion to the text which is dizzyingly to wander through – I haven’t (obviously) read the Wake, but even so this is a truly incredible thing to get lost in; it really does contain MULTITUDES.
  • Flame Reactor: I confess to only having a…loose understanding of what’s happening here, but it looks VERY pretty. “The Flame Reactor combines two fractal flames via a genetic algorithm and renders a parametric rotation of the child. It then prompts participants to choose a breeding partner for that child. In this way, we create a slowly-mutating lineage.” It takes 10m or so to run each cycle, but keep it open in a tab and check in every now again to experience a rather beautiful sequence of raytracey, fiery images whose development you can guide through MAKING FLAMES MATE (or, er, something like that).
  • The Mobile Phone Museum: What was your first mobile? Displaying the sort of wilful obscurantism that would catagorise and – let’s be clear, in many ways slightly fcuk up – the rest of my life, I decided to eschew the perfectly-serviceable Nokia that literally everyone else had for a Siemens thing that had no games, a tiny screen and an irritating propensity to turn itself off on a whim whilst making a very sad (and impossible to turn off) sound of what I can only describe as electronic deflation. It was, largely, awful, but I obviously have warm (inaccurate) memories of the simple times we shared, spending a good 15 minutes attempting to programme my own version of Darude’s ‘Sandstorm’ as a ringtone just because I could (although, perhaps amusingly, it turned out I really couldn’t!). Anyway, this is the online mobile phone museum – go find your first one, and then send this to any Young People you know so they can marvel at how Neanderthal we used to be.
  • Undraw: A huge, and hugely useful, repository of open source illustrations for literally everything and anything you could possibly conceive of. Honestly, this has EVERYTHING, and it’s also lightly customisable so you can colourmatch to whatever palette you’re using. Isn’t it nice that people just do this sort of stuff? I am having a rare moment of pro-web positivity here, let’s see if we can keep it going for a few more links.
  • Terms and Conditions: A little browsergame designed to make the point that dark patterns and horrible designs are EVERYWHERE and oh look there we go that’s the moment of web-positivity over, ARE YOU HAPPY NOW? Ahem. Anyway, this is a rather fun game that challenges you to get through without agreeing to any of the different T&C permissions the site is desperately trying to extract from you; it’s fun, if enervating, and is a nice piece of work by W+K that I am slightly confused as to why they didn’t sell to a client as it feels like something you might reasonably use as promo for a digital rights org or similar.
  • The Dark Patterns Tipline: Seeing as we’re doing evil bastrd webdesign, the Dark Patterns Tipline asks users to submit any examples of DARK PATTERNS (you know what these are, right? If not, you know, CLICK THE LINK AND LEARN) they come across for collation, dissection and use as lobbying material with relevant consumer organisations, etc. Aside from anything else, it contains some truly ingenious (if, er, borderline criminal) examples of the tricks used to make us give up our data and sign up to a lifetime’s worth of uncancellable hentaibongo (no, this is not an autobiographical story. No, really, it isn’t. FFS).
  • MarvelAI: It’s tough out there for the creator class – and it’s only going to get tougher, as the slow, incremental growth in the numbers of people convinced that they can make a living out of their unique and marketable set of talents (TALKING ON CAMERA!!!) continues unabated. The conten production schedule demanded by the algos is insane at the top end, and is only likely to get worse – which is why stuff like this very much feels like A Coming Thing. MarvelAI is a service which allows ‘anyone to create, manage, share, and monetize professional-quality synthetic voice, easily personalized into different genders, languages, dialects, accents, and more.’ Effectively this is a pet, digital voice-you that you can make and then send out into the wild to be used to record voice overs, scripts, etc, on your behalf. Fascinating – honestly, the implications of this stuff in terms of rights and contracts and monetisation are HUGE, setting aside questions of ‘reality’ and ‘authenticity’. If I generate an audiofile of what sounds like my voice but which is in fact entirely computer-generated by a machine based on my real voice, can I be said to ‘own’ that audiofile? Is it ‘me’? We are SO going to need new categories for this sort of digital centaur/chimera thing, aren’t we?
  • Victoria: I know I said a few weeks ago that I wasn’t going to include stuff in here just to kick it but, well, fcuk that and fcuk this. Victoria is…oh wow, “A community of creative, existential, and out-of-the-box thinkers that connect through their deepest desires and passions – art, music, culture, and powerful conversations.” Or, more accurately, some sort of digital private members club for the monied youth, based in…London, I think, but with the blankly-transatlantic vibe that kids of the very rich so often have, and, oh God, “We empower the individual, bringing dreamers, creatives, and entrepreneurs together through private experiences. By rejecting the sensible, unravelling social structures, and providing a space without limitation, people can be themselves—connecting through raw colour.” Can someone younger, richer and prettier than me get involved with this and somehow endeavour to steal ALL THE MONEY from whichever idiot is bankrolling it? Also, don’t all the sorts of people who might be interested in something like this know each other and hang out already in? WHO IS THIS FOR? WHY IS IT HERE? Oh God, I need more tea.

By Ashraful Arefin



  •  Satellites: Honestly, I think my favourite thing about (what I perceive to be) the current state of evolution of the web (meaningless as I am fully aware that that sentence largely is) is the fact that we’re now in a position where there is SO MUCH really excellent and interesting infrastructure out there which can be plugged together to make EXCITING THINGS. Witness this site, which pulls together a variety of different bits and pieces from Google Streetview to publicly-available satellite data to allow you to see on any given day what satellites will be travelling above your location in the night sky, where you will have to look to see them, and lets you set a reminder for later when you’ve forgotten all about it and are likely asleep on the sofa with the last bottle of red creating an ineradicable stain on the upholstery. Amazing – I will never, ever get bored of the fact that people can just make stuff like this out of stuff that already exists. The web is wonderful (this really is an emotional rollercoaster of a week) and anyone who disagrees is a joyless husk (it takes one to know one).
  • AI Memes: Memes about the world of AI. If you know anything about AI, you may find some of these amusing; if you don’t, you will look at these and the future will be even more opaque and frightening than it already is.
  • Preserving Worlds: This is wonderful; if you’re any sort of web historian (or, less pretentiously, anyone who’s spent any significant time online over the last couple of decades and has any sort of nostalgia for virtual communities of the past) then this webseries – a six-part (plus bonus content) documentary all about the history, evolution, abandonment and current status of a selection of virtual worlds; this of course includes Second Life, but also Doom, as a gameworld that meant something to people and which has a weight of identity beyond ‘just’ its status as a game. Hugely geeky, but nevertheless super-interesting and worth a look if you’re in any way interested or involved in thinking about online communities and how people relate to digital spaces.
  • Micrometeorites: A Facebook Page (Christ, it’s been YEARS; which (if you’ll allow me the digression) (and WHO CAN STOP ME???) I think says less about the fact that Facebook doesn’t contain interesting communities and more about the fact that they don’t seem to EVER break out from Facebook (more of which in the longreads below), which is sort-of architecturally-interesting to me when it comes to thinking about platform dynamics and stuff) dedicated to sharing photos of and information about micrometeorites – very small lumps of space rock which occasionally hurtle into our atmosphere and get found by enthusiasts (or, er, land in the ocean to be lost forever, or (I presume) occasionally insert themselves with hot, painful velocity into the unfortunate skulls of unsuspecting people) and which here are presented with a pleasing degree of enthusiasm. If you’re looking for a new hobby now that we’ve all agreed to never mention sourdough again, perhaps this will be up your street.
  • Poised: “Poised is an AI-powered communication coach that provides you personalized feedback and lessons by observing your online meetings.” SO MANY QUESTIONS. Who’s decided on what ‘good’ looks like here? Because if you ask me – I know, but tough – there’s a lot of subjectivity in what constitutes ‘good’ meeting practice and behaviour (I am well aware, before any past or present colleagues who happen to see this feel compelled to tell me, that none of my behaviour in meetings could ever be characterised as such; I can only apologise, and suggest that it’s hard to behave when you’re consumed with hatred and sadness at what constitutes your ‘career’), dependent on sector, role, purpose of meeting, and all sorts of massively subjective sociocultural cues that, well, I don’t think the AI is going to understand. Basically what I’m saying here is that this sounds like a fcuking terrible idea and an HR lawsuit waiting to happen somewhere down the line in 2022.
  • Rows: I don’t really understand Excel, My friend Josh has attempted to explain pivot tables to me many, many times, but I’m simply not capable. Which is by way of preamble to me admitting that I don’t really understand this but get the vague impression that if you do a lot of Excel work it might be useful. The blurb says “Say goodbye to multiple tabs! No more copy and paste!”, which at the very least seems like a future we should all be able to get behind.
  • The World’s First Apple Store In AR: This is VERY niche, and VERY Apple fanboy – I can’t vouch for the quality of the experience here, given this is seemingly iOS-only, but “On May 19, 2001, Apple opened its first two retail stores in Tysons Corner, Virginia and Glendale, California. Now you can revisit the world’s first Apple Store exactly as it appeared twenty years ago on grand opening day through an interactive augmented reality experience.” You’ll need a reasonably new model device, but then again I imagine if you’re enough of an Apple enthusiast to want to explore a CG model of, er, an old shop, then you’ve probably ponied up for whichever the latest iteration of the plastic-and-glass slate is.
  • Four King Maps: Hot on the heels of last week’s site that found What3Words locations that included profanities, someone’s built this WONDERFUL site which does the same thing as What 3 Words does, but in the UK only and with 4 words and with a vocabulary composed entirely of childish swears. Basically you can now get a sweary address for any location in the country – the nearest train station to me as I type, for example, is ‘smeghead.fuckoff.bog.masturbate’, which I think we’ll all agree is significantly better than the somewhat-genteel ‘’ granted me by W3W. It’s not big or clever, but it made me laugh a lot – also, BELIEVE that I am solely going to be referring to my workplace by its sweary locator forevermore.
  • Troopl: I saw something do the rounds this week which suggested that the car sales site Cazoo – advertised relentlessly on TVoD, to the point that even I who love him immoderately am getting a little tired of Rylan, blasphemous as that may sound – has over 1000 employees and just over 2000 cars currently on its books; the point being that… this doesn’t look like a viable business model, even accounting for the inevitable shovel-loads of VC cash being injected into the business. That crossed my mind when I found Troopl – a platform that seeks to DISRUPT recruitment by making a big thing out of peer-to-peer referrals, and which is promising an eye-watering 1k Euros (or local cash equivalent) to you if you refer someone who gets a job. Which doesn’t in any way sound like something that can scale AT ALL – can someone explain to me how in the name of everliving fcuk that could ever work? Although given the fact that there are only about 6 jobs on there at present, you may not have time to explain it to me before the whole thing folds. Am I being a moron, or is this really, really dumb? I genuinely can’t tell anymore (repeat ad nauseam, ad infinitum).
  • Rotating Food: Because you might not think that you need a repository of literally hundreds of gifs of photos of food spinning in digital space, but you NEVER KNOW. Oh, and while we’re here, here’s a lovely collection of low-poly models of all sorts of things, should you be in the market to try your hand at some light gamemaking or digital diorama sculpting or whatever it is that one does with this sort of stuff.
  • Stacksearch: This isn’t quite the perfect iteration of this, but the service – which basically acts as ‘Google, for substack’ is a GODSEND in terms of attempting to add a half-decent discovery layer to the ever-growing substack ecosystem. If nothing else, should you be doing some influencer research-type thing it would seem silly to ignore newsletters, and this gives you a decent-ish way of finding people based around topics and themes of interest (it may surprise you to know that Web Curios has not ONCE received any sponsorship offers; this is negotiable, but only for a VERY SPECIFIC and almost certainly prohibitively-niche selection of businesses – prices on application).
  • The Magic Candle Company: I can’t quite remember how I found this, but I lost a good 30mins last Sunday to exploring this quite astonishing site. The Magic Candle Company creates scented candles that are seemingly marketing at those people who LOVE Disney, who spend money going to Disneyland, and want to spend all the time they’re not getting ever closer to The Mouse remembering the lovely smells of the The Mouse’s domain. Obviously, though, they can’t use the term ‘Disney’ anywhere onsite, so all the copy makes euphemistic references to ‘Walter’s Office’ and ‘Pirate Life’, rather than ‘Walt Disney’s Office’ and ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’. Honestly, though, the real joy comes in the scent names – you can, if you choose, buy a candle that smells of ‘Norway’ (bafflingly, this features topnotes of watermelon, perhaps the least-Scandi fruit imaginable), but also one that’s redolent of, er, ‘Terror’, or ‘Churros’ (why anyone would want their home to smell of hot, stale frying oil is beyond me, but Americans are weird and Web Curios DOES NOT JUDGE). Honestly, this made me so happy – as in fact did my later discovery of candle review community site CandleJunkies (for all your scented candle review needs!) – PURE WEB MAGIC, this stuff.
  • Waylt: Spotify to Slack! Literally a Slack plugin which lets you pipe whatever you’re listening to on Spotify into your Slack channel – which I;m sure is something that you think is a great idea, what with your perfect music taste and all that – but which, let’s be clear, none of your colleagues will thank you for AT ALL. There’s a NSFW filter to preserve the delicate lugholes of the easily offended, but I promise the real joy here comes from enacting Guantanamo levels of torture on your dear coworkers by subjecting them to a low hum of the Barney themetune for 8h a day.
  • The Fighting Game Glossary: I have never been that into fighting games, but when I did the PR for Street Fighter IV I got a brief insight into the very, very expert world of people who think in half-frame inputs and for whom terms like ‘dash-cancel-to-LB’ are testament to deep-knowledge and long-acquired expertise rather than a very real need to get out a bit more (also shout out to Leo Tan, the best client I have ever had who would literally let us do ANYTHING and didn’t care, and who I think in many ways possibly ruined me forever by briefly making my job fun). This is a very niche site which acts as a glossary of terms for fighting games, along with videoclips illustrating particular moves or techniques; I won’t lie, if you’re not into games at least a bit then you can probably skip this one, but if you’ve even a passing interest in esports or fighting games, or if you’ve ever watched that Daigo clip, then you might enjoy this.
  • Oregon Zoo: On the one hand, if you’re a social media manager at a zoo and you can’t make your content pop, you probably need to get another job; on the other, the Oregon Zoo’s TikTok account is everything you could possibly hope for and more. OTTERS!! RACCOONS! RED PANDAS! Oh me oh my, the critters!
  • Vandal: Super-useful for journalists or indeed anyone doing research, Vandal is a Chrome plugin that lets you simply and easily access Wayback Machine data on any webpage you visit – so you can just select when you want to go back to from a dropdown and BOOM! Timetravel. Obviously dependent on the Internet Archive to work, so it’s only as useful as that archive, but that’s generally perfectly helpful; there are SO many applications for this, or at least there are if you use your fcuking imaginations for once.
  • Rate My Takeaway: I don’t quite know whether this is a wonderful example of someone just doing their thing, or whether instead it’s a bit knowing and therefore somehow slightly less pure, but regardless – Rate My Takeaway is a GOLDEN YouTube channel, and gave me similar sort of happy vibe to the Pengest Munch when that first broke through (here’s hoping that guy’s still enjoying himself – he should never have taken the TV cash imho); the premise is simple, with each episode featuring the presenter (a man who looks distressingly like someone I went to school with, which makes the whole thing even more compelling) eating and reviewing some sort of genuinely horrific plate of brown protein and carbs (often with beans). Fine, it’s not totally non-knowing – this would never have taken off without the ‘Pea Wet’ thing, and the general niche internet thing of ‘Americans get freaked out by ugly English people consuming acres of deep-fried ‘meat’’ – but it doesn’t feel like it’s angling for an E4 spinoff and for that I applaud it.
  • Tweetable Charts: Make charts that show up in your tweets. Yes, fine, it’s boring, but it’s also useful and Web Curios isn’t all horror and frivolity you know.
  • Concrete Nest: A concrete poetry generator – it throws up random selections of words, and you use the interface to combine them however you desire. I adore this – there’s something about the constraint, the aesthetic and the way the form creates meaning (/pseud!) that pleased me inordinately.
  • Geometry: I’m sure that someone less geographically-inept than me wouldn’t be quite so challenged and awed by this, but, honestly, this little geometry game which challenges you to make a variety of different geometric shapes from triangles to variously-multifaceted polygons made my brain sweat in a pleasingly-uncomfortable way. Fine, if you studied maths at a level beyond ‘moron’ this may hold no fear for you, but I for one was largely banjaxed by the how the fcuk to make any of this work – that said, I very much enjoyed the process of trying and then largely failing to work it out – this is pleasingly-knotty (but, again, please don’t come at me to explain why it’s a double-figure-IQ number at best as, well, I won’t thank you for it).
  • Trash The Planet: I do love me a clicker game, as regular Curios readers will attest (and if you do too, by the way, I suggest you use Curios exciting search facility to look for ‘clicker’ to find a patrimony of the bastard things), and this is a superb example. Part simple clicker, part CORUSCATING SATIRE ON CAPITALISM, part moderately-funny raccoon-based skit, part slightly sophomoric creative writing project, this is LOTS of fun and exactly the sort of thing with which to while away the rest of the afternoon if you’ve suddenly come to the realisation that you will never, ever win that pitch on Tuesday and you may as well just put your feet up and save yourselves the trouble. This is lots of fun and I recommend it unreservedly (though, OK, fine, you may get a bit annoyed with the dialogue at the start of Act IV but persevere, it’s worth it).

By Ivana Stulic



  •  Una Vida Moderna: I confess to not being hugely aware of the influence of mid-century modernism on the architecture of both Mexico and, er, Detroit, and yet here we are.


  • Ememem: French artist Ememem has made their name by creating fill-in collages with beautiful mosaicwork, in gaps in the urban architecture in their native France and beyond; their Insta feed is rather beautiful, not least because they are REALLY GOOD at mosaic. If I were feeling really cnuty I would call this ‘Urban Kintsugi’, but I’m not so I shan’t.
  • VenerealDisneys: The name made me laugh a LOT, as did the memes – these are very good indeed, in that ‘post-post-sincerity, deep-fried irony’ way; not quite sure what the timeline is for this particular style of memetics being appropriated for brand lols is, but enjoy this while you can as it will doubtless all be corrupted for cash by Steak-Umms or some equally hyper-self-aware social media manager before the month is out.
  • Smooth My Balls: I am including this only because I don’t really understand how this works, and I would like someone to explain it to me. My friend Rina got approached by this page on Insta asking about influencer work or somesuch – HOW HAS AN INSTAGRAM PAGE DEVOTED TO SCROTAL DEPILATION PRODUCTS HAVE 470k FOLLOWERS? Obviously there’s something being sold here – is this one of those products whose links people chuck into the wake of a viral tweet in search of the sweet affiliate revenue? HOW MUCH OF A MARKET IS THERE FOR SPECIALIST SCROTAL DEPILATION? I feel so old.


  • The Great Online Game: It’s one of the weird side effects of consuming the web in the way that I (and I am sure others who plough similar furrows) do that you occasionally get a sense of thinking coming together around an area or topic; so it is this week with the idea of ‘being’ online, what it’s ‘for’ and how it makes us (feel, act, be, etc). This is a good place to start us off – to be clear, I didn’t like this article, and I didn’t particularly like its message – I described it an email to someone as ‘breathlessly horrific and horrifically-breathless’, which still feels about right – but as a way of looking at and thinking of our relationship to the web and the growing tyranny of the CREATOR ECONOMY, it’s fascinating. The author basically sets out their manifesto – that being online is a game, that this game can have great benefits if you play it well and ‘win’, and even if you don’t the barriers to entry are minimal so you might as well play. Honestly, read this – it’s not long, and it’s not hard – and then come back to me and let’s talk about the pyramid scheme that increasingly seems to me is ALL of the modern web – because this very much feels like the argument of someone who’s high enough up in the pyramid that they need to convince others to keep joining to keep the grift alive. It presupposes infinite time, energy, and access, confuses ‘output’ with ‘value’, and generally scares the sh1t out of me.
  • Play To Lose: And this is basically the antonym to the last piece, in which the author considers the nature of the ‘play the game, make things from yourself and SELL SELL SELL’ online culture of the now and posits that, just maybe, this doesn’t necessarily end up ascribing the correct value to our endeavours and that, just maybe, this won’t necessarily make everything great. There’s a lot about the current discourse (sorry) around creation and value that strikes me as analogous to a lot of the conversations around sex work that I recall from ethics work many years ago – to whit, that there are certain qualities that goods or services can sometimes have, which the market is very bad for ascribing accurate value to. And, well, THIS: “The desire to win at these games requires people to put their own cash, work, and reputation on the line, as well as the planetary ecosystem as a whole. These models of “inclusion” (pitched as disruption or equal opportunity) encourage people hoping to escape an exploitative wage labor system to enter into speculative marketplaces, where the bigger players are at an overwhelming advantage. That a few individuals occasionally win motivates a far greater number to continue wagering ourselves and to succumb to self-blame for failing to make it.”
  • The Politics of Recognition in the Age of Social Media: OK, full disclosure here – this is VERY LONG, and quite…difficult. Or at least I found it so – I had to keep stopping to reread and think, which, fine, may say more about me and my ability to think properly than anything else, but equally made me think that I ought to caveat it with a warning that if you’ve not read academic literature for a bit then you might need to warm up first. That said, this is one of two pieces this week that I have come back to almost hourly since I read it – honestly, it has coloured so much of my thinking over the past few days, to the point where I’m not exaggerating when I say I can’t quite look at the world – and in particular the digital expression of it – in the same way since. Briefly, this is effectively an academic paper which explores the concepts introduced in the past two articles in greater depth, and which posits that the ‘recognition’ which we seek as individuals is fundamentally impossible to achieve through what the author terms ‘platform capitalism’. Look, here: “This is the trap that platform capitalism sets for its users: it holds out the possibility of a recognition that it will never, can never, fulfil. If, as Taylor argued, modernity’s ideal of ‘inwardly generated identity’ gave a new importance to recognition, the digital public sphere sees an ongoing exposure of the inner self in the struggle to be recognized, but never achieves its goal. Rather than recognition, the self receives mere reaction, and hopefully appreciating reputation. For many users of social media, this produces an escalating exposure of pain, injustice and misrecognition, which meet with varying forms of reaction, some supportive, others less so. Emotion, which behaviourists traditionally studied in wholly observable terms, becomes exclusively observable, a type of public performance that splits off from the part of the self which, for Honneth, needs to be recognized to be fulfilled as personhood.”
  • You Are A Network: This is also slightly-thematically-linked to the last few pieces, though I promise it’s a significantly easier read than the last one, and explores how a networked conception of the self might perhaps make more sense as a way of conceiving of both individual identities and the way in which we choose to ‘cut’ and present these identities to others, as well as the way in which we are necessarily imperfectly and impartially-understood by those around us. There’s nothing in here you likely haven’t thought of before, but the way the arguments are presented felt pleasingly cogent, not least in light of the previous few pieces.
  • Geography is the Chessboard of History: I read this and it made me slightly angry that noone had seen fit to talk to me about this sort of thing when I was a kid – this is SUCH a smart and simple exploration of how geography impacts history, and how therefore we might want to consider geographical factors when looking at the passage of time and the way civilisations and peoples have ‘performed’ relative to each other. Seriously, I am sure that smarter people than me will look at this and go ‘well, yes, obvs you fcuking MONG’ but this was slightly revelatory to me (ought I be embarrassed? I am, moderately).
  • The Queering of Everything: PE Moskowitz, a trans person themselves, writes about the slightly odd quirk of modernity where queerness is increasingly being used as a ‘thing’ to badge ideas or objects or places, and what that possibly means for the nature of the concept of ‘queer’ in and of itself. I find this stuff really interesting – I’ve been saying for a few years now that one of the (few) potentially negative side-effects of the mainstreaming of certain aspects of LGBTQx culture is the fact that, as with all mainstreaming, there’s a parallel flattening; the sort of thing you can see in the neopuritanical ‘no leather daddies at pride, won’t someone think of the children’-type chats that are now part and parcel of every annual parade in the world. I have no skin in this game, but I think it’s fascinating to read the arguments.
  • Appuccinos: So about…what, 6-7 years ago we reached the apogee of the Instagrammification of everything – or at least the instagrammification of everything in terms of aesthetics, with our Museum of Icecreams and EVERY SINGLE MUSEUM NEEDING AN INSTAWALL, and the inescapable sans-serif tyranny of EVERY DROPSHIPPED INSTABRAND EVER, and we’ll be suffering the archtectural fallout of this for a while yet. Now it’s TikTok’s turn to start warping the world around us, starting with its impact on the drinks people order at Starbucks. Video of people ordering very specific, complex drinks and then reviewing them on camera are a THING, and as with everyTHING on TikTok that THING must now be mercilessly copied by every single child in the world in an attempt to ride the sweet, sweet FYP-coattails of every viral thing ever. This is interesting – mainly, to my mind, because of the nature of the interaction – performance breeds action breeds business response is, to my mind, a new-ish way of thinking about these dynamics. I do think there’s quite a lot to say here about the intersection between Starbucks’ identity as a brand (the very acme of white teen blandness) and TikTok’s cultural flattening along similar ethnoaesthetic lines, but the author seems less interested. Hey ho.
  • Discord Wants To Do Music: I’ve tried – God knows I’ve tried – but I really can’t get on with Discord – it’s just TOO BUSY ffs, although I concede that I probably stopped really enjoying new social platforms about a decade ago and am basically condemned to silently thinking ‘but I prefer Twitter’ to everything new that comes out til I die. Still, I am in a minority as Discord is flying at the moment – this is a piece about how it hopes to embed itself as the de-facto community platform for music artists, through which they can manage and monetise their fanbase and which will I think spread as a thing across ‘creators’ of all stripes. Parasocial relationships ftw, eh?
  • Shein: A decent profile of the online retailer whose name has been everywhere in the past week or so, seemingly due to every single strategy-adjacent person in the world deciding they need to write an explainer about it. This is a decent one – look, if you don’t do ecommerce or retail stuff for a living then you can probably skip this, though the insight into the degree of automation the company uses to do product inventory and production did make me wonder whether there was some sort of low-level trolling you could do here. Given they base ordering and production of new products on a variety of realtime consumer behaviour signals, couldn’t an unscrupulous competitor bruteforce that with an army of people feverishly clicking and searching to convince Shein that, I don’t know, there was a hitherto-unimagined spike in demand for onyx ampallangs, leaving the company with several tonnes worth of unsellable penile jewellery? COULDN’T THEY? Probably not tbh – I imagine they guard against this sort of thing – but the idea pleases me.
  • The Secret Language of Families: This piece might as well be subtitled ‘The ‘Insight’ You Are Going To See In An Irritating Number Of Pitches In The Next Month If You Have Anything To Do With Family Products’ – seriously, if you work for OXO or something this is basically ready-made for you.
  • Tech Vs Journalism: This is a bit ‘inside baseball’, fine, and if you’re not someone who’s either interested or professionally involved in modern tech and the reporting thereof you might find it a touch self-indulgent. That said, given the fact that the a handful of companies on the West Coast of the US continue to exert a disproportionate amount of power and influence over our lives – and want to continue to do so, to a greater degree – any story that looks at how they are written about, and how they respond to scrutiny, could be argued to be worth a look. The not-hugely-surprising synopsis here is that it turns out the tech companies preferred it when the journalists covering them paid as little attention to the potential negative externalities of their products as they did during the ideation phase (zing! TAKE THAT, SILICON VALLE….oh) – the slightly-distressing bit is quite how quickly the people who once saw themselves as fearless disruptors have come to resemble the ivory towered gatekeepers they once railed against. Something something pigs men look the same something something something.
  • The Memex Method: Cory Doctorow and I have very little in common, but when I read this wonderful blogpost I felt a small, hubristic moment of kinship – HUG ME CORY! HOLD ME CLOSE! This is Doctorow’s lovely, to me heartwarming, essay on why he blogs, and on the peculiar feeling when you attain actual, verifiable cyborg status whereby you can actually feel the limits of your own physical memory and know when they stop and the augmented memory of your outsourced, transcribed mind starts. Every single word of this articulates perfectly what I feel about Web Curios, and is the perfect reminder to me why, despite the similarity in outlook, Doctorow is a celebrated author and thinker, and I am webmong who writes in his pants for an audiences of literally tens. Honestly. I don’t think I have ever felt so ‘seen’ by a piece of writing.
  • On Handbags: A review by Susannah Clapp of the V&A handbags exhibition – I have very little personal interest in handbags, but, honestly, I adored this piece – there’s something about the use of language throughout that really struck me, and it gives the impression that Clapp really enjoyed writing it. An absolute pleasure to read.
  • The Filing Cabinet: This is perhaps the perfect Boring lecture in essay form, and I would love to attend an hour-long talk by its author on this very subject. A review by Sam di Bella of a history of the filing cabinet, this is – I promise you – the most fascinating essay on the least-promising subject you can imagine. Touching on theory of information, social history, gender politics, advertising, product design and modern employment practice, this is such a beautiful piece of writing, which you will realise at the end has a) taught you loads of interesting stuff; and b) made you genuinely eager to go out and read a whole book about filing cabinets. The ur-example of ‘anything can be interesting if you look at it from the right angle for long enough’.
  • Sinead O’Connor: When Sinead O’Connor got mainstream famous, I was 10 – meaning I didn’t really know about, or follow, her subsequent spectacular fall from public grace in the wake of the pope-baiting SNL experience. This interview is heartbreaking in many respects – you sort of wonder about all the gaps, basically – but also wonderfully affirming, and makes you (or at least made me) feel significantly happier about O’Connor and her career trajectory than I probably did beforehand. The Prince stuff has gotten all the pull-quote attention, but this is far more interesting when you center the interviewee rather than the more famous man she namechecks.
  • The World’s Greatest Soccer Team: This week I saw a trailer for a remake of ‘The Wonder Years’ doing the rounds – I’ve studiously avoided any commentary around it because, well, I don’t want to be made miserable – and this piece made me think of it, and related issues around remakes and recontextualisations. This piece is a lovely bit of reminiscence by Carey Baraka about their memories of Supa Strikas, an African reinterpretation of Roy of the Rovers which was syndicated across the continent, recasting Roy Race and the rest of the Melchester Rovers lads as a pan-African superteam. It’s lovely in part because of the affection Baraka obviously still feels for the comic; in part because of the fact that it’s just so incredibly cool that this existed, and that they did regional variations to reflect local dialects and names, etc, to ensure that the comic felt special whether you were Ghanaian or Cameroonian; and in part because it’s a neat, nice ‘fcuk off’ to every miserable git who complains about remakes of stuff they liked with people who look different from them. There’s something incredibly cool, to my mind, about taking something beloved and tweaking it to make it lovable by a wider, more diverse audience, and I will fight anyone who says otherwise, basically.
  • Superhistory, Not Superintelligence: The second ‘oh my god this is so clever’ piece of the week, this is, honestly, so smart and so mind-frottingly interesting that I had to keep stopping as I was reading it because I could literally feel my brain fizzing slightly (do you ever get that? Like a proper sense of kinetic…almost itchiness when you’re thinking quite hard but it feels really good? Anyone?). Venkatesh Rao writes so engagingly and so interestingly about stuff that is, objectively, a bit chewy, conceptually-speaking, that he’s always a pleasure to read. This article describes his thinking around a potential recontextualisation of our understanding of AI and what it can do for us, suggesting that what we perhaps ought to consider is that AI is not about intelligence as we understand it but rather is more usefully thought of in terms of its ability to allow for more time to think – that AI is building on thousands of years of thinking, as we are ourselves, and that its ability to reason with itself is better understood perhaps as temporal compression than ‘intelligence’ per se. Look, I am obviously butchering Rao’s arguments here horrifically – I can only stress that this is very, very good, and you will enjoy reading it I promise.
  • On Finishing Finnegan’s Wake: Honestly, even if you, like me, have never really gotten on with Joyce, I cannot stress enough what a beautiful piece of writing this is – Gabrielle Carey James writes in the Sydney Review of Books on her reading group finally finishing Finnegan’s Wake after the not-inconsiderable period of 17 years, her reflections on the book’s ‘meaning’ and some of the (honestly mind-blowing) coincidences and conspiracies that surround it. Achieved the impossible and made me almost want to pick up a copy – seriously, this is a wonderful read.
  • Dagobert The Duck Tales Bandit: Many years ago when working in games, I used to harass the author of this piece, Jeff Maysh, to review my code for Loaded. I am pleased that at least one of us has managed to better themselves – Maysh is now a proper, world-renowned feature writer who’s sold at least two stories to Hollywood (he’s also had several pieces of writing featured in Curios, but i get the impression he’s less proud of that), and this, his latest for the New Yorker, is a typically cracking yarn about a blackmailer called Dagobert who terrorised German police in the late-80s and early-90s. Literally EVERTYHING about this is perfect – the tone, the pacing, some of the deadpan reportage – and this is obviously going to be a film at some point. If you enjoy this, by the way, can I make a STRONG RECOMMENDATION that you pick up a copy of The Ballad of the Whisky Robber, a book which I have recommended before but which I promise you will bring you untold joy.
  • Wisconsin Sex Party: Finally this week, an account of going to a sex party in Wisconsin which will confirm everything you have ever thought about the suburban dungeons’n’swinging set, and, if you’re anything like me, make you quite glad that you tend not to get invited to orgies. I laughed and winced a lot here – this is a very good piece of deadpan writing indeed, and is by way of apology for all the slightly thinky stuff elsewhere in this week’s longreads. Enjoy!

By Katherine Lams