I’m normally far too resigned and fatalistic to get particularly angry about politics – life, after all, is something that happens to one, regardless of one’s desires, rather than something that we have any meaningful power to affect, and the quicker we all accept that then the…well, not happier, exactly, but at the very least more quietly accepting we’ll all be – but the prospect that he might actually get away with all this is genuinely p1ss-boiling. Can those of you still living in the UK set fire to things should he still be in post at the end of next week, please? In return I’ll do my utmost to ensure that the Italian nation once again has Silvio at the helm, so as to return the crown of ‘Geographical Europe’s most embarrassing ‘functioning’ ‘democracy’’ back to its rightful owner.
Still, you’re not here for THAT – you’re here for ‘a bunch of stuff off the internet, thrown together with little care for thematic consistency or readability and accompanied by prose which could at best be described as ‘phoned-in’ and, at worst, as ‘actively working against the reader’. Which is fortunate really, seeing as that’s EXACTLY what I’ve prepared for you!
I am still Matt, this is still Web Curios, and I am still amazed that I don’t have a breakout, viral sensation on my hands.
By Paul Davis
THE SECTION WHICH HOPES ST. PETER DOESN’T TRY AND MAKE MEATLOAF DO THAT , PT.1:
- The Museum of Contemporary Emotions: How are we all feeling? Honestly, it’s sometimes hard to tell, given the somewhat-deadening effect of the past two years – is that dull pressure-throbbing just behind my eyes a symptom of growing existential ennui or simply just what it feels like to be alive? Honestly, I can’t even tell anymore. Which is by way of slightly-meandering preamble to the Museum of Contemporary Emotions, a project from Finland which sought to map the emotions of the country’s residents over the course of the pandemic. Drawing from The First Year (look, I can’t help myself; I read too much mediocre scifi/fantasy in my teens and now basically think in chapter headings like that), this now feels like a bit like an historical artefact – scroll through the site and it takes you through various milestones from the Finnish experience of COVID (part the first), with accompanying stories and memories collected from everyday Finns which you can explore as you hark your mind back to What It Was Like Back Then. This is partly just a really nice piece of living history and archiving, but it’s also quite a bizarre bit of near-past time travel – this all feels so long ago, in the way that time has ceased to have any meaning whatsoever Since This All Started, and yet like it happened yesterday, or indeed like it’s still happening (which it is). There is nothing hugely-remarkable in here – the stories the site shares are the same stories we’ve all shared (well, fine, not quite all – insert your own party-related gags if you can still be bothered), broadly-speaking – but I found it hugely-affecting, far more than I expected it to.
- Constellations Quebec: OK, so you need to speak French to get the most out of this – or at least the weird, mangled version of French that they speak in Quebec (look, I am sorry Canadians, but really; have you heard what it sounds like?) (NB – I am also joking, please do not come for me, Canucks) – but even if you don’t, the idea is lovely. Constellations is a project which invited a bunch of writers and artists from the region to imagine 80 short pieces of fiction telling the imagined stories of imagined residents of six different Quebecois districts – some of the stories are standalone, some are interlinked, some are text and some are audio, but (and I appreciate, again, that your ability to appreciate this will be somewhat stymied if you don’t speak French) all of them are beautiful and intimate, and there’s something lovely about the oddly-wintry website that lets you move around said districts and explore the stories at your leisure. I am a sucker for imagined fictions layered over real-world places (I know, I hate myself when I write phrases like that too) and, honestly, can you IMAGINE how much fun you could have with something like this using London as its boroughs as a canvas? LOADS, YOU UNIMAGINATIVE FCUKS, JESUS.
- The GameBoy Colour Gallery: This feels doubly-retro – not only a project using old kit FROM THE PAST, but also like something that might have cropped up in about 2013 when the first wave of early-digital nostalgia really bubbled up. This is GREAT – a small art gallery, presented in the style of a Pokemon-ish top-down GameBoy title, where all of the art is submitted by users who’ve made it using the original GameBoy camera attachment – move around the gallery space, look at the works, read the title cards, download any you particularly enjoy, talk to the overcaffeinated pigeon…all the standard gallerygoing experiences. There’s something rather lovely about the works displayed, which…er…work despite the constraints of the medium, and whilst the ‘game’ is unfinished it’s a satisfying little 5-minute distraction. More than anything, this is just so much more fun than any parallel digital art ‘experience’ that any metaverse-peddler has yet shown me, and the photos here on display beat the fcuk out of Beeple imho. Oh, if you’re unfamiliar with Itch as a platform, you move around with the arrow keys and interact with the ‘z’ key (you’re welcome).
- The Virtual Brand Group: You know how I keep writing about how THE METAVERSE (I promise, this week we’re VERY light on all that stuff – don’t get scared) is a brilliant opportunity for agencies to shill magic beans to idiots? WELL LOOKY HERE! The Virtual Brand Group is…what is it? I have no idea to be honest, but it’s ok because they don’t seem to either. According to the company’s LinkedIn page, it’s a ‘metaverse creation company’, and you can tell because if you click the link and go to the website you will see the word METAVERSE written in big letters all over the place (without any sort of contextual anchoring or defined meaning, fine, but let’s not split hairs), along with great big screaming claims like “THE METAVERSE WILL BE WORTH $82BN BY 2025!” (will it? OK!) and “Infinite Loop Marketing!” (no idea!) and, look, the reason I am putting this in here is not to point and laugh at the shysters (although, well, ha!) or to laugh at the mooks who are buying their services (although, well, ha!), but more to point out that this is what a massive fcuking scam looks like. Not that the idea of a persistent virtual layer atop the physical is a scam, more that, as a rule, anyone trying to sell you a glorious future based on making loads of money out of something that neither they nor anyone else can adequately define is probably not to be trusted, especially when their website answers the question “What We Do” with “The metaverse will be the most powerful marketing channel for the brands of tomorrow”. Yes mate, MORE BEANS!
- Roll: The landing page here is spectacularly uninformative, but Roll is an interesting idea – or at least it was when I found it, although news this week does rather feel like it might have, er, a less rosy future than it had on Monday. The gimmick behind rolls is simple – to give ‘creators’ a chance to monetise EVERYTHING THEY DO by creating a paid-for secondary stream of content behind/alongside their primary channel, for all the in-progress, behind-the-scenes deep cuts that their fans are doubtless clamouring for, all for a nice monthly subscription – basically like a non-bongo OnlyFans. The name’s a riff on ‘Camera Roll’, with the idea being that you’re buying an unfiltered glimpse into the off-Insta life of your favourite shiny-haired, shiny-faced content monkey, and Rolls was seemingly doing pretty well, signing up famouses and getting decent enough writeups and then this happened and well, sorry Rolls. Anyway, this is interesting to me as part of the ever-expanding nature of THE CREATOR ECONOMY – I wonder how long it is before products and services spin out to enable us to effortlessly monetise our digital leavings and shavings? Maybe something that will, for a monthly fee, let subscribers see the contents of your drafts? Your Notes? Actually, that’s a fcuking GREAT idea, I would pay actual cashmoney for access to the digital scribblediaries of certain folk. Can someone build this please? Thanks!
- The List of Visualisation Lists: A collection of ‘best visualisation work of 2021’ lists, compiling collections of the best dataviz, diagrammatical and scientific imagery of the past 12 months. If you work in design or dataviz this is obviously super-useful, but, even if not, there’s so much wonderful visual work in here that it’s worth a click from visual curiosity alone – if you only click one of these, my personal favourite is the roundup of the best satellite imagery of 2021, most of which I’d never seen before.
- ArnoldHeight: “Welcome to the premier Schwarzenegger ‘Height-Site’ on the internet. We pride ourselves in being the ONLY site dedicated to Arnold Schwarzenegger’s vertical measurement.” This site has seemingly been dormant for 6 years – presumably because there have been no updates to Arnold’s vertical measurements in the intervening period – but it’s PACKED full of goodness, including GAMES (“Upon starting a new game you are shown Arnold Schwarzenegger standing in various scenes. At the same time you are presented with 5 possible heights that he might be. Earn points by correctly guessing (or coming within 2 inches of) Arnold’s height before the timer runs out.”), interview excerpts, and a photogallery which inexplicably features lots of pictures of Arnie photoshopped to look significantly shorter than he probably is. I don’t really understand why this exists, or why it ever existed, but I am very pleased it does – also, special mention to the fact that the site doesn’t at any point confirm exactly how tall its subject is.
- Tweetflick: It’s increasingly clear to me that spending more time on Twitter, or indeed any social network, is probably not a good idea – still, though, we persist (or at least I do – I NEED IT FOR WORK, OK???). If you’re in a similarly invidious position – to whit, that it is ESSENTIAL that you use Twitter for professional reasons (NB – let’s be clear, there are approximately seven jobs currently in existence which actually require one to be ‘all over’ Twitter, and I bet yours isn’t one) – then you might find this useful. Tweetflick basically lets you add tags and annotations to tweets that you save, which if you’re a journalist or researcher is legitimately useful. It’s currently free, though there’s a plan for a paid-for product, and should you work in one of the aforementioned seven jobs (BUT ONLY THEN) then this could be worth a look.
- Toyforce: The website of…what do you call someone who makes beautiful models of creatures out of minimally-coloured LEGO? WE NEED A TERM FOR THESE PEOPLE! Sadly the genius behind this is anonymous – or at least the website’s all in Japanese and I can’t find their name – so I can’t celebrate their mastery in full, but I promise you that you will be stunned by what they have managed to make out of the tiny plastic bricks. Minimalist mecha-crayfish? NO PROBLEM. Hermit crab? PIECE OF P1SS, MATE! Massive robot slug? Actually, yes! These are wonderful, and will make your adult LEGO model of, I don’t know, the Pompidou Centre look a bit lame.
- The Bureau of Linguistic Reality: I am a sucker for projects that seek to imagine new language – I think this is from an early encounter with ‘The Meaning of Liff’, in which Douglas Adams and John Lloyd created made-up definitions for place names that sounded like they ought to mean something (but very much didn’t) (my personal favourite was always “Woking: the act of walking into a kitchen and then immediately forgetting the reason for having done so”). “The Bureau of Linguistical Reality is a public participatory artwork by Heidi Quante and Alicia Escott focused on creating new language as an innovative way to better understand our rapidly changing world due to manmade climate change and other Anthropocenic events. The vision of the artwork is to provide new words to express what people are feeling and experiencing as our world changes as climate change accelerates. We will be using these new words to facilitate conversations about the greater experiences these words are seeking to express with the view to facilitate a greater cultural shift around climate change. This project was inspired by moments that both Heidi and Alicia had where they literally were at a loss for words to describe emotions, ideas or situations they found themselves experiencing because of climate change.” This is a few years old, I think (THE INTERNET IS NOT A RACE), and quite possibly no longer a going thing, but there are some terms in here which feel we could really do with adopting them – specifically, “Teuchnikskreis (noun): Using new technologies to tackle environmental symptoms and byproducts caused by other (possibly older) technologies, which will in turn eventually produce their own unintended by-products and problems— for which newer technologies will then need to be produced. Teuchnikskreis is characterized by a sense of being stuck in a vicious cycle or spiral, thinking technology will be the solution to the problems created by technology.” I mean, perfect, isn’t it?
- Mad Divorce: How are your relationships doing, everyone? Are you one of those people whose love has gone from strength to strength thanks to the enforced proximity of lockdown(sssssss), or have you reached the stage whereby the only way in which you can stand to look at your partner is to imagine them hanging from a meathook as you do so? If you’re feeling like things are perhaps not as rosy as they might be in your amorous Garden of Eden, perhaps reading this quite spectacular Reddit thread, in which divorce lawyers (or at least people willing to put the effort into cosplaying as such online) detail the most insane reasons clients have sought to file for divorce. Now obviously this is Reddit and so: a) this skews very North American, which in turn skews the nature of the mad; and b) there’s no guarantee this isn’t all made up, but I promise you that you can’t read these without feeling slightly better at the state of your own relationship. I mean, there’s no way that this is actually true, but it is funny: “My douche cousin told his wife she had three chances to give him a son. Daughter was born first. Strike one. Son was born second. Then they find out the boy cant eat gluten. So my cousin divorced her and has made zero effort to see his kids.” Except, er, unless it is true, in which case it isn’t funny. Gah! Complex!
- Galaxicle Implosions: Ok, so this is still in preview and I’ve not tried it yet, but it looks interesting and that’s what counts. “The Galaxicle Implosions is an animated science-fiction comedy series; broadcast live from a London theatre to VR and YouTube, and co-created by you” – it describes itself as a ‘scifi impro comedy series in VR’, which sounds like a fun idea, and I’m a sucker for stuff which attempts to do theatre in interesting in different ways. They’re running a bunch of test/preview shows over the course of the week, which can be experienced either in-theatre (should you be in London), or in-browser, or in-VR – this looks like it could be rather cool, and I’m intrigued by the idea of the way the experience will play out across the three mediums simultaneously.
- Feminist Tech: The occasionally-hypermasculine (and pathetically-macho) nature of much of the tech world is something that I imagine you’re probably broadly aware of – this project exists to attempt to counter that prevailing orthodoxy. “A Feminist Tech Policy sheds light on power structures, injustices and the environmental aspects of technology. It questions current innovation narratives and examines the value of maintenance, accessibility, openness and care for the digital societies of the future. A feminist approach helps to think and see beyond existing stories and structures.” If you work in or around tech and are interested in questions of how to make it more inclusive, and how to ensure that we think about the role of technology in shaping the future in ways that aren’t quite so male-defined (and frankly, you know, it’s quite important), then this is worth a read – the project’s principles are well-articulated and worth investigating.
- Car Free Berlin: I found this site and was briefly transported back to the early-2000s when Berlin was presented as this technosocialist utopia of free rent and cheap drugs and excellent techno and SMART REVOLUTIONARY THINKING, of the sort that we could only dream of in grimy, banker-infested old London. This project, which is campaigning to make the centre of Berlin car-free, has received sufficient backing for it to be debated in the German House of Representatives, and, honestly, it made me feel momentarily utopian and hopeful (it didn’t last, mind). Iit’s obviously all in German, but for those of us who never really understood umlauts then Google Translate is obviously your friend – it’s a really good example of how to present and run a public-facing campaign, if nothing else.
- The Writer’s Room: For any of you who write, and want company whilst doing so, this could be PERFECT: “The 24-Hour Room is a free virtual writers space hosted by Elizabeth Gaffney. Writers often toil in solitude. Our need for one another is greater than ever in this period of isolation. Here’s a place we can gather without masks, whether to write silently in the Studio or talk about books and writing in the Lounge.The 24-Hour Room offers fellowship, structure, solutions, motivation and intellectual sustenance. It includes 24/7 access to a communal writing Studio on Zoom; a 24/7 Zoom Lounge where Members convene to talk and read aloud; craft guidance, weekly craft discussions on Zoom; readings and prompts; and discussion boards. The full features are visible only to Members — but membership is free.”
- WikiHow Pictures: WikiHow is a fcuking odd corner of the web, a place that has existed and grown for years but which I can’t honestly imagine anyone ever actually using in the manner it was intended (noone has EVER received a piece of useful advice from WikiHow – this is a hill I will happily die on), and which is still known mainly for the…slightly-insane quality of the illustrations which accompany each article rather than the quality of the advice it offers. Which is what makes this little game so fun – it shows you an image allegedly pulled from a WikiHow article, and your task is simply to guess the title of the article to which it’s attached. You’d think this would be straightforward, but never underestimate the ability of the WikiHow editors to throw a graphical curveball. There’s a good read about the odd economy of WikiHow illustrators here, should you wish to go deeper, but otherwise just enjoy speculating as to why exactly an article about ‘Friendship’ is illustrated by an apparently drunk man crying whilst wearing a crumpled Spiderman costume.
NEXT UP, WHY NOT ENJOY A PLAYLIST FEATURING 100 TRACKS NAMED AFTER EACH YEAR OF THE 20TH CENTURY, AN IDEA WHICH SOUNDS ADMITTEDLY TERRIBLE BUT WHICH I PROMISE YOU RESULTS IN A QUITE MADDENGLY-BRILLIANT DEGREE OF ECLECTICISM!
THE SECTION WHICH HOPES ST. PETER DOESN’T TRY AND MAKE MEATLOAF DO THAT , PT.2:
- SleepBaseball: Look, I have lived in America (briefly), I have been to baseball games, and, I’m sorry, but it is without a shadow of a doubt the most boring sport in the world (and I say that as someone from a nation that brought the world cricket, ffs). Which makes this podcast project, just launched, practically-perfect – it acknowledges the…fundamentally-soporific nature of the innings and the outs, and takes that to the nth degree by creating entirely-fictional play-by-play audioreports of games for you to fall asleep to. There’s a wonderful degree of craft here – there’s only one episode so far, but it’s a full 2-hours of totally-invented baseball with crowd sounds and play-by-play descriptions of stolen bases and all that jazz, designed to help you fall asleep, and it’s vaguely-ASMRish and really rather soothing. I would quite like to see something like this done for the Trever Bstard extended universe, should anyone involved with that be reading – THANKS!
- Brothtails: Those of you who work in advermarketingpr will be aware of the particular feeling when you’re sitting in a ‘creative session’ (ha!) and literally nothing is happening, there are no good ideas, the room is basically airless and you’re all starting to succumb to that weird sort-of carbon monoxide poisoning effect that gets everyone after 45m of fundamentally-unsatisfying ‘ideation’, that point at which literally any halfway-plausible sounding pun-based concept starts to seem appealing. That’s the state I imagine the ‘creatives’ behind this marketing concept for Campbell’s Soup were in – there can be no other explanation, other perhaps than microdosing, for this, a campaign based around making cocktails out of, er, soup. Want to make a refreshing cocktail out of, er, mushroom broth? NO OF COURSE NOT IT SOUNDS FCUKING VILE. Please, take a moment to read the recipe for the ‘Mango Pho Sour’ and try not to sick up in your mouth a bit. Astonishing, and, seemingly, not a joke. Can someone please do a tasting session with these recipes and report back?
- Miniature Calendar: This is so beautiful and so pure that I feel I should just leave you with the words of its creator: “Everyone must have had thoughts like these before: Broccoli and parsley may sometimes look like a forest of trees, and tree leaves floating on the surface of water may sometimes look like little boats. Everyday occurrences seen from a miniature perspective can bring us lots of fun thoughts.I wanted to take this way of thinking and express it through photographs, so I started to put together a “MINIATURE CALENDAR.” These photographs primarily depict diorama-style figures surrounded by daily necessities. Just like a standard daily calendar, the photos are updated daily on my website and SNS page, earning it the name of “MINIATURE CALENDAR.” It would be great if you could use it to add a little enjoyment to your everyday life.” I can’t stress enough how utterly lovely this is – take a bow, Tatsuya Tanaka.
- Sopra Banking Software: Another in the occasional series of ‘pointlessly-overengineered websites for boring companies which I can’t believe someone ever signed off’, this is the quite astonishing offering from Sopra Banking Software which, for reasons known only to the web design team, presents the various product offerings of the company as, er, various areas in a digitally-rendered neon city which you can navigate around in your browser and which tells you the square-root of fcuk all about exactly what it is that the company does or why you should care. Honestly, this is remarkable – I have no idea what part of their user testing said to them ‘yep, what people who buy banking software REALLY want is to spend 15 minutes scrabbling around for basic information about how your API systems work by clicking around a cyberpunk representation of a digital city which is somehow meant to represent modern finance IT systems’, but fair play to whoever it was who got this over the line. This is terrible, obviously, but in a really spectacular way – if you’re going to make a borderline-unusable website, basically, you might as well go all-in.
- Build for Playdate: I first featured the PlayDate console when it was announced a couple of years ago – you may recall, it’s that vaguely-GameBoy-looking yellow device with the crank on the side – and now that it exists out in the wild, the developers have opened up the game creation side of the platform to all. Pulp is the software platform used to code for the hardware – anyone can play around with it, and from the brief fiddle I’ve had it’s incredibly flexible and equally simple enough that even a luddite like me can get their head around how it works. “If you’ve never made a game before, or you’re looking to try a fun, quirky sandbox for prototyping, Pulp can scale from goofing around to building a full Playdate game. It’s an all-in-one game studio, in your web browser. Drawing tools, animation, level editor, custom font, chiptune music and sound effects. And a surprisingly capable code editor, if you want to use it.” If you’ve ever been tempted to fiddle around with gamemaking, this could be an interesting, simple way of getting your toes wet.
- Audiobooks on YouTube: A wonderful YouTube playlist, this, of free audiobook readings – there are nearly 130 different titles linked here, each of which is a full book or short story, read in its entirety and available to listen to at your leisure. This is YouTube and so the quality is inevitably…variable, but the person who’s pulled this together seems to have done a reasonable job of ensuring that the base standard is reasonably high, and there’s a really wide-ranging selection of titles (with a significant weighting towards stuff that’s out of copyright, as you’d expect) including Christie, Conan-Doyle, Chekhov, Wells and the like (there are also a few outliers and motivational speeches and the like, but they’re easily-skippable). If you’re someone who likes to have stories read to them as they sleep but is too tight/anti-Amazon to fork out for Audible then this should give you free bedtime listening for the rest of the year.
- Homecoming Diary: I’ve seen quite a few of these floating around Twitter in the contextless way that TikToks do these days, but this week I discovered the actual TikTok account and blimey is this stuff…odd. Homecoming Diary is basically a series of lifestyle-pr0n videos with a lightly-surreal edge, in which the protagonists show off the frankly-staggering array of domestic gadgets and timesaving devices they possess in a series of loosely-themed vignettes like ‘Single Girl Comes Home From Work’, or ‘Do You Like My Kitchen?’. This feels quite a lot like a sort of hyperpop QVC – trust me, you’ll see what I mean – and either an amazing glimpse into how incredibly-future (and sci-fi miserable) modern life now is (for some people, in some places), or alternatively a distressing example of why it is that our problem with overconsumption probably isn’t ending anytime soon (take your pick!). Dizzying, and possibly the thing so far this year that has made me feel most old and confused (don’t worry, I will be updating this list on a weekly basis).
- Obscure Game Aesthetics: Screenshots from obscure games, Tweeted out at regular intervals and presenting graphics from old, obscure or cancelled games. If you’re interested in videogames this is a wonderful collection of obscurities and oddities, but it’s also a slightly-sad reminder of the homogenisation of aesthetic that the industry has seen, and of what you can do with the medium if you’re willing to take some artistic risks, and of how other gameworlds can look when done properly.
- Spiderverse Frames: Seeing as we’re doing ‘Twitter accounts that spit out images on a regular basis’ (we are, you don’t get to choose), here’s one which every hour will Tweet a single frame from the SpiderVerse film – this is great, showcasing the insane visual diversity and creativity on display through the different styles of animation the movie employed, and it’s generally just an excellent way of getting some beautiful shots into your TL.
- Buy It Now For Life: Do..do you think that this year will be the one in which we all finally understand that buying a new version of a thing each year is perhaps not a great idea for the planet? No, realistically it will not be, but it does feel as though there are creeping steps being taken towards a slightly more long-term view of product development, and that consumers are maybe starting to wake up to the economic benefits of buying stuff that lasts longer than 3m. Buy It Now For Life is a site which scrapes Reddit (can I reiterate just how much ‘scraping Reddit’ is a smart and viable way of approaching LOTS of different questions? Yes? Good) for recommendations of products in a wide range of categories which will last ‘for life’ (ok, fine, maybe not a long life, but at least a life – and as I can categorically attest, there are…limited benefits to staying alive to the age of, say, 102). Because it’s Reddit this tends to skew a bit outdoors/tech/survival, and I laughed quite a lot at the fact that the homepage features men’s pants (is there a more Reddit idea than ‘pants, for eternity’? Reader, I posit that there is not), but if you’re in the market for a new thermos (look, I don’t know you, you might be) then you could do worse than start your search here.
- Erich’s Packing Centre: Erich Friedman, I salute you and your admirable commitment to helping the world pack objects more efficiently than they would have done otherwise without your intervention! If you’ve ever found yourself in a position whereby you have a container of known size, and a bunch of regularly-sized objects which you need to fit within said container with optimal efficiency (and, honestly, which of us hasn’t??) then BOOKMARK THIS IMMEDIATELY. You may not think that this sounds interesting, but you are wrong and you will see why when you click the link (CLICK THE LINK).
- Bitelabs: This feels very much like an idea whose time has come. BiteLabs is a spoof project from 2014 whose central gag was ‘what if we took DNA samples of famouses and used said samples to lab-grow famousmeat and then turn said famousmeat into salami?’ – it feels very much like it exists in the same sort of conceptual space as GenPets, another excellent hoax project from the early-ish web. Bitelabs has been entirely dormant for nearly 8 years, but I very much feel that 2022 – a year in which we’re all cult members, White Knighting for our favourite causes and creators and visionaries and thought leaders, with parasocial connections to heroes we barely know but feel more intimately-connected to than our own families – is the year in which this could well become reality. Lab-grown meat is now a more viable concern than it was back then, and we’re all used to swabbing ourselves – so why not use a swab of, say, Francis Bourgeois to make BOURGEOIS SALAMI??? No reason, basically, so can any VCs reading this get on with it post-haste as I think there are some serious millions to be made here.
- Micronations: I personally know of only one micronation – the Glorious Kingdom of Landskeria, in Pembrokeshire – but thanks to this Wiki I now know about several others. I love the idea of a micronation – part-utopianism, part-fabulism, part-bloody-mindedness – and this is a wonderful rabbithole to fall down, where you can learn about such incredible places as Wamong, “a self-proclaimed sovereign state and independence movement located in North-Western Pennsylvania in the United States. It was proclaimed on 15 February 2018. It is an observer state of the Grand Unified Micronational and a member of the Micronational Assembly. It has since split into two separate governments due to a coup on 10 June 2021, which has led to a crisis.” Superb, and full of mad.
- Local Controversies: “Residents of small towns”, asks this Reddit thread, “what is the current controversy all about?” OH ME OH MY. There are some wonderful examples of tiny-community pettiness and controversy here, along with some honest-to-goodness murder mysteries and enough decent writing prompts to kickstart a dozen (mediocre, but still) novels. Seriously, just take a moment to imagine the War And Peace-length backstory that sits behind this simple post: “LoL The Mayor has a personal feud with this one guy that has an emotional support pig while living in the village.” Wonderful.
- Dimensions: The description for this site is pretty prosaic: “A comprehensive reference database of dimensioned drawings documenting the standard measurements and sizes of the everyday objects and spaces that make up our world. Scaled 2D drawings and 3D models available for download. Updated daily.” Except then you click and you quickly realise that whoever’s behind this appears to be attempting to create a database featuring images and dimensions for, well, everything. Literally everything. Marsupials? YEP! White goods? YEP! Notable people? YEP! Digital ad formats? Er, YEP! You can’t help but admire the ambition, but I sort-of fear that the endeavour is doomed to failure – still, if you’ve ever wanted a resource which will let you find both the average dimensions of a banded ocelot, Sir Edmund Hilary AND a PS5 controller then WOW are you in luck!
- Chubbyemu: A youTube channel which exists solely to answer the sort of stoned hypothetical questions I spent a lot of time pondering when I was about 15. What actually happens when you swallow chewing gum? Or if you drink glowstick juice? Or, er, if you happen to chug a bunch of hydrogen peroxide? NOTHING GOOD, is the answer, but if you want a slightly-more-scientific series of explanations then GET THEM HERE!
- Duke Smoochem: Over the past 6 months, Dan Douglas has slowly been working on Duke Smoochem, a modded version of classic FPS game Duke Nukem 3d in which he is painstakingly recreating a bunch of elements that define modern Britain, sort of like Coldwar Steve if he discovered 3d modeling. You will probably have seen these images or videos floating around the web, but this link takes you to Douglas’ own Twitter thread which he’s used to chronicle the development process since July last year. Want to see what racist Home Office deportation vans look like if rendered satirically in a 20 year old game engine? Want to see what it would be like to blow up Giles Coren’s Jaguar, in-game? Want to see what how an on-rails shooting section on the top deck of a tourist Routemaster feels? FILL YOUR BOOTS! This is amazing – a sort of live development diary of one man’s artistic response to THE MADNESS THAT IS MODERN BRITAIN (copyright: every single centrist bore on Twitter, and me) – the game may one day come out as a mod, but even if it doesn’t this is quite clearly ART of the highest form.
- Catchphrase: My girlfriend and I found ourselves falling into something of a Catchphrase hole back in Lockdown…III? Specifically, we got slightly obsessed with that weird period in which Catchphrase was still going on, but had been relegated to a weird no-budget digital-only channel in the mid-00s, and the money had gone, and they couldn’t afford to render Mr Chips in CG anymore and instead all the illustrations were in the sort of weird, shonky, half-off style so beloved of the people who do the cartoons on icecream vans (“Mummy, why does Mickey have radiation sickness?”) (If this means nothing to you, by the way, and you don’t know the majesty of Catchphrase then please gen up here). If you’re similarly Catchphrase-philic then this game (via last week’s B3ta) will be PERFECT for you – it lets you play the game in your browser, offering you little clips of Mr Chips doing his thing and inviting you to guess exactly which catchphrase it is that he’s embodying. Except, obviously, most of these are not things that anyone of sound mind would describe as a catchphrase – but if you can get over that small issue this is absolute GOLD.
- Looptap: Tap the spacebar when the dot is over the line. Yes, I appreciate that that sounds like the least-fun thing you could do with the next three minutes of your life but a) if you’re doing Web Curios properly, you’re reading this on your employers’ time and as such I refuse to believe that your actual job is more fun than that; b) you’re wrong, this is ace.
- WikiTrivia: Last up in this week’s miscellania, this is BRILLIANT. WikiTrivia scrapes events or people from Wikipedia, along with an image and a date – your simple task is to arrange these events or people on a chronological timeline. You have three lives (chances to make an error), and your challenge is to get as many correctly-arranged events/individuals before these run out, and OH MY GOD THIS IS ADDICTIVE. I have basically lost about a couple of hours to this this week – SORRY, PAYMASTERS! – and, even better, I feel like it’s actually taught me things. Web Curios – delivering the ludic, educational hit that you don’t know that you want or need but which, I promise you, you very much do.
By Gil Regoulet
THE CIRCUS OF TUMBLRS!
- Binocularshot: A Tumblr celebrating all those instances in films in which a character looks through a pair of binoculars and the camera cuts to first-person and gets the shot wrong. As any fule kno, binoculars don’t show you two overlapping circles when you look through them – and now you can look and laugh at all those STUPID FILMMAKERS who got it wrong. IDIOTS, all of them.
THE TROUGH OF (INSTA) FEEDS!
- Clemens Gritl: The Insta of a Berlin-based artist who designs ‘artificial brutalist 3D cityscapes based on utopian architectural visions’. These are brilliant – there’s a very cut-out/collage-y vibe to the look of the renders, and I now want to play a game or watch a film set in a world that looks like this (but, to be clear, I never want to live in it).
- Lunartik: Tatts-that-look-like-fine-art-illustrations. I’m not always sold on the subjects displayed here, but there’s no denying the artistic skill of the person doing the ink.
- FaveTikToks420: This Insta account is effectively a distillation of all the reasons I can’t use TikTok – it collects videos from the platform which are simply awkward and uncomfortable to watch, which is basically what I feel every time I open the app. Bad acting, desperate thirst traps, appalling takes, no-self-awareness monologues…this has it all. Obviously this is a bit…mean, but also it’s compellingly carcrash, and (for me at least) is a useful reminder of why the idea that ‘everyone can be a creator with the magical new tools at our disposal’ is, perhaps, a touch overstated (look, I know that this is an unfashionable viewpoint, but can we all agree that ‘the ability to make compelling, entertaining and well-constructed shortform vertical video’ IS NOT A UNIVERSAL HUMAN QUALITY and that, as a result, MANY OF US SHOULD NOT ATTEMPT TO DO SO? Yes? Good).
LONG THINGS WHICH ARE LONG!:
- Builder Brain: I promise you that this week’s longreads are VERY light on cryptoweb3wank – still, I will forgive you if you skip this one should you be sick to the back teeth of speculation about WHAT ALL THIS MEANS. Still, should you be in the market for it, this is an excellent and thoughtful essay by Charlie Warzel, from his newsletter, which looks at the boom in tech-solutionist thinking through the prism of this week’s ‘artificial wombs’ clusterfcuk (don’t worry if this mean’s nothing to you, the piece gives context) and, specifically, at the prevalent view in much of Silicon Valley that ‘making new solutions’ is better than ‘fixing existing systems’, and what this means. Warzel is by no means the first person to take aim at this solutionist mentality – see Evgeny Morosov’s entire career for more on this – but this is a really nicely-argued piece of writing which neatly gets to the heart of one of the main things that troubles me about cryptoweb3wank (to whit: looking at symptoms not causes).
- Dancing With Systems: I know I have linked to systems thinking stuff in here before, but I’m equally aware that it’s very much at the outer edges of what I can reasonably claim to ‘understand’ (ha!) and that it’s quite far from the sort of stuff I usually foist upon you in the longreads. That said, if your job involves ‘thinking about how and why things work in the way that they do, and what might need to happen to change that’, then this is a super-interesting read. The words are by the late Donella Meadows, an environmentalist and systems thinker, and they’re basically a series of principles which might be useful to bear in mind when examining a system from the outside. This is the opening bit of the first principle, ‘Get The Beat’ – if you do ‘strategy’ (ha!) or any of the related, made-up disciplines in agencyland and you can read this without thinking ‘hm, interesting, I should read more’ then you’re probably in the wrong job: “Before you disturb the system in any way, watch how it behaves. If it’s a piece of music or a whitewater rapid or a fluctuation in a commodity price, study its beat. If it’s a social system, watch it work. Learn its history. Ask people who’ve been around a long time to tell you what has happened. If possible, find or make a time graph of actual data from the system. Peoples’ memories are not always reliable when it comes to timing. Starting with the behavior of the system forces you to focus on facts, not theories. It keeps you from falling too quickly into your own beliefs or misconceptions, or those of others. It’s amazing how many misconceptions there can be. People will swear that rainfall is decreasing, say, but when you look at the data, you find that what is really happening is that variability is increasing–the droughts are deeper, but the floods are greater too. I have been told with great authority that milk price was going up when it was going down, that real interest rates were falling when they were rising, that the deficit was a higher fraction of the GNP than ever before when it wasn’t.” Fascinating, I promise you.
- You Don’t Think In Any Language: OK, so I found this quite hard, but also rewarding and stimulating, and I am willing to concede that my difficulties stem from always having struggled a bit with philosophy of language (damn you, Ludwig) and that you might find this significantly easier to get into than I did. That being said, once I did get my head ‘round it I found it properly fascinating – this is the second essay in a series, but it works as a standalone piece of writing, all about how words and thought and ideas interrelate, and the extent to which language can be said to determine thought (if indeed at all). There’s a section in here which talks about the idea of using imaginary words to help define the limits of what is conceptually viable which had my brain actually fizzing in that way it does when I know I am reading something that is properly making me think – you will, I hope, feel the same.
- Meet The Sigma Male: Classic bit of internetculturewriting here, digging up a niche subculture and presenting it as A SIGN OF THE TIMES – in this case, the idea of the ‘Sigma Male’, a post-Chad concept of masculinity which describes a guy who is ‘successful and popular, but also silent and rebellious. He has a near-fundamentalist approach to self-improvement and is well-tuned in the ways of hustle culture. He makes regular gains at the gym and invests in crypto – sometimes simultaneously.’ This is in part a slightly-gawpy ‘look what we found under this rock!’ piece, but hints at something more interesting – to my mind, at least – in that this is ANOTHER piece of evidence that suggests to me that the big nostalgia trend amongst GenZ and whatever the kids below them are called is not fliphones or ‘the 90s’ but in fact ‘the very fundamental ideals that underpinned Thatcherist ideology’. I am 100% serious about this by the way, and will happily bore on about it given the opportunity (you’d be amazed at how rarely I get offered said opportunity, but I live in hope).
- Digital Sticker Millionaires: Or, ‘so, how’s the creator economy panning out in Japan then?’ That’s obviously a massively unfair read, fine, but it did strike me reading this article, which describes the market for animated digital ‘stickers’ delivered and sold through popular messaging app Line, that it’s a neat encapsulation of the inherent limits of the dream of the creator economy: “There are now 4 million designers on the platform, from hobbyists and part-timers to professional studios. The top 10 creators have earned an average of 1.18 billion yen each in total sales, or roughly $10.2 million, throughout their careers, according to Line’s own figures. But, sticker creators told Rest of World that the marketplace has become increasingly saturated, making it hard for newcomers to break through.” This…this is how market economics works – can we please start including an acknowledgement of this in all the breathless writeups about how we’re all going to become gurning videomongs mugging into the digital eye for cryptopennies, please?
- Gifs are for Boomers Now: As pointed out by someone more observant and funnier than me, this whole piece is basically a massive bit of shadethrowing at millennials, seeing as it takes ‘boomer’ to mean ‘anyone over the age of 30’. Still, worth reading if your job involves writing presentations about how to optimise brand communications to increase engagement with the hard-to-reach GenZennial marketplace (also, you have my intense, sincere and long-lasting pity).
- Who Built The Pyramids?: If your kneejerk answer to that question is ‘vast quantities of slave labour under the uncaring direction of godlike rulers whose word was law’ then AHAHAHAHAHA YOU MOOK YOU CHUMP YOU RUBE! In fact, it was SPACE ALIENS! Or at least that’s the schtick being peddled by a particular brand of ‘alternative historians’, who are monetising their repackaging of decades-old theories that state that the pyramids couldn’t possibly have been built by human hands several thousand years ago and instead had to be the work of superior civilisations. There’s loads of interesting stuff in here – the skyrocketing value of the ‘alternative history’ economy, the (inevitable) links to white supremacism (does…does everything online become Nazi if you follow the rabbithole far enough? It does rather seem so), and, perhaps most of all, the reasons why this stuff is going gangbusters right now. Personally-speaking I think there’s something interesting in the idea that people are more willing to believe the ‘aliens did it with the rayguns’ story because we’re at a point in history where we simply cannot conceive of having the sort of long-term vision required to create the pyramids – I mean, the idea of anyone starting a project now that will take over a century to complete and that will necessitate a…not-inconsiderable loss of human life to achieve is kind-of mind-boggling, so perhaps it’s not that weird that kids these days are more likely to accept the concept of little green men with space chisels being the architects of Giza.
- What Kids Are Reading: An interesting essay which argues that there is benefit in starting to teach young people and students how to read again – not because the kids are stupid, but because the de facto modes of information gathering have changed so drastically in the real world that it can no longer be expected that young people have the tools at their disposal to parse text in the same way as they would have done 30 years ago. Which, generally, seems like a reasonable perspective – if we get used to learning and consuming information via AV, why should we automatically know how to extract the same information from a wall of text? An interesting companion to the piece from last week about critical reading, and indeed to the article from last year which talked about how confused modern students are by the idea of digital ‘files’ and ‘filing’.
- When NFTs Came To ArtTown: An amusing account of the culture-clash taking place in hyperbougie artparadise Marfa, Texas, as NFT arrivistes attempt to buy into the existing fine art community that’s developed there over the past few years. Pleasing mainly because noone comes out of this particularly well – not the NFT bros, certainly, but not the Marfites either. The author of the piece in particular rather undermines the credibility of the NFT critique by constantly having to acknowledge the fact that they are mates with all the old-school artists and gallery owners who, it seems to me, are perhaps being a touch prissy about all this (and I say this as someone whose general view of the NFT ‘art’ market is that it’s fundamentally-misnomered).
- The NFT Restaurant: Or rather, the future NFT restaurant. “Flyfish Club, set to open in a yet-to-be-announced Manhattan location in the first half of next year, will be a luxury “seafood-inspired” dining club from the VCR Group, a hospitality and restaurant group that includes Gary Vaynerchuk, the serial entrepreneur and co-founder of online reservation system Resy. To gain access to the club, members must have a Flyfish NFT, which is a unique digital asset stored on the blockchain and purchased using cryptocurrency. The company released 1,501 tokens this month, bringing in around $15 million, according to David Rodolitz, the founder and CEO of VCR.” I mean, on the one hand the idea of paying 100k for the right to access a restaurant and members club that doesn’t exist yet and which is part of a GaryVee venture is so utterly-risible that I just want to point and laugh at everyone involved; on the other, part of me does sort-of see how ‘NFT as transferable digital membership token’ is actually a non-idiotic usecase for the tech. Still, this is just madness and does rather provide grist to the mill for anyone suggesting that all this is just a brilliant way of parting rich morons with their lucre.
- SimpDaos: Look, I am not going to try and paraphrase this VERY INTERNETTY article – all you need to know is that it’s about NFT/cryptoculture and fandom, and is another one for me to file alongside all the other pieces of evidence for my continuing ‘the most important cultural unit of the 21c is the cult’ thesis.
- How AI Conquered Poker: Or, ‘The March of the Centaurs’ – following the rise of man/machine combined play in chess, the AI-augmentation of human capability has come to poker. This article looks at how players at the top end of the pro game are increasingly using AI models to train themselves, helping them map the probabilities around potential hands to help them with the decisionmaking process in-game. Fascinating, even as someone who has literally no poker skill whatsoever – it made me think (amongst other things) of what other sports or disciplines will (or should, or shouldn’t) get centaured next.
- The Joss Whedon Article: I am including this for a few reasons; a) because it’s an interesting evolution of the redemptive celebrity interview format; b) because Whedon comes across so, so badly throughout that it’s almost an object lesson in how not to present yourself when you’re attempting a redemption arc; and c) because there is one paragraph in this that made me laugh out loud and reread it three times out of sheer glee. Click the link and, if you have no interest in reading about a not-particularly-pleasant man attempting to justify having been a d1ck, just ctrl+f for ‘erin shade’ and read that one paragraph and just MARVEL at it.
- Another Green World: A wonderful piece of writing about the idea of self-contained biological environments, the Biosphere experiments of the 90s, the incredible and unknowable complexity of the systems that make LIFE happen, and the sort of weird, driven people who spend their time thinking about how we might one day transplant Earth’s biome into space. This is not only really, really interesting, but it’s also a stellar piece of writing.
- Sinking, Giggling Into The Sea: As we (or at least those of us who care about the politics of the increasingly-insignificant British Isles) wait for our current Prime Minister to be definitively knifed in the back by the same morons who attempted to convince the nation that a sexually-incontinent liar was a reasonable choice to lead the country, it feels timely to link to this LRB article from 2013, in which Jonathan Coe writes about Boris Johnson in his guise as occasional subject of affectionate televisual mockery on Have I Got News For You, and more generally about the ‘fcuk it, everything’s a joke so let’s lol it up’ attitude that the 90s fostered about basically everything. “When Humphrey Carpenter interviewed the leading lights of the 1960s satire boom for his book That Was Satire, That Was in the late 1990s, he found that what was once youthful enthusiasm had by now curdled into disillusionment. One by one, they expressed dismay at the culture of facetious cynicism their work had spawned, their complaints coalescing into a dismal litany of regret. John Bird: ‘Everything is a branch of comedy now. Everybody is a comedian. Everything is subversive. And I find that very tiresome.’ Barry Humphries: ‘Everyone is being satirical, everything is a send-up. There’s an infuriating frivolity, cynicism and finally a vacuousness.’ Christopher Booker: ‘Peter Cook once said, back in the 1960s, “Britain is in danger of sinking giggling into the sea,” and I think we really are doing that now.’” Well, er, quite.
- The Solitude Project: A beautiful short story from the LA Review of Books, by Christina McCausland, about love and solitude and obsession and drugs and abuse and self-erasure and and and and. The final paragraph in particular is beautiful, imho.
- How To Be A D1ck In The 21st Century: Finally this week, Kafka’s metamorphosis if, rather than waking up to find himself transformed into a giant beetle, Gregor Samsa had instead awoken to discover that he was an enormous, ambulant penis. I very much enjoyed this short story, from the forthcoming collection by Chris Stuck, and I think you will too.
By Paco Pomet
AND NOW, MOVING PICTURES AND SOUNDS!:
- Finally in the videos this week, this is the new single by Alex Cameron – if you’re not familiar with him, Cameron basically plays the character of ‘Alex Cameron’ in all his songs, which are basically novellas in song format, telling the stories of awful people being awful to each other. This is called ‘Best Life’ and I STRONGLY encourage you to watch the video as you listen, as it is pretty much perfect and OH LOOK THERE WE ARE THAT’S IT NO MORE LINKS NO MORE TIME NO MORE ENERGY IN THIS TIRED AND WILTING FINGERS THANKYOU SO MUCH FOR YOUR ATTENTION AND CARE AND I WISH YOU WELL AND I HOPE TO SEE YOU NEXT WEEK AND MOST OF ALL IT IS IMPORTANT TO REMEMBER THAT I LOVE YOU I LOVE YOU I LOVE YOU I LOVE YOU I LOVE YOU!