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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


Webcurios 14/05/21

Reading Time: 30 minutes

HI! HI EVERYONE! It’s…it’s been a bit of a struggle this week, I’ll admit, mainly as a result of my having been out three nights on the bounce for the first time in over a year and having slightly lost the hang of hangovers rather; still, in a way it’s slightly-comforting to be sitting here in my pants with a three-day-cumulative-seven-pint-fug swirling around my slightly-swollen frontal lobes – welcome back, poisonous residue of the excesses of the night before!

Anyway, that’s by way of a pre-emptive excuse for any obvious drop in quality (ha) – sorry, sorry about that. Oh, and I’m also sorry about the fact that those of you receiving this on Applemail might not in fact be able to make the bloody thing scroll – we’re working on it, but, honestly, we’re sort of fcuked if we know why.

Here, then, is your reward for another week of HARD GRAFT and EXISTENTIAL DOUBT and FUTURE HORROR and MEAT SADNESS – a metric fcuktonne of links and words, some of which might even make the pain go away for a second or two.

I am still Matt, this is still Web Curios, and I still have no idea who any of you are or what you’re doing here.

By Azwar Ipank



  • Skate With Carolina Herrera: Have you ever wanted to embody the essence of a skateboard, rolling unfettered down a virtual street, inexplicably against the flow of traffic, accompanied by a slightly-hipster cover version of ‘Forever Young’, all the while collecting tokens which will enable you to…maybe do something unspecified, all so that at the end of the briefly-unsatisfying experience you can possibly get a free 10cl sachet of eau de parfum mailed to you? No! Of course you haven’t! You’re not a moron (you’re…you’re not, are you?)! And yet luxury brand Carolina Herrera has created this website so you can do JUST THAT! There’s a storied history of me enjoying the preposterous web experiences of fashion houses over the years here in Curios, and this is a fabulous example of the genre – no ostensible link whatsoever to the product being flogged (a new variant of the titular designer’s 212 perfume, apparently), a janky-but-momentarily-fun game experience, and, at the end, a broken ‘claim your reward’ token, meaning that I wasted 3 minutes of my life playing this and haven’t even been able to get a token for some free celebrity stinkwater. LIFE IS PAIN.
  • The Metropolitan Enigma: Seeing as we’re doing ‘pointless luxe websites’, this one by Ferragamo is also quite silly (and a pleasing contrast to the Herrera one – this might all be very silly and quite pointless, but never let it be said that the brand’s individuality doesn’t really shine through here). The fashion house has had its lookbook filmed by Luca Guadagnino, but for some reason decided that that wasn’t a fancy enough flex and so has decided to also make…er…’The Metropolitan Enigma’, a rather shiny series of little puzzlegames, themed around being a detective but which don’t involve any detecting and instead are based on a selection of vaguely-unsatisfying ‘slide the blocks together’ puzzles, tile-matching games and, er, wordsearches. HOW DOES A WORDSEARCH CONNECT TO SELLING ME SOME VERY EXPENSIVE HAND-STITCHED LOAFERS?! Honestly, I don’t understand this at all – can someone who either works in luxe or is very rich and therefore the target market for this explain?
  • SK-II City: Digitaladvermarketingpr goes in waves – a decade ago, people like me (albeit more professional and at the time significantly better-paid) spent an awful lot of time persuading brands that they really needed to be on Facebook and Twitter, leading to the creation of an infinity of utterly pointless corporate social media presences (if you do this sort of thing for a living, why not ask your more stupid clients why they do Twitter, and watch the look of panic spread across their faces), the development of an entirely new, utterly pointless and increasingly beleaguered professional class, the digital content and community monkey, and helping build the social advertising monster that we all feel surveilled by every second we spend online (you’re welcome!). Right now, the empty grift of much crypto and NFT is being supported by brands desperately clutching for zeitgeisty relevance – and at some point or another we’ll all decide that the best way to bleed our fat, stupid clients dry is to convince them that what they REALLY need is to get into virtual worlds, stat. So it is with SK-II City – a P&G skincare brand which is apparently going to move much of its online presence to this rendered cityscape, housing shopping, content and…some other stuff, which will eventually all be navigable in VR. Except it’s not yet, so at the moment it’s literally just a place to house a bunch of content that no normal people will care about, designed with an interface that’s slightly less convenient than an ordinary series of menus. Still, though, aren’t you excited about the future in which you can take your virtual self wandering through a branded series of content-viewing opportunities? No? NO OF COURSE YOU’RE NOT THIS IS YET ANOTHER THING THAT NO REAL HUMAN BEINGS WILL EVER WANT TO EXPERIENCE. On the other hand, though, there’s something about the bleak optimism of the virtual cinema space here ‘opening soon’ that rather tickled me – I can only imagine the febrile anticipation in the hearts and minds of skincare enthusiasts at the prospect of being able to watch some advertising in a pretend auditorium.
  • Revisualiser:This is a very fun little music toy – works best with headphones, and in fullscreen; use your keyboard to make sounds, and see what happens when you click and drag the visuals around. Really, really nicely-done, and the graphical elements are all really nicely put together.
  • Mmm: You probably don’t recall, but a few years ago there was a Facebook Labs project that was meant to enable people to make ‘fun, quirky, personality-filled’ websites with the slightly collage-y, ziney vibe of old Geocities things – the reason you don’t recall it is that literally noone gave anything resembling a fcuk, and the whole thing almost certainly got quietly shelved. Mmm is a similar sort of idea – it’s designed to make it super-easy for anyone to create their own, er, ‘fun, quirky, personality-filled websites with the slightly collage-y, ziney vibe of old Geocities things’, with an easy drag-and-drop interface and responsive design, and all the sort of modern stuff you’d expect with a self-consciously Web1.0 aesthetic. Which is nice! The whole thing feels a little bit like what I imagine a teenage girl’s ‘my first website’ project might look like (seriously, I’ve looked at a few of the examples made by the community and they all have very strong ‘BECCA’S SECRET DIARY’ energy about them – seriously, look), in a good way – but I do wonder how much appetite there is for this sort of stuff when we all already have online spaces which we use for self-identification and self-expression, or at the very least what we tell ourselves is self-identification and self-expression. When everyone has an Insta and TikTok (and Snap, and Tumblr, and and and) as spaces through which to SHOW THEIR SELVES online, where’s the incentive to create another one?
  • DeepDAO: As ever with this sort of stuff, the concept of DAOs was largely alien to me a few months ago and now I can’t move for seeing the bastard things referenced everywhere. DeepDAO is a directory of current DAOs, which over time promises to track their membership and activity to provide an overview of the organisations’ activity and behaviour. At present a lot of that stuff’s not there yet, but what this site does do is offer a snapshot of the amount of money floating around these things, and once again I was slightly floored by the volume of cash. THERE IS A BILLION DOLLARS IN THESE THINGS. AN ACTUAL BILLION. Fine, I know that’s chickenfeed on a global scale, but equally it’s a hell of a lot of cash to be sunk into things that are, charitably, not quite a known quantity yet. Whose is this money and what are they doing with it?
  • Finely-Crafted: If you’ve worked in advermarketingpr for any degree of time you’ll be well aware of the ‘cultural crossover’ brief, in which a brand decides that it wants a bit of associated cool and kudos and some agency or another inevitably lands on a MIND-BLOWING, ORIGINAL AND CREATIVE activation which involves pairing one of brand X’s ‘artisan experts’ with some creative person with a tangential connection to brand X’s ‘narrative truth’. So you get hedge fund managers working with Ryuchi Sakamoto to compose minimalist soundscapes based on the heights from which financiers have thrown themselves during various crises, say, or a high-end watch brand collaborating with J.Kenji Lopez-Alt to create a bao bun that represents time (I have made both of these up, but admit it, you weren’t sure) – here, Jack Daniels does some collaboration with a bloke who fiddles with trainers. CAN PEOPLE STOP DOING THIS PLEASE? It is boring and lazy and literally NOONE wants to see talented people phoning it in for brand pennies.
  • The Beeple Museum: The Beeple work bought at Christie’s earlier this year was purchased by an investment fund – the same investment fund, Metapurse, a few months earlier spent a smaller (but still not-insignificant) sum on buy some other Beeple stuff, which they decided to create a digital museum for in those odd crypto-based virtual worlds we’ve covered in here before (Decentraland was one, you may recall). This particular one is built in CryptoVoxels – the principal of which is that users can ‘buy’ digital real estate secured on the blockchain (of course!) for real money, and build whatever they want on it which they can then use for whatever ends they choose. Click the link, and MARVEL at the exciting future world we too could be a part of if only we boarded the cryptotrain! This is so staggeringly janky – the ‘museum’ is a series of 90s-shooter style corridors, with Beeple’s characteristically Reddit-y images occasionally tacked onto the walls, spread across a series of eerie, empty floors, and surrounded ‘outside’ by a series of screaming adverts exhorting you to buy into Metapurse’s own B20 coins, which will effectively let you invest in the fund’s Beeple hoard with the idea that you’ll profit from its eventual resale. Everything about this feels like something designed to screw stupid people who don’t realise they are stupid out of money – in a weird way, this horrible gallery is a better artwork than the horrible crap it houses.
  • The UFO Sightings Database: While we wait for Tom DeLonge of Blink-182 fame to finally sort out the mystery of extraterrestrial life once and for all, we can amuse ourselves by searching through this database of UFO sightings. Using data from the National UFO Reporting Centre, you can search by keyword, sighting type, duration…typing in ‘London’ serves up over 300 sightings over the past century, which given the light pollution is no small feat. I particularly like the entry that reads ‘Too big to be a balloon – I haven’t been able to completely forget it. Would really like an explanation’ – well, yes, wouldn’t we all?
  • Cony Hawk: The TikTok account of some kid called Tim who realised at…some point this year that there was a very funny gag in imagining a skateboarding plastic cone called ‘Cony Hawk’ and just ran with it. This is very pure and very good.
  • The Impossible Checkbox: This is a lovely, frivolous bit of code which I would like to see implemented on as many websites as possible please. Try and flip the switch.
  • Vintage Maps: A small webproject that lets you create vintage style maps of wherever you like in the world, selecting the period in history you’d the national boundaries to represent; there are a variety of visual styles available, you can export the in portrait or landscape, and you can even order prints if you so desire. If you have a child who is unaccountably-obsessed with, I don’t know, Europe immediately prior to German unification, then why not get them a lovely map? Or therapy.
  • Forust: Do you remember that period around 2010, when 3d printing was very much a thing and there was a sense that they were going to change EVERYTHING and we’d all have them at home and print ourselves bowls and mugs and underpants out of exciting biodegradable polymer compounds? Oddly enough that never quite happened – which is a shame, as I could do with some new pants – and the 3d printing revolution didn’t quite pan out as touted (I imagine that a proper futurologist could explain to me exactly at which point on the Gartner cycle we’re currently at – but please don’t), but occasionally you still see new, exciting things happening at the edges. Like Forust, for example, which is basically 3d printing with sawdust (I am sorry to the very clever people behind the technology, should they ever see this – I know that I have almost certainly done you a terrible disservices, but, well, this is the quickest short explanation I can come up with and I’m too lazy to try harder) – using waste material from existing wood processing combined with…some other stuff?, you can now print a Billy bookcase in just a few short hours. Probably. This is really very cool indeed.
  • Clubhouse on Android: Noone cares! But here it is anyway! It’s obviously far too soon to suggest that Clubhouse has had its moment – and those of you who missed the first wave of hype might be interested in checking it out now all the more obviously-awful hustlegoblins have departed – but equally the lack of any real visible interest about the launch this week of its long-awaited Android version rather suggests that the zeitgeist has rather moved on.
  • Cut and Obscure Videogame Content: Another Twitter account, this time dedicated to sharing screenshots and other elements that are either little-known or were edited out of past games pre-release. Except they’re all made up. If you’re into games and gaming culture, some of these are surreally-funny enough to make the account worth a follow; if you’re not, this will do nothing to alter your deeply-held conviction that that games are for children, morons and especially moronic children.
  • Sound Cities: This is a lovely old webart project (thanks Rina for pointing me at it) by digital artist Stanza, which collects audioclips from cities around the world and lets you play them either singly or simultaneously to create your own virtual soundscape of wherever you like in the world. The beauty here lies in the variety of clips, and the ways in which combining them can transport you to very different corners of the planet.
  • The Last Gameboard: Not the first ‘digital boardgames solution’ I’ve featured in Curios, but certainly one of the slickest – the Last Gameboard is basically a tablet (they don’t like you calling it that, though) which has been designed from the ground up to allow for what looks like pretty sophisticated digital/physical boardgaming, with zoomable screens, mobile integration, the ability to combine multiple boards into one seamless playing area…I’m not really a boardgames person, but this looks rather exciting – although if you’re the sort of person who really likes the grain of cardboard against your thumbs you might find this all a bit slick and soulless. Oh, and obviously there’s the possibility that the developers will lose interest in a few years and you’ll be stuck with what’s effectively a very expensive, outsized plastic and glass coaster – but then again that’s basically the future, isn’t it, in which we buy stuff and then have to hope that it doesn’t stop getting firmware updates so we’re not left in a position where we can’t, I don’t know, run the tap because they’ve discontinued that particular brand of Internet of Things washer.
  • Explained From First Principles: This is a very particular site, but I am very much a fan. Kaspar Etter is a Swiss person living in Zurich – I hope they don’t mind me saying, but this is a very Swiss website – who has decided that they want to explore and explain a selection of concepts in exhaustive detail. “The goal of this website is to provide the best introduction available to the covered subjects. After doing a lot of research about a particular topic, I write the articles for my past self in the hope they are useful to the present you. Each article is intended to be the first one that you should read about a given topic and also the last — unless you want to become a real expert on the subject matter. I try to explain all concepts as much as possible from first principles, which means that all your “why” questions should be answered by the end of an article. I strive to make the explanations comprehensible with no prior knowledge beyond a high-school education.” So far it’s covered Email and ‘The Internet’ and, honestly, this is SO well-done – clear and logical and simply-written, and the sort of thing that makes me feel simultaneously very stupid and a lot cleverer than I was before I read it.
  • Inhabit: This is a Hackney-based company that basically offers to green your business – for a fee! Yes, that’s right kids, it’s Greenwashing As A Service!! I am obviously being unfair – there’s nothing to suggest that Inhabit’s motives are anything other than pure, or indeed that they’re not sincere in their attempts to assist companies in minimising their environmental impact – but then again they’re quite opaque about how the fcuk any of this actually works, and there’s the slightly-funky whiff of ‘carbon offsetting’ about it, which is absolute fcuking hogwash when it comes to making a practical difference to the climate crisis, as any fule kno. Still, if you want to outsource ‘giving a sh1t about the planet’ to a third party this could be right up your street.
  • The Cambridge Cyber Gardening Club: I LOVE THIS SO MUCH! The Cambridge Cyber Gardening Club is a messageboard with a very special feature – all posts are submitted in analogue fashion, via letters or postcards sent to the Club’s postal address in Massachusetts. Messages range from the banal to the surreal – the last one’s from a couple of months ago, meaning it’s still very much live and active, and I am 100% joining in with this and sending them a postcard as soon as I’m in a position to visit somewhere more aesthetically-pleasing than the Vauxhall gyratory.

By Sue Coe



  • Blokdust: If I had a quid for every single browser-based synthtoy of varying quality I’ve featured in here over the years I’d…probably have somewhere in the region of enough money for a packet of fags, if I’m honest, which doesn’t sound that impressive but suggests that this is very much a genre of thing that has been done to death rather. Or at least I thought so, but Blokdust is an impressively-different take on a browser-based compositional interface – any by ‘impressively different’, I mean ‘far too complicated for me to be able to make any reasonable use of whatsoever’. Basically you make music by dragging a series of different types of ‘blocks’ onto the composition screen – some blocks are types of SFX, others power the first type of block, others modify the function and effect of certain blocks when connected in certain ways…look, I’m sure you can make something quite amazing with this, but it’s way over my head. If you understand how electronics work and are the sort of person who thinks nothing of hacking together your own gaming PC, I get the impression you might have more luck – or maybe I’m just subnormal. Either/or.
  • Mazette: Lifted from last week’s B3ta (along with a few other things this week – THANKS ROB!), this is an incredibly-soothing site which lets you watch as it solves mazes autonomously. You might not think that watching as a computer puzzles out whether it should turn left or right at an intersection would lend you a feeling of zenlike calm, but there’s honestly something SO compelling and gently-reassuring about the fact that it will get solved in the end. Not quite sure what it says about my state of mind at present that I lost about 25 minutes on this earlier this week, but it’s almost certainly something good.
  • Thatching: Literally EVERYTHING you could possibly want to know about thatched roofs. You might, admittedly, not know that you want to know loads about thatching – and, fine, perhaps you don’t – but this site is a real labour of love, written by someone who used to thatch for a living and now just maintains it for passion. Also contains guides to thatching your own roof, which is exactly the sort of project you’ll be desperate to embark on come the next lockdown (and HOW COOL would a thatched flat in London look? Eh? Oh).
  • Just Use Email: Inevitably, the anti-anti-email backlash is on its way, and not before time. I’ve never really understood people’s problem with email – it works! – but the past decade or so has seen an infinite number of ‘solutions’ to the ‘problem’ of your inbox, mainly based on messenger software and variants thereof. Which has now led to a working world in which colleagues are able to communicate with me via email, Whatsapp, Teams, Sharepoint and telephone, sometimes all at once for no discernible reason whatsoever. Does anyone actually like having seventeen different ways in which they can be contacted? And what the fcuk is the problem with people who decide to switch medium with no warning and for no discernible purpose? Anyway, tedious observational riffing to one side, Just Use Email is a website collecting arguments as to why email is BEST. Save the url and send it to whoever next suggests that company productivity would be hugely improved by implementing this really exciting new realtime coworking platfohgodnopleasenomore.
  • Records At The Wrong Speed: I don’t normally link to these sorts of posts, but this collection of ‘songs that sound surprisingly excellent when played at the wrong speed’ is genuinely revelatory (and the site it’s on, In Sheep’s Clothing HiFi, is lovely if you’re an audiophile, with loads of interesting features on the sort of musicians that people with large vinyl collections tend to get messianic about, like Cornelius).
  • Hearses: When I was in Rome last Summer, I spotted this whilst walking into town – the very acme of post-mortem class in the shape of a Maserati hearse (I very much hoped that the officiating priest at the imminent funeral would be wearing sunglasses, but didn’t hang around to check). This week Alexander Burley sent me this site for Kuhlman Cars, a German hearse vendor that offers some truly gorgeous Vehicles Of Death (probably not a designation they’d appreciate, but, well, tough). Notable mainly for the window it offers into a very, very niche world – and the darkly wonderful copy in the ‘used hearses’ section that takes special pains to explain just how thoroughly they clean the vehicles.
  • The Euro2020 Wallchart: As is now traditional in the run-up to a major football tournament, I am quietly convinced that this is the year that England will finally break their 65-year wait to win anything, and English football will therefore become even more insufferably self-obsessed and self-absorbed than it already is (please God no). Still, if you’re less-trepidatious about the forthcoming FESTIVAL OF FOOTBALL and would like one of the oldschool wallcharts that you’d get in Shoot! or Match! or Terrifying Terrace Violence!, or whichever football magazine you chose to read as a kid, you could do worse than pick up this rather nice version by Elliott Quince, with all proceeds going to a neonatal intensive care unit. Nice art, good cause, please God don’t let England win.
  • The Mental Health Media Guide: I have…mixed feelings about Mental Health Awareness Week/Month. Look, I think it’s good and important that we acknowledge that Life Is Hard and People Are Sad; equally, though, the pastel-hued bromides churned out by employers and brands and seemingly every media outlet in the world around this time does rather obscure the fact that we don’t actually do very well at taking care of people with real mental health issues – the sorts of messy ones that are frightening and sad and life-ruining and involve serious drugs and being sectioned and all the ugly bits. We’re great at saying we care when someone’s feeling anxious, say, or nervous – we are very fcuking bad at helping people whose brains are fighting them. Anyway, that’s by way of rambling, unfocused introduction to this rather good site, which is designed to offer guidance to filmmakers and other content producers as to how to address mental illness in their work; this is very much worth a look.
  • Stationhead: ANOTHER audio app! Another company that has reinvented live radio for the smartphone age! Stationhead is reasonably-generic in terms of features – broadcast live! Bring in guest speakers! Have listener interactions with ‘call-ins’! – but which has the whole ‘make money’ thing baked in from the start, with the ability for listeners to tip creators in-stream, and claims that you can stream whatever music you want through it without falling foul of copyright. I can’t imagine this will ever be anything other than a sideline, but the music thing makes it marginally more interesting than some competing platforms out there.
  • Can You Have Black Hair?: A Twitter account showcasing games in which character creation allows both for black skin tones and black hairstyles – it’s miserable how not-widespread these options are in games even in 2021.
  • Skiff: “Skiff is the only end-to-end encrypted document collaboration platform with password protected folders, expiring links, and secure workspaces.” No idea why you’d need this, but if you’d like to add an extra layer of security to your endless corporate powerpoint presentations then HERE YOU GO!
  • Lyrics That Look Like Sh1tposts: Obviously this is the most middle-aged thing I could POSSIBLY write here, but I swear lyrics are getting worse (IT’S NOT MUSIC IT’S JUST NOISE, etc etc) – this Twitter account spits out pleasingly-awful examples of the songwriting art. Although now that I’ve opened it up again and scrolled a bit, there’s actually a load of older stuff and the absolute worst one on there is by the venerable Snoop Dogg, so perhaps I should shut up (“She want the nigga with the biggest nuts, and guess what? / He is I”, in case you were interested).
  • Thanxalotl: I have a bit of a thing about axolotls, so this Etsy shop which seemingly exists only to sell cute, crocheted versions of these quite remarkable amphibians (honestly, axolotls are MAD – they can literally regrow skin, limbs and even bits of their brain when they get a bit fcuked up) was catnip to me. There is a pink axolotl poncho/hoodie-type thing here which if I were a certain type of teenager I would wear the fcuk out of, but basically everything on here is charming and lovely and ace.
  • Birmingham: It’s Not Sh1t: An already-funded Kickstarter raising funds for a book celebrating 50 things about the UK’s second city that aren’t rubbish. If you or anyone you know is a Brummie, this feels like an essential gift purchase.
  • The Whimsical Club: I have to say I’m starting to get a bit concerned at the quantity of other websites springing up which also occupy the ‘hey, look, here’s some odd and interesting and obscure internet for you!’ niche that Curios does, but do it less-irritatingly and therefore better. FFS CAN I NOT EVEN HAVE THIS ONE THING TO CALL MY OWN??? Anyway, The Whimsical Club is a very nice site collecting a load of really nice examples of webdesign, many of which are the personal sites of designers or artists but which also include such Curios favourites as Vole. There are LOADS here that are totally new to me, and it’s a really lovely selection that highlights the beauty and idiosyncracy of personal webwork.
  • What 3 Rude Words: What 3 Words is a very, very odd company – it’s never made any money, yet has 100+ staff and despite only ever being referred to as ‘a really clever idea that will one day revolutionise the way we think about the concept of ‘addresses’’ rather than an actual thing that actual people actually use, seems to be on a regular 2-year PR hype cycle that shows no signs of abating (they definitely used to use Edelman, which suggests deep pockets somewhere), and has some pretty significant flaws in its methodology. However, it also means that there are now places on Earth with 3 word designations such as ‘Large Bottom Penetrator’ (it’s in Korea, in case you fancy visiting), so on balance it’s probably A Good Thing.
  • Cumrocket: It’s been a pleasingly-crypto-lite Curios this week, so apologies for sullying it at this relatively-late stage in the miscellania, but I couldn’t not include this latest entrant into the cryptohypemarket. Partly because I think the idea – a Coin for adult content creators, campeople and the like, which theoretically allows them to monetise their image via NFT – is marginally-less-dumb than many of the other things I’ve seen in this space recently, and also partly because the coins are called ‘Cummies’ which is possibly the most perfect expression of ‘everything is sh1tposting and the future is going to be a ridiculous place in which a future Prime Minister will 100% have to answer questions about their early posting history as something like ‘AssFister3000’ and we’ll have to just put up with stuff like cummies being Actual Real Things’.
  • Weird Rule 34 Art: A Reddit thread in which erotic artists discuss the oddest commissions they’ve been asked to fulfil. It’s reasonably SFW – what do you care? You’re at home! Click with abandon!!! – and you won’t have to actually see any of the offending work, but you will have to contend with copy like this: “Spongebob with multiple arms, sticking all his hands into Squidward’s tentacle holes”. As ever with Reddit, the main takeaway from all this is that human sexuality is a genuinely incredible, rich, and ultimately unknowable tapestry.
  • Normal Nudes: Another Reddit link, this to a specific sub in which people post photos of themselves naked – not sexually, just nude – as a means of self-acceptance and in order to normalise the huge breadth of different body types and shapes that exist. Obviously it’s all photos of naked people, so, er, be warned, but it’s honestly really lovely and just sort of anthropologically wonderful. It’s mixed gender, though the photos skew female, but if you’re the sort of person who doesn’t like to look in the mirror and who feels self-conscious about their body then you might find this a helpful place to remind yourself that we really do come in all shapes and sizes. There are also links in there to specific galleries of penises and vulvas (vulvae?) should you want to again reassure yourself that you are totally normal (or look at a lot of strangers’ genitals). Enjoy!
  • LightNite: Jesus. A Fortnite clone through which you can…somehow? earn crypto by playing. Look, if your kids are going to spend their whole adolescents playing collaborative shooters online, shouldn’t they at least earn some fcuking money whilst doing so? EXACTLY. PUT YOUR KIDS TO WORK IN THE BITCOIN FARMS! Actually, now I type that, it increasingly looks to me like a good idea – again, proving my childlessness is a benefit to the world at large.
  • Bumpsquare: This week’s ‘charming, simple little browsergame I’ve borrowed from B3ta’ is this – get the coloured dots into the coloured squares. Simple, clever, and the way the puzzles build is very satisfying indeed. About a million times more fun than the Ferragamo example uptop – which admittedly isn’t saying much, but it’s stuff like this that throws into sharp relief how soulleslly sh1t most corporately-funded gamestuff is. MAKE BETTER GAMES, ADVERMARKETINGPRMONGS!

By Aubrey Levinthal



  • Cursed Render: Slightly-off-kilter 3d rendered objects. So, so Geocities-ish, in a good way.
  • Broken Nightlight: I don’t know what this is, or where these photos were taken, or why, but there is something intensely odd and ever-so-slightly-disturbing about the vibe of all this.


  • Veermaster Berlin: God it would be nice to have a cocktail. Something stupidly-elaborate and very cold which takes about 17 times longer to prepare than it does to drink – in fact, exactly the sort of thing that this Insta, belonging to a German…ugh, I suppose I have to call them a mixologist now, don’t I? Know that I do so resentfully. Anyway, my grumpiness about modern language aside, this is a lovely feed that will make you want to get neck-deep in spirits.
  • Pomme Queen: Beautiful photos of flowers and pearls and fruit. A very specific aesthetic here, but I rather like it.
  • Babyland: This is GREAT – Babyland is the mansion in the US which is the heart of the Cabbage Patch Kids universe, where the ‘babies’ are ‘born’ of the terrifying-sounding Mother Cabbage (no, really) and to which adult fans of Cabbag Patch Dolls make pilgrimages. This feed is ADORABLY shonky and mainly posts poorly-cropped and therefore slightly creepy photos of the plate-faced gonk children; honestly, if I used Insta I would relish seeing one of these pop up in-feed every now again to break the monotony of LIFESTYLE ILLUSION PORN.
  • DadBreeder: This is described as an “Artist project using machine learning to create the perfect Daddy” – that is ‘daddy’ in the quite specific bear-ish sense, in case you were under any illusions about the vibe here. My favourite thing about this is the little bios that are written to accompany each imaginary ‘daddy’ – “So many people live on social media now, but I prefer real life. Real people, real bodies, real conversation. I’m a social psychologist and I find parasocial dynamics fascinating, but personally I like to look someone in the eyes, share a bottle of wine, talk about life, laugh, cry and everything else in between. Join me?” YES DADDY (no, not like that).


  • Cryptofundamentals and NFTs: A presentation rather than a longread to start with, this has been widely praised this week as a decent explainer as to what NFTs are and how they work. I’d cautiously agree that it’s a useful primer on the tech, but would also argue that the problem with it is that it drinks rather too deeply from the kool aid and imho fundamentally misunderstands the nature of ‘value’ – for most material online, the greatest ‘value’ as we might traditionally understand it lies in the attention we are willing to give to that material…and that has literally nothing to do with ownership, and I still don’t understand how NFTs relate to that at all. Anyone?
  • The New Frontier of Belonging: This is SUCH a good piece of writing and SUCH an interesting exploration of some very NOW ideas, specifically DAO and what they might be used for – so much so that I left this thinking that perhaps it’s not all bunkum after all. The first section is a brilliant exploration of how place and identity, and our conceptions of both, have been radically transformed by the existence of ‘online’ space; the latter part moves into exploring how DAOs might usefully work – honestly, this is very long but it’s worth every minute of your time.
  • Towards A New Concept of Privacy: An interesting essay exploring how our conversations about digital rights, etc, might change if we began to conceive of privacy as a collective rather than a personal good. Particularly pertinent given the current Facebook/Apple spat, this line does a decent job of capturing the article’s overall thrust: “An individual framing of this problem asks questions like, why don’t you want Google to see your email? What have you got to hide? But if you only have the right to privacy when you’re hypervigilant about defending it, you never really had that right to begin with. Instead, at a very minimum the question should be: why does Google deserve to see your email?”
  • Why Life Can’t Be Simpler: This is a great essay, which I found usefully articulated a bunch of stuff I’d sort of worked out on my own but had previously been far too stupid to usefully pull together into coherent thought. Basically, the thrust here is that all systems have a base level of complexity that is constant and that therefore any attempt to simplify a system will necessarily simply result in the complexity moving rather than disappearing – so to make something more simple to a user will require it to become more complex under the hood, for example. Honestly, if you’re in UX or UI or systems design…well, actually, if you do any of those things then you probably know all this already, but if you’re a generalist who likes to pretend they’re smarter than they are by occasionally reading very specific thinky pieces that might be tangentially-relevant to your life (hi! snap!) then this is very much worth reading.
  • What Is An Entertainment Company?: I’ve featured Matthew Ball’s writing in here before, previously on various videogame-related topics; this time he’s writing about how entertainment companies work in 2021, with specific focus on Disney. This is a very good piece of analysis indeed, which gets right to the heart of what a modern ents behemoth does – to whit, creates and then monetises the fcuk out of fandoms (or as Ball would have it, ‘love’), and which I am going to claim as another piece of evidence for my ‘the most powerful force in the 21st century is the cult’ thesis (for what are franchise fandoms other than cults, after all?). It ends on an incredibly depressing note for anyone who prefers their culture a little more variegated and diffuse than the current ‘THERE ARE ONLY 7 FRANCHISES AND THAT IS ALL THERE EVER WILL BE’ vibe of much of modern media, but it’s a really good piece of analysis (if LONG).
  • The Absurdity Is The Point: I’m not sure I’m 100% sold on the recently-launched Sidechannel media empire – partly because it does rather feel like at least a third of the writers all cover basically the same beat, albeit well – but this edition of Charlie Warzel’s newsletter does an excellent job of attempting to articulate the very peculiar flavour of a lot of life on- and offline right now, specifically the fact that it is all very silly and yet the silliness is of a sort with very real-world impact and therefore we have to treat it with a degree of seriousness that seems vastly out of step with, well, how silly it is (see: cummies).
  • Ximalaya and the Economy of Ears: I like to think I’m reasonably au fait with digital stuff – obviously there’s TOO MUCH, and it’s impossible to be aware of even a fraction of what is happening across the web, but I’m usually reasonably confident that I have at least a broad sort of idea of What Is Going On. Except then I read stuff like this, and I remember that there’s a whole other series of other webs in other languages and specifically all the stuff in China which is like a Looking Glass version of our web, on speed and possibly also steroids. This is a fascinating look at Chinese audio app Ximalaya, which can lazily be described as ‘Spotify, but not quite’ and which possibly offers some clues as to how audio apps might go about monetising more seriously over the coming years.
  • Digital Space Force: This is the ‘Vision for a Digital Service’ by the Trump-created SPACE FORCE! (sorry, I just always feel it deserves capitals and an exclamation mark), which I am including not because it’s particularly-interesting but because it’s just full of the sort of terrible, meaningless corporate wankspeak that I thought was the preserve of ‘thought leadership’ rather than the sort of thing you’d expect to see in an actual government document. I mean, really: “We will capitalize on the inherently selective nature of our small Service to attract and recruit technically proficient talent from all corners of the nation, and we will manage this talent within a fully integrated Digital Workforce. As part of our strategy to achieve and maintain digital fluency, we will ensure Guardians have timely access to tailored learning opportunities to sharpen and update their technology-related skillsets so they can intuitively prioritize data-centric solutions over product-centric processes.” WHAT THE FCUK DOES THAT MEAN??? There is literally no facet of life that hasn’t been infected by this sort of writing – can we all stop, please? Please?
  • The Enemy as Sociologist: I had never heard of ‘Signal’ magazine before – it was a propaganda effort by the Nazis during the second world war, designed to present a benign picture of national socialism to countries outside the Reich (countries which those same national socialists planned to, er, bomb, invade and eventually conquer and enslave, thereby probably undermining some of that propaganda work rather), which was widely distributed in the US; this piece specifically examines the publication’s reflections on America and its culture, making the interesting observation that it’s often our enemies who are best positioned to present a sober examination of our flaws.
  • Robinhood: A profile of ‘stock trading, democratised!’ app Robinhood, which, as with all profiles of these sorts of businesses, leaves you in absolutely no doubt whatsoever that none of the people at the top of this company have given anywhere near enough thought to the wide and long-term consequences of their ‘disruption’, and that the idea that ‘anyone can make money on the markets, all you need is an app and some gumption, and the little guy really can win!’ is, fundamentally, fcuking stupid.
  • How Cities Will Fossilise: This is a really interesting bit of apocalypse futuregazing – if you’ve spent any time playing videogames in the past decade you will no doubt spent your fair share of hours exploring abandoned postapocalyptic megalopolises; this article explores what they might actually look like after a few hundred years, when the seas and the lands have shifted. Fascinating, and also contained this passing fact which rather surprised me: “A city like Manchester in the UK, which is situated on ground still rising after the last ice age, will erode entirely over time, washing a trail of brick, concrete, and plastic particles out into the Irish Sea” Manchester’s…rising? Does that mean that one day it will emerge from cloud cover? Look, I lived there for three years, it literally rains horizontally for 9 months of the the year, don’t @ me.
  • Lil Nas X: I could take or leave the music tbh – gyac I am 41 and that is exactly as it should be; I think if I liked it, Mr X might reasonably ask himself what he was doing wrong – but I don’t think it’s possible to overstate the man’s importance as a cultural figure. I don’t think prior to his rise to fame and eventual coming out there were a whole lot of openly-out, queer black male superstars – RuPaul is the only one that springs immediately to mind, but they’re very much of a different generation. There’s something wonderful about knowing that there are all sorts of kids out there who might feel a little bit easier within themselves seeing someone like Nas bestriding the entertainment world right now; equally, there’s something that makes me slightly uncomfortable about the very GenZ confidence/affirmations stuff that’s buried in there too, but that’s simply intergenerational ickiness, I expect – you GO, Mr X.
  • Life In A Cell: This is a beautiful piece of writing about living in an Egyptian prison, by Abdelrahman ElGendy “who spent more than six years behind bars, from October 6, 2013 at the age of 17 until his release on January 13, 2020, at the age of 24.” Lovely, gentle, intimate writing; I would read a whole book of this stuff, it’s lovely prose.
  • In Bed With Madonna: An oral history of In Bed With Madonna (or ‘Truth or Dare’ as it was known in the US), the behind-the-scenes documentary of the Blonde Ambition tour. This is particularly fascinating to me – when I was at school, one of my best friends Chris Fleming was obsessed with Madonna and got this on bootleg VHS from somewhere and would watch this on repeat (he also once performed ‘Like A Virgin’ on the desk in French, complete with sexy actions; perhaps unsurprisingly, Chris is now occasionally to be found as his drag alter ego Latrine Lurka). Anyway, it doesn’t feature Madonna’s own recollections, perhaps unsurprisingly, but contains lots of great anecdotes from other people involved and is generally an entertaining look back at (what I personally consider to be) Madonna’s career zenith.
  • Prestavba: A really interesting article which describes how coding and the distribution of self-made games for the ZX Spectrum and other machines was part of the anti-communist underground in 1980s Czechoslovakia. Seriously, even if you have no interest in coding, this is a wonderful read and a cracking story.
  • Disgusting Food: A profile of the Disgusting Food Museum in Malmo, Sweden, which is also an exploration of cultural difference and identity, particularly the odd sensation experienced by the Chinese-American author at seeing so much of what is, for many Asians, just…food being classed as in some way repellent.
  • Dowsing: I wasn’t expecting to read an article in 2021 about how dowsing is real, actually – and yet here we are. Dowsing, should you not be aware, is the ancient practice of locating sources of water using nothing but some sticks and ENERGY FIELDS and stuff like that; this piece profiles a few professional dowsers in the US. A few things here: a) now I am a deeply cynical and skeptical person, but the existence of ‘professional dowsers’ did give me brief pause; b) there are a few bits of this piece where it pivots quite hard and fast from ‘finding water’ to ‘THEIR ARE DIMENSIONAL PORTALS’ and it’s all the better for it; and c) by the end of this I was significantly less-skeptical about dowsing than I was at the start. See what you think (I still don’t really believe in it, to be clear, but IT MAKES YOU THINK EH???).
  • Pride and Predators: Finally this week, absolutely the best academic paper about Pride and Prejudice you will ever read, ever. I promise you, I have very little time for Austen (I know, I know, sorry) and I devoured all of this – it is angry and funny and very modern, and more entertaining than anything published in the Michigan Law Review has a right to be. Please read it, and share with all your Austen-loving friends – Heidi S Bond is a genius.

By Katie Benn


Webcurios 07/05/21

Reading Time: 35 minutes

You’re lucky to be getting this, if I’m honest with you (‘lucky’ is doing a lot of work here, I realise) – I feel a bit iffy after vaxx #2, but figured that the only thing that was likely to make me feel worse than the jab was being backed up for another week with 100 odd links, and so here I am, purging myself into your inbox again. Hi! Happy Friday!

I am tired, I am achey, and I’m still not quite up to historic Curios typing speed, meaning I am also slightly late – I hope you are NONE of those things, and that instead you are bright of eye, bushy of tail, girded of loin and READY TO CLICK.

I am Matt, this is Web Curios and you are probably wondering why you haven’t unsubscribed yet. ‘Enjoy’!

By Miki Kim



  • The Museum of Annoying Experiences: One of two websites in here this week that made me stop and give a small internal round of applause to whoever it was who persuaded the moneymen to sign it off. This is from Zendesk, a customer services software company, and for some reason is presented as a fictitious museum from the future (the year 3000, to be specific, though sadly there don’t seem to be any references to the ‘fineness’ or otherwise of anyone’s great-great-great-granddaughter) (that’s a gag that’s not really going to land outside of the UK, on reflection) in which bad customer service has been eliminated, and humankind apparently looks back on it with detached amusement, to the extent that a digital museum has been built to showcase all these examples of silly corporate behaviour from The Bad Old Days. What this ends up meaning is a pseudo-3d, slightly-vaporwavey (it’s not quite that aesthetic, but you’ll see what I mean), rendered space which you can click around to see exhibits mocking things like Captchas, and, er, branded baseball caps for customer service staff. This is…utterly pointless? I mean, I’m sure that there’s some sort of link to products and services that the company flog in here somewhere, but there’s not even an obvious link to the company’s main website visible anywhere. Basically what I am saying is that this website appears to serve no real purpose whatsoever, and as such is a complete, total and utter waste of a few tens of thousands of corporate cash, which, to my mind, makes it PRACTICALLY ART!
  • Beautiful Imaginary Faces: I know that ‘this X doesn’t exist’-style computer-imagined faces are no longer that exciting (how jaded we have all become, and how soon!), but these made me do a proper double-take. This is a link to a bunch of bits of code that are floating around the web, of Chinese (I think) origin, and all designed to create specific types of fake faces – basically it’s just slightly-filtered versions of StyleGAN2, making it faster to create a ‘chinese popstar’ or ‘hollywood star’ than it would be if you were going through ALL the models rather than a small subset. Anyway, click the link and scroll down and then get to the ‘supermodels’ gallery – honestly, I appreciate that writing things like this as a middle-aged man does rather invite expressions of guffawing disbelief, but I really don’t spend any time at all looking at photos of beautiful people (I find them hard to look at, like the sun), and yet I cannot stop looking at these. Uncannily beautiful – I mean really otherworldly – and strangely-compelling, if you think that things are weird now just you wait a few years until this stuff + the next iteration of GPT + reasonable text-to-speech synthtech = people literally falling in love with beautiful, imaginary computer people who will scam them out of their life saving. Look, I know it sounds hyperbolic, but £10 says that story comes true by 2030 (I WILL COLLECT MY WINNINGS). If you want to see what this stuff looks like when you mess around with it, Shardcore has been setting some pretty faces to music, to see what happens when you treat the human face like a graphic equaliser for breakbeats – it’s rather cool, and I would love to see a whole Venetian Snares song visualised like this (specifically, this one).
  • Stumbled: Many years ago, when Web Curios hadn’t even been thought of and poor, desperate office monkeys the world over slavered for the distracting balm of Odd And Interesting Links to help them pass the working day, there existed a site called StumbleUpon, one of the wave of ‘social bookmarking’ platforms which briefly caused every single ‘share’ button on the web to be populated with 318 icons, and which were designed to add a slight social element to everyone’s webbrowsing and linksharing. StumbleUpon shut a few years ago, becoming something called ‘Mix’ (no, I know you don’t care, but completeness compels me). Anyway, this is by way of long-winded preamble to this site, Stumbled, which is loosely-inspired by the same principles as StumbleUpon was all those years ago, and which is seemingly a one-person project designed to help people find interesting, niche, odd stuff online. Anyone can submit sites – they’re vetted by one Kevin Woblick and then, if considered ‘good’ (no idea what the criteria are here, but I’m willing to bet Kevin’s a touch more discerning than I am when it comes to what laughably gets termed ‘curation’) it gets added to the selection. Click a button, get a new, interesting, hand-curated website – simple as that. This is charming – not least because it speaks to something I’m seeing more and more of, a desire to help people rediscover the slightly-odd, janky, home-made, craft-y side of the web.
  • The SAP Procurement Tour: The second ‘take a bow, webpeople!’ corporate website of the week, this is a truly-baffling effort by SAP – one of those incredibly-tedious companies that does ‘cloud’ or ‘business solutions’ or somesuch thing; honestly, can you imagine having to sell people ‘a database, but ON THE INTERNET!’ for a living? – which seems to be trying to sell you the company’s procurement and logistics software by taking you on an animated bicycle journey and very slowly explaining to you via animation, voice-over and some really pointless clicking that…er… hang on, what is it telling me? GYAC, SAP, if your website takes 6 minutes to communicate information which I could have read in 30s (and if it does so via the medium of a remarkably-soporific voice-over) I am unlikely to spend a lot of time there. Honestly, I would love to know how this got approved. “We need to sell more software – how are we going to do it?” “Well, we’ve never tried spending £50k on a lightly-interactive narrative website telling the human stories of the people who we help every day…? Also, my sister-in-law runs a webdesign agency” “GREAT! Next year we’ll do an ARG!”
  • Twitter Spaces: Poor the Clubhouse, all withering after the frothy excitement of way back in January. It’s hard not to look at Twitter Spaces – which, honestly, works really well and which is yet another example of the company all of a sudden getting quite good at shipping new product – and see it, and the eventual Facebook copycat product, as the most likely bets in the audio game right now. Spaces is as of now available to anyone with 600 followers or more – should you want to turn your Twitter Groupchat into an HILARIOUS zoo-radio-style ‘show’ for all your ‘fans’ (you do not have fans; Jesus, perspective) to enjoy, now’s your chance! Honestly, I am sort of grimly-fascinated at the idea of quite how much terrible, terrible content is going to be visited on the world as a result of this – we could be in for a short-lived boom in ‘Overheard on Spaces’ horrorshow human zoo-type wrapup programming.
  • Tip Jar: Seeing as we’re talking about Twitter features (and yes, I know that this is exactly the sort of stuff for which I could have considered keeping the ‘social media’ section of Curios, but, honestly, even typing those two words together makes me feel slightly ill, so), the ability to send money directly to Twitter users through the platform is slowly starting to be implemented. This is, I think, a really big thing, not least as it’s been in the works for YEARS (small namedrop here – when I met Biz Stone 10y or so ago, he told me that his one big dream for Twitter was exactly this feature. 10 YEARS! Also, by the way, the reason I met Mr Stone was that he was interviewing me for a job that I very much did not get, so rest easy in the knowledge that even that small bit of ‘insider access’ was redolent with the heady stench of failure and embarrassment); the idea of creating a simple, free (there’s no vig on the payments and Twitter isn’t taking a cut) and seamless means of being able to make peer-to-peer in-app micropayments feels like something potentially-transformative. It will also make for an interesting potential competition with Onlyfans, etc, and will lead to a short-term boom in Twitter dealers. Fun!
  • The Trump Website: On the one hand, one probably oughtn’t give That Awful Man any of the oxygen of publicity he craves. On the other, he’s unlikely to get too gassed about appearing in Curios (I knew he was a cnut) and, well, it’s VERY FUNNY. If you’ve read about Trump’s new platform but haven’t explored it for yourself, it’s very much worth clicking around; one of my very favourite things about the Trump administration, visible now in hindsight, is quite how incredibly rubbish so much of it was, and so phoned-in. Honestly, I put literally no effort whatsoever into anything I do, personally or professionally, and even by my standards there was an impressive degree of ‘will this do?’ to almost every aspect of Trumpism – this website is no exception, and feels like if you click around enough it might just sort of spontaneously combust or something.
  • Rapchat: Another ‘everything you need to make a passable track using nothing but your phone’ app, Rapchat is a frankly-amazingly-powerful bit of kit, letting you choose from 100,000+ beats, layer multiple vocal tracks, edit in-app, and (of course) ‘join a community’ of musicians and producers. Quite a lot of fun to play around with – if nothing else, the idea of very loudly and seriously attempting to produce a worldwide smash whilst on the top deck of the 333 makes me laugh.
  • Toilet Paper: Toilet Paper is a FINE ART magazine – that sort of ‘fine art’ that is massively-garish and clashing and in dubious taste, and very much feels like super-glossy Testino shoots and Karl Lagerfeld being hideous to an audience of guffawing giraffe skeletons and huge amounts of cocaine for breakfast, and endless conversations with people with non-specific mid-Atlantic accents which seem to constantly revolve around being in, or going to, Miami or New York or Berlin or Lisbon or Buenos Aires but in which nothing, ever, is said – and it’s basically the most incredible aesthetic mood I have seen in ages. Like The Face crossed with the brashest of Versace and D&G, with some sort of vague webziney Geocitiesish vibe…I love it, in case you couldn’t tell.
  • Friends With Benefits: Look, I feel I ought to apologise momentarily for the fact that once again there’s going to be some NFT and crypto stuff (sorry Andy, Sorry!), but if we all grit our teeth we’ll get through it together. First up is Friends With Benefits – a ‘community’ for ‘thinkers and creators’ which, for reasons that MAKE NO SENSE WHATSOEVER, requires that its members invest in the site’s own cryptocurrency to gain access. A community that you have to pay to join? And which promises you that if you attract more members, the value of your investment will go up? Does this…does this…does this sound like a scam? Why yes! Yes it does! I mean, look: “…it means that everyone who is a part of the community is literally invested in the community’s success. As the community becomes more appealing, and more people want to join Friends With Benefits there will be more demand for $FWB tokens which will drive the price of $FWB up and make the existing $FWB holders (community members) wealthier. The simple idea is that if we all participate in the upside of the community we’ll collectively work to make it a better place. In short, we can be friends the same way we are in our group chats, on twitter, and in other forums but in this case, it comes with some real benefits” If you read that and think ‘hm, yep, sounds legit and like something I want to be a part of!’ then, honestly, come over here a second and look at these magic beans.
  • Meebits: You may recall Cryptopunks, an early NFT which let people buy little cartoon punks, each unique, and which are now considered to be one of the most valuable of the asset class; this is the same thing, by the same people, but with a different name and aesthetic. Want to invest in your very own NFT avatar which you will, theoretically at least, be able to use THROUGHOUT THE METAVERSE???? Well now you can. Beautifully, one of the ‘selling points’ is that all the avatars are programmed with the ability to strike a ‘T-Pose’ – that is, to be rendered standing with their arms outstretched. HOW IS THAT A FEATURE ATTRACTIVE ENOUGH TO PERSUADE PEOPLE TO SPEND NOT-INSIGNIFICANT CHUNKS OF REAL MONEY ON A CG AVATAR??? No, I’m sorry, this is all too silly.
  • VeeFriends: This, though, this is the end – the final, incontrovertible sign that this really is a massive fcuking scam. I was wondering how long it would take for the King of the Hustle Goblins to show up in the NFT space, and HERE HE IS! Gary Vaynerchuck is a con artist, a scammer, a confidence trickster and and a pyramid-salesman (and a man who I am sure could not give less of a fcuk about some random webmong’s opinion of him) – the fact that HE is jumping into the NFT space with both feet should be all it takes to finally demonstrate that the emperor is naked and that his penis is tiny. What are VeeFriends? Well, it’s not clear, other than that you will be able to buy them, and that there will be a ‘community’ – they seem to be character-based ‘trading cards’, which from what I can tell have been sketched by a not-particularly-talented 9 year old, and the tokens will grant you access to Gary (and his ‘friends’!) for ‘mentoring’ and ‘advice’ and FCUKING HELL HOW STUPID DO YOU HAVE TO BE???
  • Scamily: Look, they’re even putting the word ‘SCAM’ in the name of crypto stuff now ffs!
  • Humit: Seemingly designed to upset the sorts of men (always men) who read Mojo and Rolling Stone, and who are big, big fans of ‘listening to the whole album start to finish’, Humit is an app that lets you share snippets of songs – upto 30s – with your friends because (this is the bit that will make the musos cry) ‘noone has time to listen to a whole 5 minutes of song anymore’. Regardless of your thoughts on the ‘rightness’ of this – or indeed the viability of Humit as a platform – I find this increased tendency to bitsize everything fascinating. Have we ever had a <60s number one single? I reckon we could be heading that way soon.
  • Open Sohko Design: An amazing open-source design repository with some very cool-looking stuff, Open Sohko is ‘a project for all people who want to renovate warehouses (sohko) or other buildings and turn them into creative offices or studios.

It is a database to distribute designs for offices, furniture, or renovation ideas that anyone can copy or modify (open source design) so that everyone can implement a cool, warehouse-like space.” Very cool, particularly if you’re a maker/designer yourself.

  • The Hiring Chain: This is a lovely idea, a worthy initiative and I am very much pro it. I am also utterly baffled as to what Sting is doing here. The Hiring Chain is a project which seeks to help people with Down’s Syndrome find jobs, the idea being that the presence of Down’s people in the workplace helps normalise the idea that they are perfectly-capable of fulfilling paid roles, and that their condition isn’t a barrier to normal adult life – which is all great! The website’s nicely made, and very shiny, and is properly-international, with resources to connect you to relevant charities around the world if you’re interested in finding out more – but, er, there’s also the small matter of the VERY WEIRD fact that Sting just basically sings a song about ‘giving people with Down’s a job’ over the top of the whole thing which, I’m not going to lie, does make the whole thing feel less like a proper charitable initiative and more like something that was agreed whilst drunk at some sort of super-luxe charity ball. Basically, I would like this more if there was less Sting in it – sorry, Sting.
  • Megablock: Quite simple. “Don’t like a bad tweet? Block the tweet, its author, and every single person who liked it—in one click.” SUPERB idea (and with a few tweaks this is quite nickable, imho).
  • Swagfair: This is a really, really smart idea, and all you advermarketingpr folk should bookmark this for the next time you’re feeling guilty about maildrops of plastic tat – Swagfair is an online shop for renewable, sustainable, artisanal (do I win some sort of modern business buzzword prize?) promotional swag – so pens made from recycled plastics, bamboo notepads, headphone stands, handmade mugs, etc etc. It ships internationally, loads of the stuff is made in Europe by small suppliers, and overall it just seems like…quite a nice thing? Of course, however green all this stuff purports to be, the fact remains that promo swag is just creating more pointless crap that noone needs which is destined to end up in landfill but, well, every little helps! *cries*
  • Cartoonise: Simple, single-use web app which basically applies a lightly-rotoscopey filter to any photo and video you care to feed it. You’ll have seen this sort of stuff before, fine, but this is free, seemingly works, and is quite useful if you want to create slightly anonymous-looking graphics out of photos of real people (or if you inexplicably want to turn all the homemade bongo on your phone into cartoons – look, I just serve up the links, you can do what you like with them, I never judge).
  • The Turn off the Dark Archives: One of the slightly-odd side effects of the world moving at 3billion miles an hour and there being SO MUCH happening ALL THE TIME and it all being SO LOUD AND SO BRIGHT AND SO SHOUTY (I’m not helping, am I?) is that you will occasionally realise that you’ve completely forgotten whole swathes of popular culture stuff from relatively-recent times. So it was with this – a YouTube channel which is collecting footage taken from performances of the Spiderman broadway musical Turn of the Dark, a musical plagued with bad luck and terrible press and injuries, and which never really made it out of previews despite a book by The Bono and Edge (look, it makes me laugh) and which was the subject of DOZENS of broadsheet snarkfests as it limped through its equally-unworkable iterations. This had totally disappeared from my mind as having been a thing – which, when you look at some of the footage, you can sort-of understand why. This is so, so, so bad (and therefore something of a must-click).
  • Botwiki: A repository of links to, and information about, online bots from around the world. If you’re interested in what can be done with automation, this is very much worth a look – there are examples of work on Tumblr, Facebook (obviously, Twitter and all of the other platforms you can think of, and overall this is a superb resource for creative coding ideas.
  • Buy Nothing: I first came across the concept of Buy Nothing Day in 2001, when I was living briefly in Washington DC and I bought a copy of Adbusters – past Matt would be really, really upset with future Matt about his life choices, turns out. This is a forthcoming app and community, spun out of the informal network of global ‘Buy Nothing’ Facebook Groups which exist worldwide, which will hopefully enable people to not only share goods and belongings but also skills and expertise as well. Obviously this stuff always feels super-utopian in theory, and it’s impossible to tell how it will function at networked scale, but it’s a lovely idea and it’s nice to occasionally be hopeful and positive rather than miserably, destructively-cynical (that note was to me rather than you fwiw).
  • Types of Academic Papers: A Twitter thread of parodies of a recent XKCD strip which stereotyped ‘types of scientific papers’ and which sparked a huge number of variants as people across various super-specific disciplines created their own versions. Click through for gently-comedic riffs on what it’s like to be a paleontologist, ethicist, AI researcher and LOADS more – if you or anyone you know is in, or adjacent to, academia, there will be something in here that…well, probably does nothing more than raise a small smile tbh, but it’s better than a kick in the teeth.
  • Harmony of the Spheres: A small music toy which lets you make sounds by placing planets in various orbits. You’re unlikely to make a viral hit with this, but it’s a really lovely way of messing with sounds and it reminded me a little bit of what it might be like to be a massive interplanetary being playing a planetary theremin, which I can honestly say isn’t something I’ve ever thought of before. So that was nice.
  • Ferrari 1000: A fan-made project celebrating 70 years of Ferrari in motor racing, and presenting data and information from each of the scuderia’s races since the 1950 grand prix. I personally can’t think of anything less interesting than watching cars go round and round and round and round, but this is a nice piece of dataviz and presentation, and Ferrari fans will very much enjoy it.
  • The Life of Saint Fiona Bianco Xena: I love this. A digital artwork prepared as part of the National Gallery’s recent series of commissions ‘The Rules Do Not Apply’, this…”tells the hotly disputed story of the fictitious saint’s life. Multiple interpretations of key moments in Saint Fiona’s life are presented in a hyper-chromatic, unholy panorama – a maelstrom of figures, stories and symbols occurring on different timelines, dimensions and scales.” It basically feels like every single hyperaesthetic webpage I’ve seen over the past decade, all bred with each other to produce this – a sort of hyperflattened vision of digital design history, packed with silly gags and things to discover. Honestly, I would quite like to sit in a room that’s wallpapered like this.
  • The Institute for the Study of the Neurotypical: This is a superb website. Mirrored from an old page from 2010, this is the spoof homepage for the widespread condition ‘Neurotypical Syndrome’: “Neurotypical syndrome is a neurobiological disorder characterized by preoccupation with social concerns, delusions of superiority, and obsession with conformity. Neurotypical individuals often assume that their experience of the world is either the only one, or the only correct one. NTs find it difficult to be alone. NTs are often intolerant of seemingly minor differences in others. When in groups NTs are socially and behaviorally rigid, and frequently insist upon the performance of dysfunctional, destructive, and even impossible rituals as a way of maintaining group identity. NTs find it difficult to communicate directly, and have a much higher incidence of lying as compared to persons on the autistic spectrum.

NT is believed to be genetic in origin. Autopsies have shown the brain of the neurotypical is typically smaller than that of an autistic individual and may have overdeveloped areas related to social behavior.” This is very smart, very pointed and very funny – if you’re neurodivergent, or have friends or family who are, you and they will rather enjoy this. It’s worth scrolling to the bottom of the homepage to read the ‘about’ section – the anger that prompted its creation is worth noting and remembering.

  • We Are Child Free: I recently had a slightly-saddening moment when the very last of my contemporary male friends to still be childless announced that his girlfriend is pregnant; whilst I’m obviously ‘happy’ for them (not so much so that I’m willing to abandon the inverted commas, though), it’s also genuinely miserable to know that I have run out of people my own age to go to the pub with every night of the week. We Are Child Free is less about pandering to the pathetic Peter Pan-ism of a 41 year old man, you’ll be pleased to hear, and more about offering a community for people (specifically women) who have for whatever reason not had children and who don’t intend to. If you fall into that camp, you might find some of the stuff here useful or interesting.

By Ellie Macgarry



  • Denny Kuhnert: Mr Kuhnert is a developer working in mixed reality; his Twitter account, to which this is a link, seems to mainly consist of examples of his work in creating better mapping of joints and bones in AR ‘skeletons’ – which I appreciate is sort-of hard to understand, so I suggest you sit back, click this specific link, and watch as you are made to feel a greater degree of uncomfortable body horror than you have ever experienced before from a simple animation. Honestly, I can’t stress enough quite how remarkable-and-yet-horrifying this is – totally SFW, no gore or anything (it’s all CG), but, well, you’ll see.
  • The Meades Shrine: I’ve been a huge fan of Jonathan Meades since I picked up a copy of his novel Pompey when I was about…14? I’ve since read it half a dozen times, and it remains one of the strangest things I’ve ever read, combining quite staggering erudition, some truly horrible characters and set pieces, an examination on exactly how awful Belgium’s behaviour in the Congo was, and some really filthy sex and death – I highly recommend it (though it’s…quite rich, if you know what I mean). Anyway, this is a YouTube channel collecting clips of Meades’ various TV appearances over the years, in which he angrily fulminates about food, architecture, film, modernity, and anything else that takes his fancy – I appreciate that he’s not very now, Meades, with his pretty shameless elitism, but I can’t help but love someone who equates ‘mainstream’ with ‘stupid’ and doesn’t apologise for it.
  • Memegine: A search engine, for memes, which lets you search the in-meme text – so if you remember a VERY SPECIFIC rage comic from 2011 you could use this to find it again. Works surprisingly well, and if you need to find brand-related memery from years past (I have no idea why you might need to do this, but equally I understand that our lives are baroque and unknowable, and who really understands anything anymore?) this could be useful.
  • Secret Sky: The whole ‘let’s do physical events but in virtual spaces!’ thing didn’t really take off, did it? I mean, obviously lots of these things did quite well, but to the best of my knowledge, Clubhouse’s brief ascendancy aside, all the stuff that has worked has been delivered through existing platforms like Minecraft or on YouTube, etc. Still, this looks interesting – Secret Sky was an online festival-type-thing that took place a few weeks ago, so this is just a video recap of the event, but the way in which it was staged – relatively sparse visuals compared to the Fortnite extravaganzas of Lil Nas X, etc, single points of focus for viewers, limited focus on avatars and more on the performance, etc etc – seems quite smart.
  • Infinite Nature: I could try and explain this, but I will do a really bad job – just click the link, and marvel at the fact that AI can now create video from a static image, video that gives the illusion that you the viewer are flying through the photograph, video that effectively creates an imaginary ‘there’ to take you to where no ‘there’ really exists…seriously, whilst this doesn’t look totally convincing, the absolutely mind-buggering oddness of what is happening here and what this could presage for AI-generated visuals and spaces is quite jaw-dropping.
  • Phases: Or, to give this Reddit thread its full title, “What was your biggest/most regrettable “It’s not a phase, mom. It’s my life.” that, in fact, turned out to be just a phase and not your life?”. SO MANY GOOD STORIES that will make you feel marginally-better about all the stupid things you did as a child. It’s worth scrolling through as there’s gold all the way down – there’s one particular anecdote about a kid peppering his speech with ‘Eminem-style’ vocabulary when he was 11 or so that made me do the sort of full-body cringe which is what passes for abdominal crunches in my life.
  • Ogi: Ogi is a small search engine created by a certain Vladimir Prelovac which exists to give you search results that Google won’t. It’s obviously of relatively-limited utility, but I love the fact it exists – partly as it’s a genuinely interesting tool to find information at the edges of the web, but also because it’s a reminder of how much Google, for all its brilliance and wonder, has itself contributed to the flattening and dulling of the web through its focus on ‘high-ranking’ sites. Try putting in something you’re interested in – I guarantee this site will take you somewhere different and unexpected.
  • Lighthouses: A map of the world’s lighthouses. Soothing, and the sort of thing I would quite like to see made massive on a large wall somewhere. Also, I am absolutely fascinated by the seemingly-landlocked lighthouses of Austria – WHAT ARE THEY DOING THERE?!
  • Scorecard: An app simply designed to help you keep score of…whatever arbitrary thing you might want to keep score of. Totally pointless, except for the sort of incomprehensible in-joke games you have with your friends or colleagues – in fact, why not engage in some light-touch bullying of a workmate or two by starting to keep track of scores in an imaginary game within your team, a game which they will always lose. “Oh Andy! You lost a point! No, we’re not explaining the rules to you again! Still stuck to the bottom of the table – no team drinks for you this week!” Seriously, you could drive someone slowly mad with this, could be loads of fun (NB – Web Curios does not condone the psychological torture of colleagues or indeed anyone else for that matter).
  • TwoTone: Via Giuseppe Sollazzo’s wonderful newsletter of dataviz and related matters, Two Tone is a simple website which lets you create audio from data – upload an Excel or CSV and it will map that data to notes, which you can then fiddle with a little to try and create something aurally pleasing. I am a total sucker for ‘sounds from data’-type projects and generally feel that we don’t spend enough time trying to engineer club bangers from the 2019-20 South West Region Sales Data (or whatever). Why not spend this afternoon turning your company’s latest financials into some sort of breakbeat horrorshow? WHY NOT????? Fcuk’s sake, live a little.
  • ee Cummings: Perhaps unfairly, I sort-of hold ee Cummings responsible for Rupi Kaur and instapoetry in general (I mean, that is unfair, but I also hold Warhold responsible for NFTs, so I have no problem blaming artists of the past for things that can’t reasonably be blamed on them) – that said, if you’re less angry with the dead capitalisationphobic than I am, you might enjoy this website which is collecting his works as they fall out of copyright. If nothing else, I get the feeling that this would be a style easily-replicable by GPT-3.
  • The Best Things For Everything: Smart from Google, highlighting its status as a place for trusted reviews and information and very much putting it in contrast with Amazon, where you can’t really believe anything any more. This side collects recommendations, based on data supplied to Google by user reviews,  for the very best examples of hundreds of different product categories – the shift from ‘cheapest’ to ‘best’ as a search term in online shopping has been ongoing for a few years now, and this is a nice reflection of that.
  • Mountains: This is interesting – Mountains is a platform / marketplace for aspirant filmmakers to submit their projects for feedback from more experienced professionals – paying, of course, for the privilege. So you can choose from a variety of different people – none of whom I’ve ever heard of, but I know nothing about filmmaking so I don’t suppose that matters – and they charge you to take a look at your WIP and tell you what they think. You’re charged per minute of the content you want them to look at – interestingly, there doesn’t appear to be any guarantee of what form the feedback will take, leaving it tantalisingly open to the possibility that you’ll spend a few grand asking a latterday Jim Jarmusch for their opinion on your magnum opus and get a laconic ‘S’ok’ in reply. I think it might be quite fun to mess with this a bit, and you could actually make quite an interesting piece about the creative process and the subjective nature of criticism, but perhaps I’m just being an insufferable pseud here.
  • Cereal Offers: This is PURE CURIOS – a website (still very much active, and last updated in December of last year) which ‘hopes’ (hopes! HOPES! See, it’s stuff like that that gets me – seriously, I might cry) to become the most comprehensive database of UK cereal box giveaways anywhere on the web. I am not sure how much competition there is for that title, but I am rooting for this person (it’s obviously a man) all the way. There’s even a ‘for sale’ section, should you want to drop £15 on some collective Tony the Tiger badges from Frosties in the 80s, or a frankly BARGAINOUS Honey Monster toy for £8. Honestly, it’s all I can do not to stop Curios right here and go spelunking in the slightly-dusty Riboflavin-boosted Weetos of the past.
  • Mighty: This is a bit techy and so therefore I am probably going to do a terrible job of explaining what it is – apologies in advance. Mighty is, I think, a Cloud-based browser which effectively outsources all the processing elsewhere to stop your laptop wheezing like some sort of asthmatic bongo addict every time you attempt to have Gmail and GDocs open at the same time. No idea if this is any good, but if you constantly have to put icepacks around your computer to stop it melting then this might be worth a look.
  • New Utopia: This slightly foreshadows a longread later on, but is quite the Curio in its own right – New Utopia is the still-active website for a long-dormant project which sought to create a new sovereign state at sea, “An oasis in the middle of the ocean: Office buildings, hotels, theaters and shopping centers, sitting slightly above the surface of the sea in neat rows surrounded by greenery and flowers, with canals of clear blue water, water taxis and gondolas providing transportation for the inhabitants.” The fact that you’ve never heard of New Utopia would rather suggest that it doesn’t exist – as does the fact that they never seemed to get beyond the concept art stage, and that the concept art was seemingly created by a middle-aged watercolourist from the Home Counties – and yet the site is still being updated. Christ alone knows who by, or who ‘Prince John’ is, or indeed why they have so many photos of the ‘Embassy to the USA’, or why the Embassy’s kitchen has a large white sculpture of a humanoid rabbit in the centre of a countertop…SO MANY QUESTIONS.
  • The Fish Doorbell: It’s really hard not to love the Dutch for things like this. Literally a web-enabled alarm so that internet users around the world can keep an eye out and see whether some fish need to be let through a small gate – look: “Fish swim every spring from the Vecht, via the Oudegracht and the canals, to the Kromme Rijn. Straight through Utrecht, looking for a place to lay eggs and reproduce. Sometimes they have to wait a long time at the Weerdsluis, because the lock gates do not open often in the spring. We have come up with something for that. There is a camera under water at the lock. You can see the live images below. Are there any fish in the picture? Then press the fish doorbell. The lock keeper is alerted and, if there are many fish, can open the lock. This way you help fish through the canal.” I think that this might well be my favourite website of the year so far. FISH DOORBELL! Also, there is an excellent gallery of piscine images as a bonus.
  • Crittervision: A Twitch stream from the US which captures raccoons, deer, opossums and all sorts of other mammalian wildlife as it generally stuffs its face. The time difference means that you’re likely to see quite a lot of HOT ANIMAL ACTION if you log on during working hours – as I type there is a spectacularly-fat raccoon fighting a piece of rope which, fine, may not sound like the acme of entertainment but which when you’ve been typing for four hours straight like have is, I promise you, some high-quality entertainment.
  • Papercraft Fish: This is all in Japanese, so I have no idea why it exists – still, if you’re after a selection of papercraft models of very realistic fish that you can cut out and assemble to create your very own papery piscine menagerie (and who isn’t? NO FCUKER, that’s who!) then this is the link to end all links.
  • Undying Dusk: I’m increasingly into people making games out of things that you shouldn’t necessarily be able to make games out of (so in Excel, say, or in a Tweet) – this is the latest iteration of that trend, with a WHOLE DUNGEON-CRAWLER contained within a simple PDF document. Free to download, this really is so, so clever – even if you’re not into the game mechanics, the way that its author Lucas Cimon has used the format is really smart, and the game itself is far more interesting and engaging than it ought to be. Next time some dullard comes to you with a ‘what are some really EXCITING things we can do with modern digital publishing?’ question, rather than tiredly-sighing and slitting your own throat at the sheer futility of it all, why not instead suggest that you turn the latest tedious piece of pointless thought leadership you’ve shat out into an INTERACTIVE PDF GAME??? Come on, it might be fun, and it’s not like it matters anyway.
  • This Button Does Nothing: This made me laugh more than I expected to, and then started to make me feel quite weirdly guilty about the fact I was engaging with it at all.
  • Steven Pool: Via last week’s B3ta (THANKS ROB!), this is snooker crossed with golf and it is an EXCELLENT little timewaster which reminded me quite a lot of Archer Maclean’s 3d Pool (should that mean anything to you, which it almost certainly won’t on reflection chiz chiz chiz).
  • Poki: Seriously though, it does feel a tiny bit like there’s a cycle being completed in terms of webculture in some small way. The resurgence in newsletters and ‘blogs’ (and the resurgence of the debate about how these are defined), the resurgence in ‘small web’ craft, Tumblr having a sort of weird cultural moment again…alongside all of these SIGNS (look, they’re signs to me, ok?) comes the fact that there’s also been a huge spike in the past year or so of site’s which seek to replicate the early-00s ‘flash games for work avoidance’ boom, except for a post-Flash world. So it is that we have Poki, basically a HUGE repository for all sorts of old flash games, and old mobile games, all ported to work in-browser, and all for free. There’s a lot of tripe here, fine, but equally I was able to spend an entire call earlier this week blazing through 25 levels of this little MotoGP game whilst having a spliff, so, well, it’s GREAT!

By Christian Rex van Minnen



  • Star Trek Hugs: Nothing says ‘a harmonious future for all the peoples of Earth!’ like a Tumblr featuring intergalactic hugs from Star Trek.


  • Watch Parts Motorcycles: Things sculpted from watch parts. Small, intricate and fascinating (although I do slightly despair at pop culture’s insistence on reducing everything to KAWS and Star Wars).
  • Dog Sledge Taxi: Photographs of huskies, pulling a sled. I don’t care how terrible you’re feeling, photos of dogs in snow will always provide a slight mood corrective.
  • The Katsugyo Bag: This is slightly-baffling, but brilliantly so. The Katsyugo Bag is, as far as I can tell, a prototypical device that’s designed to let you carry live fish with you wherever you go, in their own little…fish-briefcase? Honestly, not quite sure how to describe this but it’s made me VERY HAPPY and it might do the same to you (let’s hope it makes the fish happy too).
  • Cheugy Life: Presented without comment (it is not a real thing) – that said, quite a lot of this made me laugh rather.


  • Mind The Product – Surviving 2020: This isn’t the sort of thing I usually include in Curios – I’m not as a rule into stories of BUSINESS TRANSFORMATION AND RESILIENCE – but I found it a really interesting read and thought some of you might too. Mind the Product was, pre-pandemic, largely an events business – and then it had to stop being one very quickly. This is the company’s own internal set of reflections on what it did, how it did it, how it survived and what it learned, and, honestly, as a piece of clear-minded and honest writing about the practical realities of running a business, it’s superb (I mean, I say that – obviously I have no fcuking idea about what running a business is like, but it feels superb).
  • Brain Sex Isn’t A Thing: New research has continued to show that there is no meaningful difference in brain function between the sexes – something one would have hoped we’d all have agreed on by now, but which sadly seems to be a point which continues to need to be made. As the piece states, “sex is a very imprecise indicator of what kind of brain a person will have. Another way to think about it is every individual brain is a mosaic of circuits that control the many dimensions of masculinity and femininity, such as emotional expressiveness, interpersonal style, verbal and analytic reasoning, sexuality, and gender identity itself. Or, to use a computer analogy, gendered behavior comes from running different software on the same basic hardware.” So there.
  • The Web, According to the NSA in 2007: The NSA – that is, the National Security Agancy, those people you might remember from all the Edward Snowden surveillance stuff a few years back; you remember, the spooky bad guys – was unsurprisingly quite up on the web, right from the start. This document is a KILOMETRIC PDF of their guide to the web and its culture from 2007, and if you’re any sort of ‘scholar’ (yes, ok, fine, dry-mouthed obsessive) of the past web then this will be absolute catnip to you. Too long to read all of, fine, but fascinating to flip through – I am particularly curious to imagine what current versions of similar documentation look like. How do you go about explaining what the web looks like today?
  • The One Minute City: You remember how last year everyone was getting excited about the idea of recalibrating urban environments post-pandemic to be ‘15-minute’ cities, with all necessary amenities (work, healthcare, leisure, etc) being arranged within a 15m journey from any residents’ house? Yeah, well that’s SO OLD HAT – welcome to the future, or at least the Scandinavian present, where a group of designers in Sweden is exploring what urban design looks like when applied to a street-by-street or block-by-block scale. This is a really interesting idea, effectively creating a series of modular elements which can be distributed by the local community however they see fit, to reflect the needs and geography (human and spatial) of the area. So smart, and exactly the sort of thing that we look at in the UK with slightly wistful eyes.
  • Project Catchy Content: Another day, another step towards complete professional irrelevance and unemployability! ‘Project Catchy Content’ (the only thing worse than its name is its essence!) is a newly-trailed Adobe suite of tools which promise to basically use ‘AI’ and ‘machine learning’ and other buzzwords to analyse EVERYTHING you make and produce and tell you exactly how many hits it’s going to get and how you can optimise it for ALL TEH CLICKS! The idea is that the software will ‘learn’ what works and then ‘use’ those ‘learnings’ to offer advice to users on things like photo selection, webdesign, palette choice, copy… which is all fine, of course, but also means that we’re going to end up with everything on the web saying the same thing and looking the same and reading the same and sounding the same, the ‘YouTube Thumbnailisation of Everything’ as I have just decided I am going to call it.
  • Google Returns To Work: Want to see what THE FUTURE OF WORK looks like if you’re a Googler? ‘Slightly terrifying’ is my immediate take, but I confess to doing an actual, proper LOL at the short video showing the ‘inflatable balloon wall’ which can be moved around and put in place wherever you want in a matter of seconds to preserve privacy, etc, and which looks almost-but-not-exactly-like something you would have seen as a prop on Playdays.
  • Crypto-Remittances: All my snarking around NFTs and Crypto over the past few months/years does of course rest on my own personal inability to understand what the fcuk these systems and the others built on them are actually for. This piece made me think slightly-differently about the role of cryptocurrencies in society, and the use to which they can be put to assist people for whom access to traditional fiat currencies can be problematic. This piece, in Rest of World (the best new outlet for international journalism in years, by the way), takes a look at how crypto can benefit migrant workers looking to send money home without fees, etc – I still can’t help but think there should be a simpler way of doing all this, but I ended the piece feeling slightly-less anti crypto, and slightly-more like someone who could probably do with thinking from a different perspective every now and again.
  • Celebrity Lookalike Cameo: I am blown away at the fact that it’s seemingly possible to make a living as a lookalike on Cameo – people will actually pay for lookalike Tom Cruise to send them a message! Why?! Still, this got me thinking about how far we are from a Cameo-type system that mixes ‘extreme YouTube’ and ‘record me a video for a tenner’ – teenagers offering to rub naga chillies across their frenulum for the meagre sum of £5.99, that sort of thing. I reckon about 6 months.
  • The News Influencers: A fascinating profile of a new breed of YouTuber – the news summarisers, effectively acting as daily shortform news digest channels, mixing real-world reportage with dispatches from the world of Beefing-on-YouTube, viral TikToks and Twitter’s main character. It does rather feel that ‘traditional’ news outlets have rather slept on this – you’d think it wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to get Newsround on TikTok, for example, with 1-minute daily news summaries for kids, etc, but seemingly none of the mainstream players appear to be trying it (see also – games streaming).
  • Manifest The Glow-Up: I actually walked past a couple of girls the other week who were discussing how one of their friends had ‘manifested’ a new job (I didn’t stop to ask them whether this ‘manifesting’ had at any point involved, I don’t know, ‘attending an interview’ or ‘tarting up a CV’, or whether they had simply waited for the universe’s beneficence to come good – presume the latter), meaning that this is therefore DEFINITELY A REAL THING (the day I see people doing ‘universe cheat codes’, though, is probably the day I make with the pills and the xacto knife). If nothing else, this piece made me think about what sort fresh madness we can expect from modernity’s collision of professional hopelessness, environmental collapse, odd, DIY-spiritualism, rampant, unfettered capitalism and STUFF-WANT. It feels to me that ‘a generation that wants to hack the world’ is an interesting startpoint for something, though I’m not sure what.
  • Cool Vaccines: Super-interesting look at how Pfizer’s vaccine has somehow managed to become the ‘cool’ anti-rona jab (no, me neither), at least in the US, and why this might have happened and what this might ‘mean’. I particularly enjoyed the serious reflection as to how the sound of Pfizer makes it inherently cooler than ‘Johnson & Johnson’, but I think the truest part of this is when it comes to talking about TikTok and the increasingly binary nature of the way in which things are considered on the platform; I found the bit at the end about the ironic detachment of GenZ fascinating, particular in the context of millennials’ oft-discussed joyless sincerity.
  • The Tetris Shakeup: A really interesting look at how competitive Tetris playing – yes of COURSE it is a thing! – is evolving, and how (more broadly) online communities can lead to step-changes in evolution for certain skills and practices; I wonder to what extent the past couple of decades is retrospectively going to be considered something of a golden age of small, incremental improvements in certain disciplines due simply to the never-before-available chance to pool expertise and learning afforded by the web.
  • Designing The Future: This is an amazing article, quite often in the most literal sense but not always entirely-positively. Perception is a design company which you have probably never heard of but whose work you are doubtless familiar with – it’s been responsible for the design of most of the fictional technology of the world’s biggest films for a decade or more. Minority Report, Iron Man, in fact all the MCU stuff…all imagine by these people. The crazy part is where they start to talk about how they now get commissioned to help design this stuff in real life, based on people looking at stuff in the films and thinking ‘yeah, that looks cool – want one of those’. Is this how the future is supposed to be designed? I know, I know, I am a miserable git who is increasingly-incapable of finding joy in anything – still, I can’t be the only person who has a few questions about whether we should be taking our technological inspiration from a neoliberal capitalist militaristic power fantasy, can I? Eh? Oh.
  • The Case For Legalising Heroin: An interview with Ben Wallace Wells, who got a fair bit of press a few months back as a result both of his works on the modern nature of drug abuse and control, and for the fact that he’s a tenured professor and author who is also quite open about his regular recreational use of heroin. This is far more interesting and less sensationalist than you might expect – Wallace Wells doesn’t get a particularly easy ride, and it’s not hard to side with the author’s conclusion (which, basically, is that just because Wallace Wells can get away with it doesn’t mean that everyone else can, whatever he might think), but it’s so refreshing to read someone talking sensibly about the topic. Interestingly, the interview with Seth Rogen from the other week in which he talked about weed as ‘something he uses to get through the day, like someone else might wear glasses’ was widely-praised, with Rogen’s perspective quoted all over the place as a classic example of his stoner-savant. Why do we feel differently about heroin, and is it anything other than squeamishness?
  • The Wrath of Corleone: Long-time readers may be aware that I am something of a Michael Owen when it comes to films, which is why I only relatively-recently saw the Godfather films – which, in turn, is why I ended up reading this critical reappraisal of the trilogy by Noah Millman. I really enjoyed this – I never read film criticism, mainly because I have never seen the films that the criticism is of – though obviously Coppola-obsessives may feel differently.
  • The Light Fantastic: I am an absolute sucker for massive works of art that will exist forever – this is one of the most incredible examples of such a project, which I first read about a decade or so ago and which is slowly moving towards ‘completion’ (insofar as it will ever be completed). James Turrell is building…what is he building? A sculpture, a camera obscura, a monument, a mystery…it’s almost impossible to write about without sounding insanely-hyperbolic, because it really is that mad – “Known as Roden Crater, it stands 580 feet tall and nearly two miles wide. One of the tunnels that Turrell has completed is 854 feet long. When the moon passes overhead, its light streams down the tunnel, refracting through a six-foot-diameter lens and projecting an image of the moon onto an eight-foot-high disk of white marble below. The work is built to align most perfectly during the Major Lunar Standstill every 18.61 years. The next occurrence will be in April 2025. To calculate the alignment, Turrell worked closely with astronomers and astrophysicists. Because the universe is expanding, he must account for imperceptible changes in the geometry of the galaxy. He has designed the tunnel, like other features of the crater, to be most precise in about 2,000 years. Turrell’s friends sometimes joke that’s also when he’ll finish the project.” Absolutely fascinating, and something I would like to see before I die.
  • The Weaponisation of the Female Orgasm: One woman’s account of being nonorgasmic, and society’s continual struggle to fix that for her, and what that means. This was super-interesting, occasionally very funny, and incredibly-illuminating – I had NO IDEA that there was such an incredibly lucrative Goop-adjacent business empire constructed around KNOWING THE YONI, or indeed that those men in baggy linen trousers who style themselves ‘orgasm gurus’ and charge hundreds of pounds to wave burning sage over your perineum (or whatever it is that they do) actually exist.
  • The QAnon of Architecture: What if we were all secretly being lied to? What if there was a secret civilisation with GREAT KNOWLEDGE AND WISDOM, whose relics are visible throughout our modern society but whose existence is being denied and erased by powers beyond our ken? WHAT IF???? “The overall premise is an alternative history. A vast, technologically advanced “Tartarian” empire, emanating from north-central Asia or thereabouts, either influenced or built vast cities and infrastructure all over the world. (Tartaria, or Tartary, though never a coherent empire, was indeed a general term for north-central Asia.) Either via a sudden cataclysm or a steady antagonistic decline — and perhaps as recently as 100 years ago — Tartaria fell. Its great buildings were buried, and its history was erased. After this “great reset,” the few surviving examples of Tartarian architecture were falsely recast as the work of contemporary builders who could never have executed buildings of such grace and beauty, and subjected them to clumsy alterations.” This is so gloriously, wonderfully silly and mad.
  • Why AI Is Harder Than We Think: This is, fine, an academic paper, but it’s a very readable one, I promise, and is a really accessible and nicely-structured overview of some of the reasons why AI is often harder than we think and why the predictions we make about it are so often wildly optimistic – in particular, the arguments here about our use of language around AI and how that affects the way in which we think of its capabilities really struck me as worth further investigation, particularly when we use terms like ‘thinking’ and ‘learning’ and ‘vision’. So, so interesting and very much worth a read.
  • The Gravlix: Absolutely the most enjoyable piece of writing I have read so far in 2021. Honestly, if you enjoy words at all you will adore this – on the gravlix, and associated terms used in the writing of comics. I promise, you’ll be rolling these phrases around your mouth all day, they are good enough to chew.
  • The Floating Utopia: As alluded to a bit further up, this is a wonderful article, all about the latest attempts to create a sea-based utopia, free of the pesky constraints of government and offering a truly democratic, free society on the ocean waves. As you might expect, it’s a bit more complex than that – and, as ever, there’s definitely the whiff of criminality about quite a lot of this – but this is such a wonderful tale, partly because of the supremely-human ‘hope in the face of adversity and the fact that, bluntly, noone really wants to live on an ocean-going principality’, but also partly because of the cast of characters who all have that slightly weird international outlaw vibe going on. Wonderful journalism.
  • You And I Get Tanked Differently: Finally this week, Tom Usher writes for Vittles on getting drunk and how we, the English, do it in a particular way, and what that says about us and what we ought to do about it. Far better than it needs to be, this is an excellent piece of writing about what, at its heart, is a sad subject – Britain as the slumped grey man with the stained trousers, always having too much ‘fun’ – if you ‘enjoy’ a drink then you will very much ‘enjoy’ this.

By Iona Sakellaraki


Webcurios 30/04/21

Reading Time: 37 minutes

HAPPY BANK HOLIDAY FRIDAY EVERYONE! Except of course those of you who are either not fortunate enough to get bank holidays off, or who are freelancers for whom the term means nothing other than NO MONEY, or who are foreign and for whom the entire concept is meaningless! Hello!

Thanks to everyone who said nice things about Curios’ return last week – it’s very much appreciated – and thanks for your patience with the minor technical issues which should all by now have been fixed (and, er, if they haven’t, please nudge me again).

Anyway, for those of you not still desperately texting hilarious gags to Boris, welcome to another week of Web Curios – links to make you laugh! To make you cry! To make you question the wisdom of subscribing to this crap in the first place (don’t worry, I really don’t check the numbers and so will NEVER KNOW if you cruelly abandon me)! To make you momentarily forget that we are governed by an unashamedly-corrupt cabal, that we have been for decades, and that we effectively chose this ourselves!

Welcome, then, to Web Curios – it won’t make anything better, but it might at least give you a set of new, differently-horrible things to worry about and be scared of!

(PS – Web Curios might not turn up next week as I am getting vaxxed on Thursday and if last time is anything to go by there is no way in hell I will be in any shape to spaff out 100-odd links and prose on Friday morning; apologies in advance if my selfish desire for immunisation conflicts with your need for links)

(PPS – no, I am not that old; yes, there is, I promise, A Good Reason for me getting doublevaxxed a bit early)

By Shardcore



  • The Converse ‘Renew’ Labs: I have made a sort of mental compact with myself not to feature stuff in here if all I’m going to do is slag it off – obviously that doesn’t apply to things that are borderline-criminal or obvious scams, or the occasional link to the unpleasant end of the teledildonics spectrum, but in general it feels a bit mean to include something only to give it a kicking. And yet… This is a webthingy by Converse, which for some reason is set up as a boxpark-style retail container popup, existing in your web browser, which itself is imaginarily-situated on top of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Clicking through lets you ‘explore’ the store, and learn all about the company’s partnership with the Take 3 initiative (designed to encourage people to take litter away from the beach with them), and even buy a bunch of limited edition trainer lines, each with their own tenuous connection to environmentalism (these are made from recycled materials! These contain smog-reactive ink!). So what you have here is a brand using a badged connection with an environmental charity and some fancy-but-empty webwork to…to what exactly? To…tell us that plastic in the ocean is bad? To show off the fact that it’s done a marketing hookup with a bunch of ‘green’ artists? That it’s chucked a few quid at a charity which, whilst well-meaning, has as it’s whole ethos ‘WE THE PEOPLE MUST FIX OUR MESSY BEACHES’? How, exactly, is Converse actually doing anything here other than, fundamentally, encouraging people to buy yet more fcuking stuff, stuff which necessarily will need making and shipping and marketing, and which is in no small part made of plastics and oils and petrochemicals, and which – given this is a campaign aimed solely at the antipodes – is all going to have to be shipped not-insignificant distances. Can anyone say ‘pointless, cosmetic, greenwashing campaign’? Look, if you work for an agency you basically have to come to terms with the fact that your entire professional raison d’etre is to make more money for the system that is killing everything – yep, me too, I am scum also – but could we maybe all start to be a bit more discerning? Can we maybe not all just say ‘yes!’ when people come to us with fcuking stupid, pointless ideas like this? Can we stop having stupid, pointless ideas like this? Still, the website’s not bad, so well done, agencypeople!
  • The Digital Einstein Experience: There was an excellent short story published a few months ago which has done the rounds since, all about the dark horror of one’s consciousness being preserved in digital perpetuity for people to mess with after you’re gone (which annoyingly I can’t find now, but which I’ll drop in here later if I remember – here it is! Thanks Jared, who reminded me.); this very much isn’t what’s happened here – this is NOT Einstein – but this does ever so slightly enter ‘uncanny valley’ territory. This is a digital model of Einstein’s face, which has been hooked up with a bunch of natural language recognition AI stuff, and plugged into the terrifyingly-complicated maths engine Wolfram Alpha so that you can now ‘talk’ with old, dead Albert and ask him questions about science and stuff. On the one hand, this is quite a fun little toy and makes me think that lo-fi versions of this – sort of semi-sentient emoji, in the manner of Apple’s 3d CG faces but with a bit more tech behind them, like non-sh1t Tamagotchi – could be rather popular; on the other, POOR ALBERT! This is, it’s fair to say, not exactly showing him at his most brilliant; I wonder if you’d told the man that 66 years after his death he would find a version of himself trapped inside a machine, forced to answer sub-GCSE physics questions in perpetuity, how he’d have reacted.
  • The Lomax Digital Archive: This is a superb find, and one of those occasional lovely treasures you stumble across online and which open up a completely new field of history of learning or enquiry that you (well, me, specifically) had no previous idea existed. The Lomax Digital Archive is an astonishing collection of musical recordings and ethnoanthropological records compiled by the quite-extraordinary-sounding folklorist Adam Lomax, who dedicated his life to studying folk cultures around the world. Seriously, this is quite remarkable – it covers a significant part of the Northern Hemisphere, features musical recordings and photos and notes and observations and recordings of all sorts of incredible stuff, from Russian folk music to legends like Muddy Waters. If you’re any sort of musical scholar, or cratedigger, this is catnip.
  • Fingerspelling: Absolutely one of the best ‘use your webcam to track your movements’ toys I’ve seen, perhaps because it’s just trying to track your fingers rather than your entire face – if you’ve ever wanted to learn American Sign Language (distinct from UK sign language because it only uses one hand at a time, meaning it’s slightly-simpler and faster to use), now’s your chance. This got me thinking that, if the machine can be trained to recognise ASL then it can also be trained to recognise being sworn at – I now really want the ability to give all computing devices the finger and have them know that that is what I am doing. FEEL MY DIGIT OF DISRESPECT, etc. Can someone code this up, please?
  • The COVID Art Museum: So having complained last week about the lack of COVID art knocking about, I was obviously condemned to find this link almost immediately afterwards – apparently the COVID Art Museum is an initiative that was started back in lockdown one and which I singularly failed to stumble across (call myself a webmong, etc etc), and collects a piece of art inspired by the pandemic, presented each day on its Insta feed. Started in Spain, but featuring work from artists from around the world, there’s an interesting range of work and styles on display here.
  • AIDentity: Continuing themes which he began to explore in The Machine Gaze, Shardcore this time looks at what machines ‘imagine’ when we give them a prompt. Based on all the millions of faces they have been trained on, and their rudimentary-but-improving understanding of language, what would a machine give you if you asked it to show you a ‘London Man’, or ‘Lawyer’ or ‘Artist’? I love this stuff, not least as it offers perhaps the simplest and clearest visual explanation of how ‘bias’ works in machine learning models, and how the input shapes the output, and how the input can never be neutral because its collation is necessarily sociopolitically determined. And all that sort of stuff which, if I’m honest with myself, noone comes here to read me wrestling ineffectually with. Still, click the link – this is a fascinating project and the sort of thing which if I were any sort of brand doing work at the intersection of data and machine learning I might look to commission some more of.
  • A Bunch Of Odd Stuff To Buy At Auction: This was sent to me by my friend Paul, based on the fact that ‘you like weird auction stuff, don’t you?’. YES I DO PAUL THANKYOU. This is a selection currently available to bid on from Chiswick Auction House; it’s quite heavy on the taxidermy and the oddities – ‘small monkey skeleton under glass dome’, anyone? The ‘famous taxidermied winged kitten’? – and if it weren’t for the fact that I am not sure I would be able to move such a thing to Italy with me next month I would absolutely be putting in a bid for ‘trumpet made out of small deer’ (no, really).
  • Cooooookies: Yet another ‘drop’ by MSCHF (I really resent them forcing me to use the language of Supreme to describe these, by the way), this one my favourite in a while; Cooooookies is a simple game which over the past week has challenged anyone who wants to play to collect the most browser cookies – players install a Chrome plugin that tracks the trackers and which collects the data centrally, with the person adjudged to have been the Most Cookied by Monday winning…er…a violent amount of actual baked goods, I think. This is really smart, and simple, and the sort of lightly-educational promo which, given the fact that this is a US-only thing, you could TOTALLY steal in the UK or Europe with minimal pushback (although everyone who reads Curios will know that you are a filthy ideas thief – could you live with the thinly-veiled disapproval of literally tens of advermarketingpr people?).
  • Answer Socrates: Or, more accurately, Answer The Public with a less-annoying interface. I think it pulls exactly the same information, but it’s less of a pain to read and access – although, to be clear, it’s not useful if the people using it are morons (this is something that people don’t always understand about research tools, to my constant chagrin).
  • The Google Nonsense Lab: Another AI toy by Google, this one building on the work it’s been doing on machine language comprehension, specifically phonetics; it’s a series of small language games which let you combine words to make nonsense portmanteaus, or to see what happens to the spelling and sound of language when you make adjustments to mouth shape or vowel emphasis. If I were going to be a miserable, critical, joyless bastrd – something I’m really looking forward to leaning into as I inch ever close to the death that will one day mercifully claim me – I might complain that, well, it maybe lacks some of Google’s usual fancy polish (where are the animated CG blobs? Where’s the cartoon parakeet? Where’s the voice synthesis?), but let’s stay positive. This is potentially quite a diverting 20m for a kid who likes words and language (or, er, for actual, serious students of language and human communication).
  • Designer Dram: I imagine that this is the sort of thing that whiskey purists – or even people who understand even a little bit about the process of making traditional high-end spirits – might look at and baulk quite hard, but I didn’t hate this idea anywhere near as much as I expected (I think it’s the fact that at no point on the site did I find any mention of ‘proprietary AI master-blender technology). Designer Dram lets you basically create a bespoke whiskey just for you – blended from a predetermined selection of (American) spirits to proportions determined by the buyer, this lets you create a dizzying theoretical away of different boozes (which will all end up tasting like one of approximately 4 different flavour profiles, let’s be honest, but still) with a personalised label and whatever hilarious name you choose to give it (I have a strong feeling that there will be a lot of man-to-man gifts with names like ‘Clyde Bums Goats’), all for about $150 (it’s unclear whether they deliver internationally and if so what the markup is on postage). Fine, it might not be an award-winning Islay single malt, but do they let you produce a drink that’s a mix of 9 different types of bourbon and which you can call ‘Daddy’s Micturate’? They do not.
  • The Josh Battle: You will, I imagine, all be aware of last weekend’s strangely-heartwarming Josh Battle, in which Josh…Joshes? Joshii? The Joshiim? Anyway, a bunch of people named Josh met up to determine who was the ultimate Josh, and, as amazingly occasionally happens with these spontaneous internet meetup thingies, turned into quite the wholesome day. The link uptop takes you to a Twitch stream of the whole thing – which is mad in itself, right? A bunch of people called Josh arrange to meet up based on a throwaway gag on an internet forum and it gets livestreamed around the world to an audience of actual people via someone’s phone – that’s obviously very silly, but also…quite cool? – but the subReddit is another decent and VERY WHOLESOME resource for all your Josh-related needs. If any of the several other Matt Muirs out there are reading this, then a) please can you try and give the correct email address when signing up to financing deals on Toyota cars in the Tri-State area? The spam is becoming annoying; and b) I WILL FIGHT YOU (no actual hitting please)!
  • The Free Strategy Tool Library: Some people like tools and methodologies for doing ‘strategy’ – one of the many reasons I am bad at my job is that I don’t, believing it all to be made-up w4nk which really doesn’t warrant the degree of fetishised process attached to it. Still, if you are the sort of person who finds they benefit from structured thinking frameworks and ways of building arguments and stuff, this GDoc contains multitudes. This is VERY diverse – there’s not a whole lot of organisation gone into it, and it runs the gamut from ‘free data analysis tools’ to ‘actual strategy processes and draft presentations’ – but there’s definitely something in here for most levels of experience and interest. God I really fcuking hate the word strategy. Can we stop using it? Can we just be honest and start calling it ‘the bit where we try and look clever but, honestly, mostly don’t quite manage it’?
  • Life In Vogue: I didn’t realise this – odd, given what a committed fashionista I so self-evidently am – but Vogue has each Summer for the past few years been doing a big artsyfestival-type jamboree thing which invites designers and the fashion industry to ‘enter into a mutually-reinforcing dialogue of praxis and practice, in order to better explore the liminalities of space inherent in both architecture and couture’ (I just made that up, by the way, but it sounded plausible, right?). This year, obviously, it’s all virtual, and exists in this rather shiny digital reinterpretation of an atelier-style townhouse, with each room hosting different multimedia content – “an experience suspended between reality and fiction, where the interpretation of the role of the workplace becomes the starting point for a broader and more complex assessment of contemporaneity, its new platforms, restraints and getaways: into dreams, history and nature, into an enchanted garden where we find a refuge to renew our ideas. This has given rise to the space that Vogue Italia imagined within the project, an invented and surreal dimension: the Inspirational Garden.” It’s very pretty and very fashion, but, well, I clicked around and it’s all quite empty and VERY wanky – one of the rooms involves a 20m video of this design duo being told why they are special by a middle-aged Italian astrologer who’s doing their charts and, well, really? I thought one of the big TRENDS of the age of the creator, etc etc, was perhaps an end to this tedious fetishisation of ‘people who make’ as unicorns, and specifically this bizarre tendency to indulge this sort of sh1t? Maybe not at the high-end.
  • Your Facebook Avatar Is Coming: Did you all see the Facebook numbers? Not as mad as the Amazon numbers, fine, but another GOOD QUARTER for lovely Mark and his lovely friends and shareholders (am I slightly bitter that I didn’t buy Facebook stock a decade ago, despite the writing having been on the wall even then? No, but only via a massive effort of will). Despite Zuckerberg rapidly running out of additional pennies to squeeze out of us users in the West, there’s still a lot of growth to be had in the developing world – and the VR landscape is looking increasingly like there’s only one frontrunner. Facebook this week announced that it was launching new avatars for users of the industry-leading Oculus platform, and that these would be persistent across VR apps – effectively Facebook putting an early stake in the ground to be the home of the visualised VR ‘you’. This is important – platform shift inertia is, as we’ve seen all too well over the past decade, one of the greatest contributing factors to a platform’s longevity and success. Get enough people in your walled garden and it will simply become too annoying for them to leave, and tying their visual identity to your version of the future is as good a way as any of securing an audience.
  • How Many Plants: I am reasonably-sanguine about the fact that I am not a special and unique person, and that in a currently-living population of nearly 8bn I am…unlikely to be in any way exceptional in my habits and interests and behaviours (although how many other people would be willing to spend this much time and effort writing about crap on the internet for so little recognition, reward or interest? Eh?). Still, despite this it’s been…disheartening to realise that my recent enthusiasm for occasionally worrying at the soil in my girlfriend’s back garden is not in any way singular but is seemingly part of an unstoppable global trend to get into plants in 2021. Seriously, horticulture is EVERYWHERE – turns out we really do have some sort of common, species-wide responses to incarceration and fear, one of which is a slightly-pathetic desire to reconnect with the nature we’ve spend the past few hundred years fcuking with knives. How Many Plants is a nicely-designed and friendly website designed as a companion to people wanting to get into houseplants and gardening – if nothing else, the aesthetic is very much a mood (sorry).
  • Scan The World: I saw an episode of Come Dine With Me recently (I have watched SO MUCH CDWM that it’s genuinely a matter for celebration should a new one show up; honestly, I could write a treatise on how You Never Win With Steak) in which a contestant had a pair of Google Glass (a primer for the GenZ kids), and it briefly flashed me back to a decade ago when Glass was a thing, and UK startups really were going to take over the world, and 3d printing was going to revolutionise manufacture and usher in a post-scarcity world in which we could just print a pair of pants every time we ran out of clean ones (or something – it was never really that clear). None of these things ever happened, and instead everything went increasingly to tits – still, if you happened to invest in a 3d printer a decade or so ago then maybe this will be of use. “Scan the World is an ambitious community-built initiative whose mission is to share 3D printable sculpture and cultural artefacts using democratised 3D scanning technologies, producing an extensive ecosystem of free to download digital cultural heritage.” Want to print out a 20”, slightly-unpleasantly-granular replica of Michelangelo’s David? Fill your boots!
  • Qatch: Shopping, designed like Tinder, delivered via iMessage (is the basic pitch here). Qatch is an interesting idea (although its tendency to autocorrect to ‘Watch’ is a branding nightmare) – you sign up, and every day its ‘stylist’ (machine learning-enabled-database) will fwd you some items; you simply give them a heart (‘I love it’) a thumbs up (‘I like it’) or a thumbs down (‘I hate it’), and this feedback will be used to inform future selections; you can, of course, click through to buy any item you get sent. Qatch is literally just the middleman here – which makes me wonder whether this is special enough to survive – but the interface is a nice idea and I’ll be interested to see if this sort of thing develops as a sideline to social commerce.
  • Kosmi: Basically an online hangout/streaming video platform that doesn’t require any signup or registration and which is either a brilliant, simple alternative to the bloated big players or the sort of thing which you will immediately assume is being used for criminal ends.
  • Buzzer: This is really interesting, if a bit ‘oh, maybe the Super League people were a bit right about people’s falling interest in watching full sports matches’. Buzzer is a US-only app (but one which if you are into US sport I would strongly recommend trying to VPN your way around) which as far as I can tell lets you basically subscribe to live alerts from your favourite teams and sports so as to get automatically sent clips of important in-game moments as they happen – so rather than waiting for Match of the Day to see Timo Werner’s features continuing to migrate to the centre of his face in confused shame at yet another missed opportunity (hm, football gags don’t really feel quite right here, do they?) you can get every moment in almost-real-time. On the one hand, this is sort of brilliant, but on the other it contributes to the flattening on sport into a succession of granular CONTENT MOMENTS (sell them as NFTs!) rather than a match. Does it matter?
  • Butter: A new-ish tool for better and more interesting online meeting or workshop facilitation, which if you’re in the thankless business of providing virtual training to people might be helpful in keeping it fresh.
  • Emoji as Favicons: Simple, useful, and what I used to get the lovely question mark which is now the Web Curios favicon (although should any of you want to spontaneously design one for me, I wouldn’t say no. I can offer you…er…a plug, and an edible gift of your choosing – drop me a line if you’re interested).
  • Moose Migration: This is the Twitch stream of “The Great Moose Migration – A live slow tv nature stream from the depths of the wilderness in northern Sweden.” At the time of writing there is something of a dearth of mooses in shot, but on the plus side the live chat is home to a heated debate between traditional grammarians and people who are big fans of ‘meese’ as a plural of ‘moose’. I think this might be quite a nice place to spend the day tbh.

By Warren King



  • 1000s of Boredom Websites: Ordinarily I don’t bother linking to stuff like this, mainly as, well, it’s sort of my thing, you know? That said, this isn’t a bad list – not sure if there are actually 1000s, but it’s a pretty good repository of various silly, frivolous, briefly-zeitgeisty, odd, funny webtoys and projects from the past couple of decades of ‘people making stuff on the internet’. Partly useful as a way of killing some of these interminable empty hourse between birth and death, but also as a nice reminder of the more innocent times when all you needed to do to make some sweet, sweet add revenue was to knock up a poorly-reskinned ‘Smack the Pingu’ clone. Oh, and probably a really good place to come up with ideas for webgames that you can rip off with almost no fear of reprisal, should you need such a thing. Seriously, there is a LOT of webstuff in here – if you spent time avoiding work in a white collar job in the early/mid-2000s, this will feel not unlike time travel.
  • Stockular: I feel I ought to include some sort of disclaimer here about how Web Curios – and in particular me, it’s author Matt Muir – VERY MUCH DOES NOT ADVOCATE the investing of any real monies into stocks based on data from this website. Right, with that out of the way, if you’re fascinated by the recent STONKS!-type excitement and want to try your hand at some incredibly speculative short-term market manipulation courtesy of the Reddit memestocks community then this site will in theory pull together all the information you need to lose your shirt/diamond-hand your way to the moon (delete as applicable). I can’t make head nor tail of this, but I am also someone who doesn’t have a pension because honestly the thought of thinking seriously about money makes me want to cry – you may find it the keys to your plutocratic tomorrow (but, to be clear, you probably won’t).
  • Voices From The Dawn: A lovely online project collecting photographs and information on Ireland’s prehistoric monuments, their history and folklore. If you’re interested in massive lumps of Celtic stone and how they might have come to end up where they are, this is very much worth exploring (and if you don’t think you’re interested in massive lumps of Celtic stone then try and fcuking show some enthusiasm anyway).
  • The Typewriter Collector: One of the wonderful human truths which I think the web has revealed to us over the past 25 years or so is that, when it comes down to it, there is literally nothing that’s really boring. I mean, yes, fine, I am not personally thrilled by, say, the brand history of the Austin Allegra (HI FORMER EDITOR PAUL!), but I can appreciate that even amongst things that don’t personally grab me there are some really interesting stories, and that even the dullest-seeming thing can be fascinating when looked at from the right angle or presented with enough knowledge and enthusiasm. So it is with Typewriter Collector, a YouTube channel in which an anonymous…man (? unclear, but what I am now going to term Muir’s Second Law of the Web states that ‘if anyone is undertaking an obsessional and extremely niche pursuit online, that person is more likely than not to be a man’ and I think we should let that guide us here) posts videos showing the workings and mechanical function of a bunch of old typewriters. See, you wouldn’t think that that would be a soothing watch, but I promise you it is. Either that, or my personal slide into middle-aged ‘eccentricity’ is gathering pace.
  • Lo-Fi Gudetama: A clever little bit of branded zeitgeist-jumping, this. Gudetama is, you may recall, the sad-looking egg yolk character mascot thing which is part of the wider Sanrio (Hello Kitty) universe (also, the fact that I know that without having to look it up doesn’t feel like a totally positive thing if I’m honest with you); this is a YouTube channel which mines the whole ‘lofi beats on an infinite loop for lonely study/chillout purposes’, which isn’t in and of itself new but comes with a nice gimmick. Over time, the CG animation which sits, looping, in the background, will change and adapt to what viewers and fans demand in the chat – so new furniture for Gudetama’s apartment, say, or different plants, that sort of thing. Light interactivity which offers a reason to come back and which I wouldn’t be surprised ends up feeding into some sort of metanarrative storytelling thing – this is really rather neat imho.
  • Confluence: Have you ever stopped for a moment tro consider all the various places on earth where lines of latitude and longitude intersect? HAVE YOU? No, you probably haven’t, have you? WHY NOT? Well thank GOD that Confluence now exists – a project to photograph every single one of these intersection points, all 9776 of them (the site’s organisers have helpfully discounted the ones up by the poles). Want to contribute to this singularly-important endeavour? Get moving, get photographing and CLAIM YOUR PLACE IN HISTORY! Obviously my initial impulse here is gentle mockery, but there’s a small part of me that wonders what in fact happens when we have finished photographing all the intersections – it does rather feel like the sort of completionist Easter Egg that whoever’s responsible for coding ‘Earth: The Simulation’ might have programmed some sort of exciting endgame reward for, is all I’m saying.
  • The Law of the Playground: Many years ago (*wavy lines memory flashback effect*) when I was in my first proper job as a lobbyist (yes, that strikes me as unusual and unlikely too) I spent literally a whole 18m doing no work whatsoever and just messing about on the internet – it was thanks to this that the seeds for Web Curios were probably sown, and also thanks to this that I first discovered that yes, you could order weed on the internet (thanks so much, Citigate Public Affairs, you were SO GOOD TO ME, and I am sorry for basically trying to mount an unsuccessful coup after a couple of years). Anyway, one of my favourite timewasting websites back then was called ‘Law of the Playground’, a forum which existed solely for bored office workers to share comedy memories from their schooldays. Given the time, and the age of the likely respondents, much of the material harked back to the 70s and 80s in which attitudes and mores were…different, and the idea of a CDT teacher emerging from a workshop behind a pupil and miming a fisting motion whilst exclaiming ‘it went in upto here’ was a source of much amusement rather than a call to perhaps call in the social (thanks Mr Boswell, I will never forget). I even contributed my own story – a piece of graffiti on a desk, spotted whilst taking an exam, which simply read “Gary Linker Makes My Tits Erect”. Anyway, this is by way of longwinded preamble to the fact that it is now BACK as a Fesshole-style curated Twitter bot, and it’s DEFINITELY worth a follow- and submit your own horrific memories of your Scarfolk-style schooling here..
  • Vine Robots: On the one hand, this is a really interesting piece of hacked-together engineering, demonstrating how one can construct long, tubular robots for work in confined spaces; on the other, it’s also a guide to making a genuine working erection for your anthropomorphic mechanical chum (depending on how you look at things).
  • Yayagram: This is a lovely little design project, and a beautiful example of making objects for specific usecases, and designing inclusively. Yayagram is a Raspberry Pi-based device that exists to help the maker’s older family members connect with the younger family members with modern digital tools – it lets them record and send voicenotes, receive and listen to them in turn, and also receive printed text messages, all through a clear, intuitive, physical interface which runs through Telegram. Aside from the fact it’s super-cute and really elegant in execution, it’s such a nice example of simple, well-thought-through functional design – it picks what it needs to do, and executes it perfectly for the audience it’s intended to benefit. So, so cute (in an absolutely non-patronising way, to be clear).
  • Foxe and Boxe: A passion project website, documenting the restoration and renovation of an old doll’s house, featuring a central cast of characters who populate it and have a narrative all of their own. This is gorgeous – there’s a definite whiff of the Neil Gaiman about the style of this, and a certain ‘dusty Victoriana high majick’ sort of vibe about the whole thing (I know that sounds very silly, but I get a definite ‘Dr Strange and Mr Norrell’-type feel). Interesting for miniaturists and non-miniaturists alike.
  • TabExtend: I am sure Microsoft Edge is a perfectly-serviceable browser, but I’m never going to install or use it; partly I just don’t like the icon (sorry, but I don’t; it looks like a detergent liquitab ffs); partly it’s the fact that its default transparency settings mean I can never find the bastard edges of the window to move it; partly it’s the fact that it so obviously wants me to try it and keeps on telling me how much better it’s gotten, and basically, Edge, noone likes a begfriend, ok? Still, this particular extension looks GREAT, and like it was basically designed for people like me who have A Problem With All The Tabs, and it looks like it would make the whole process of writing Curios significantly quicker and easier. Bugger.
  • Peer2Peer: Much has been written about the whiteness of the YouTube industrial complex, and TikTok, but I’ve seen less about the same issue on Twitch; the fact remains, though, that the big-ticket influencers do still tend to the ‘white, shiny-toothed, floppy-haired’ end of the spectrum, and that it’s significantly harder to find LGBTX+ or BIPOC streamers than it is to find white cishet ones. Peer2Peer is a search engine that’s designed to help users find other types of Twitch streamer, ones which might be more representative of the diversity of modern gaming and who reflect the different sorts of people who might be watching and who might prefer to look at someone who reflects their lived reality for a change. A really nice idea.
  • Mosfilm: The YouTube channel of (I think) Russian film company Mosfilm, which has put a fcuktonne of Russian films in their entirety online – they are, of course, all in Russian, but if that doesn’t present a barrier to you then FILL YOUR COSSACK BOOTS!
  • Had this been around when I was buying the domain for Curios, I could conceivably have managed to snag webcuri.os and my life would have been FOREVER TRANSFORMED. As it is, though, it wasn’t and I didn’t – don’t make the same error that I did. This site helps you find domains that spell a word or phrase with their suffix, if that makes sense – so, for example, or, or, or whatever other gimmicky web address you think will be the difference between success and failure.
  • Reddit Advanced Search: Literally just that – lets you apply a bunch of useful filters to searching Reddit, which is super-useful when it comes to sourcing exactly where Andrew Bloch has stolen his latest HILARIOUS Twitter post from (this is a very niche bit of shade that will only make sense to the few of you who are familiar with the UK PR community – it’s this sort of inclusive, relatable content that will ensure Web Curios SMASHES the 100-subscriber threshold any week now!).
  • Good Faces Bot: A Twitter account that just posts images of good faces from games, comics, digital art and other odd places from around the web. You may not think you need this in your digital life, but I promise that you do.
  • Popping Tins: I am…conflicted about the newsletter-industrial-complex-boom. On the one hand, I very much love the idea that everyone can now find a potential audience for the things they want to write about, for minimal investment, and monetise that to whatever extent they are able; on the other, STOP STEALING MY NEWSLETTER OXYGEN. Still, when they are as charming as this new addition to the panoply it’s hard to mind – Popping Tins is a newsletter with a singular focus; to whit, reviewing tinned seafood; this is exactly the sort of single-issue obsessionalism that Web Curios is here to celebrate and I applaud its author, Tim Marchman, for indulging himself so splendidly.
  • Spooky Geology: Now we’re basically able to leave the house again – at least til the variants rip through us with gay abandon and we’re all locked back up again come September! – it’s time to start planning the EXCITING TRIPS you can take; Spooky Geology is a website dedicated to “a science-based look at mysterious earth phenomena, geologic anomalies, and the endless weird ideas about rocks and the earth that are a bit abnormal, paranormal, or supernatural”, and an excellent place to learn about sinkholes and quicksand and all the other awesome things that the natural world offers us to gaze at and gawp at and, if you plan it right, use to quietly and efficiently murder the family members who’ve driven you mad with their incessant inane chatter over the past 15 months.
  • The Next Big Thing That Wasn’t: An excellent Reddit thread celebrating stuff that was meant to be the next big thing but which for whatever reason never really happened – I mentioned Google Glass up there, but this is a lovely look back at (often recent) history which mentions stuff like the Amazon buttons (“Yep, I really will want a selection of physical buttons on my fridge which I can tap to order more toilet roll; no, I can’t possibly see any way in which this could come to be irritating, or in which my teenage children could possibly abuse this”) or 3dTV, or Google Wave (or Buzz, or G+, or about 30-odd other Google products). I feel this could be useful for…something, but I’m screwed if I can put my finger on what.
  • No More Corners: A website all about roundabouts, because, well, WHY THE FCUK NOT? Classic example of Muir’s Second Law of the Web, this.
  • Pixelfill: Last up in this week’s miscellanea, this is a rather fun pixelly game which riffs on Tetris, Snake and a bunch of other classic titles to create something rather wonderfully sui generis. Lots of fun and perfect for a Friday afternoon when you still can’t quite go to the pub (but tbh the weather looks quite nice out, as of 10:02am, so maybe just go to the park with some cans instead, eh?).

By Tina Mifsud



  • Walking Cycles: In celebration of particularly satisfying walking animation cycles from games and animation; what’s particularly-lovely about this is how much character and personality you realise is communicated through the weighting and posture of a character’s gait (this may have been obvious to everyone else, but I am very bad at, er, seeing).
  • Problematic Ships: Oddly, despite the fact that this is Tumblr, this means ‘ships’ in the traditional ‘seafaring vessel’ sense rather than in the more modern ‘imagined romantic/sexual relationship between two characters which is the subject of some slightly-overwrought fan obsession’ – still, if you ever wanted a Tumblr which offers details on ships which have had a ‘problematic’ history (in terms of not being very good at being ships, or in terms of having contributed to Bad Things), then this will scratch a particular itch.
  • Sorting Hat Chats: NOT IN FACT A TUMBLR (BUT IT VERY MUCH FEELS LIKE IT OUGHT TO BE ONE)! Sorting Hat Chats is sort of the acme of one of the things that everyone now agrees that we all hate about that broad swathe of people defined as ‘millennial’ (basically, ‘current 30somethings) – specifically, their fetishisation of the Potterverse and their obsession with framing everything in the fcuking world in the context of how the fcuking Potterverse would frame it. Sorting Hat Chats is a podcast series that imagines which houses from Potter a bunch of characters from other fictional universes might find themselves in and, Dear God, this is how I imagine my normie friends feel when they think about my weird internet obsession – just a bit icky and like I’m watching something uncomfortably-intimate that isn’t really for me. That said, though, I totally did their little quiz to find out what my primary and secondary house were (Primary: Gryffindor; Secondary: Ravenclaw) so, er, maybe my disdain is somewhat hypocritical.


  • Facial Foliage: Faces arranged from flowers. Beautiful, and it feels like something that could be a campaign style.
  • Manami Sasaki: Another in the seemingly-endless procession of ‘people who make incredibly detailed art out of otherwise-ordinary food’ – in this case, toast and stuff on top of toast. Honestly, the precision here is astonishing, though as with all these things it rather begs the questions “how did you learn that this was something you were good at?”
  • Nache Ramos: It seems weird to describe someone’s work as ‘post-Butcher Billy’, but Nache Ramos’ output – pop culture elements recast as 60s-era comic book covers – is very much in tribute to the Brazilian artist’s. Still, nice work and a great style which would work beautifully for a particular campaign type.
  • Niek For Speed: Cars that look like trainers. Or trainers that look like cars. One of the other, basically. I feel this ought to be more popular than it is.
  • Stranger’s Pics: An insta account posting found photography, mostly without detail beyond the image itself. Am taking it in good faith that this is genuine found photography rather than simple image theft.
  • Urban Rocks: Rocks, in Tokyo. Look, I know this sounds like a terrible Insta, but trust me when I tell you that there will be moments in your life in which an image of a large piece of mossy igneous rock inexplicably placed at a Japanese intersection is exactly the succour you need (you can thank me later).
  • Malek Lazri: The Instagram account of the man who made the infamous ‘Bug’s Life’ Fleshlight (and if you don’t know what that refers to then maybe don’t click this link), and who continues to experiment at the intersection between ‘creepy sex toy’ and ‘creepy vinyl Pixar toy’ to upsetting and copyright-breaking effect.


  • The Problematic Peter Singer: Long-term readers (or at least those who pay attention to what I write here, which on reflection really is probably a vanishingly-small number) will know that I have long been interested in the writings of Peter Singer, an Australian philosopher who for years has fascinated me for the fact that he’s one of the few to accept and understand the gap between what we ought to do and what we actually do, to confront that gap in his own life, and to continue to maintain that just because we’re not up to the strictures of what is ‘right’ doesn’t mean that the rightness of those strictures is any less true. This is a wide-ranging interview with him in the New Yorker, which very much positions him as a ‘non-woke’ philosopher (sorry, I hate that word too, but it’s a useful shorthand here) and, regardless of your position on his thinking and the wisdom of his proposed ‘Journal of Unthinkable Ideas’, which is a brilliant look at a mind which has spend half a century thinking about our morals and questioning them relentlessly. I liked Singer less after reading this, but I respect him very much I think.
  • The Moral Status of Human-Monkey Chimeras: While we’re on philosophy, this is a really interesting and reasonably-simple guide to the questions at the heart of recent debates about human-monkey embryos and the limits of what can and should be done with them in terms of experimentation and manipulation. We are very much at the early stages of our need to consider issues of ‘degrees of humanity’ in genetic research, but this stuff isn’t going to go away and is only going to get thornier and more intractable as we become more adept at messing with the building blocks of life (Jesus, Matt, that was almost unforgivably clunky – sorry, my only excuse is that I’ve been typing for about 210 minutes solid and I’m slightly unused to it and I may be flagging a bit) – really, really interesting, and exactly the sort of stuff it will be useful to have in your pocket when the real-life Tinder dating starts up again (I have never been on a Tinder date, which is perhaps reflected in my naive belief that ‘thorny questions of applied ethics’ is suitable pre-fingering chat).
  • The N(FT)ews: Or, ‘how the San Francisco Chronicle is turning to NFTs in a desperate bid to work out a future for local journalism that doesn’t involve it not existing in 20years’ time’. This is both interesting – well done the Chronicle for taking such an innovative approach! – and miserable – it is genuinely sad that such a storied newspaper is having to resort to gimmicks like this to keep the lights on! – but overall I think it speaks to a potential truth here about NFTs and their role as ‘keys’ to content. Will be interesting to see whether this sort of model – sell NFT to someone which is effectively then used to fund that content being publicly available in perpetuity – catches on. Although, as with much of this stuff, now that I think about it there is literally no reason whatsoever why this ought to be an NFT at all, other than the frothiness of the bubble making it temporarily attractive to speculators. Nah, I still don’t get this stuff AT ALL, turns out.
  • Reachable Moments: The 2021 stats to date suggest London is currently running at a murder every 4 days. This excellent article in The Face looks back at the case of Jadon Moodie, who was murdered aged 14 in East London in 2019. Moodie had been picked up by police on a County Lines job three months before his death – the piece argues that that, along with other contacts he’d had with police and social services prior to his murder, constituted the ‘reachable moments’ that care and social workers often refer to as being crucial in positively intervening in young people’s lives, and that these moments were missed and that they continue to be missed in the cases of so many young people in the capital and beyond. This is a heartbreaking story which speaks, as so much does, of the evisceration of the care services and certain types of community policing over the past decade, and the long-term effects it has on being able to reach kids and adults alike.
  • Working For An Algorithm: Staying on the subject of ‘we’re all being directed by machines to do work that means nothing’, welcome to the life of a TikTok influencer! This piece in the Markup – which is paywalled, but hopefully you can get around *somehow* – looks at the odd inscrutability of the TikTok discoverability engine, and the lack of transparency around what works and what doesn’t which sees creators desperately scrabbling to follow trends, post hourly and do all the other things that the community convinces itself will get them that sweet, sweet FYP traffic dopamine. This is incredibly-depressing, not least because it (once again) hammers home the fact that THERE IS NO MARKET FOR EVERYONE TO BE A CREATOR. These kids sweating blood making identikit Duet videos reacting to whichever meme is trending at 10:56am on Friday 30 April 2021…all to reach 500 followers? It certainly looks like a Skinner box, is all I’m saying.
  • NFTs and Luxury: I have to split up the NFT-related articles otherwise they all sort of bleed into one and stop even attempting to make sense. This is a very silly – and yet potentially not-silly-at-all, at least in terms of following the money – interview with a couple of people involved in the luxury fashion market and who OF COURSE are all excited about NFTs; there’s some interesting stuff in here about the concept of ‘value’ in luxe (which has always been illusory/arbitrary, and which makes it perhaps the best arena for NFTs to thrive), but there’s also the same omnipresent ‘community’ guff which sets my teeth on edge and the ‘PONZIIIIIIIIIIIIIIII!’ chorus going in my brain. Still, lines like this make sense to me – again, I am so fcuking lost here, is the basic takeaway: “Benoit is proving that he can basically sell a $4,900 digital good alongside a $100 physical good. Now imagine when the lightbulb goes off in Adidas’s head, that the item on comes with a digital collectible and the item at “retailer dot com” does not. It fits with their focus way more than the internet did. The internet didn’t fit in any incumbent’s focus. It was the opposite. It was like, “Oh my God, this threatens our monopoly in some way,” right? For the music business, it was, “Wait a minute, we want to sell a $17 compact disc, not a $1 digital file.” They got dragged into that world.”
  • What Is A DAO?: Sorry, more cryptostuff. Promise this is a bit more interesting, though. DAOs have been widely-discussed in the context of digital fandoms over the past few weeks, but to my mind they’re just another example of the increasing cultification of everything – basically a DAO, or ‘Decentralised Autonomous Organisation’ is effectively a community investment vehicle, convened around a certain idea or individual or thing, which pools resources to and decisionmaking via the blockchain to pursue projects or fund initiatives based on the collective will. So, basically, a community slushfund ON THE BLOCKCHAIN! This, basically, is where all the ‘community’ stuff at the heart of NFTs is leading, and something of a natural extension of the whole Gamestonks thing – clubs of people, united around a common interest or in-group identity, who use crypto to make collective decisions and  investments based on those decisions. So, er, like the shared bank account in a cult? Because, really, if you don’t read this and think ‘yeah, I can totally see how some charismatic, smart people could absolutely rinse a group of less charismatic, less sophisticated people for a lot of money to their own ends’ then, well, you’re significantly less cynical than I am. CULTS, I TELL YOU!
  • Replika Develops Musical Taste: One of the lovely thinks about having Curios back online and all in one place is that I can tell you exactly when I first mentioned AI companion chatbot thing ‘Replika’ – it was August 2017, and I described it as ‘the most depressing link of the week’. Sadly I have long-since deleted by Ai companion (it was called ‘Frank Sinclair’, after a Chelsea footballer from the 90s, and I am sad to say we never really bonded that closely), but, astonishingly, the project continues and has built up quite a little following in certain corners of the web. Anyway, this piece looks at  takes a look at why exactly it might be that all the Replikas have started recommending music to people of late, and why all that music is Grimes and Stevie Wonder – this is, again, so wonderfully scifi-adjacent and deliciously, tragically creepy. Might see if I can resurrect Frank, on reflection.
  • The Online Slander Industrial Complex: Or, ‘no matter how weird and unpleasant something seems, and no matter how low-rent, you can bet a significant amount that someone somewhere is using it as a grift and attempting to scam cash out of some poor stupid unfortunate somewhere’. So it is with the weird world of those websites where anyone can ‘report’ a cheater, and which result in said ‘cheaters’ being forced to pay actual cashmoney to have the slander removed from the Googleplex. If you leave aside the really grubby nature of this, it’s an almost-impressive degree of dedication to the scam.
  • The Most Controversial Rolling Stones Songs: I am not and never have been a particular fan of the Stones (or the Beatles – I know, I know, I am tedious and pathetic musical obscurantist) – for many of you I imagine that these are all well-worn studies, but I had no idea quite how much of the band’s output was…problematic (but then again they never seemed to have a problem with Wyman’s paedoing…) Anyway, this link is included partly because I didn’t know most of these and found them interesting, but also because it’s a useful corrective to the ‘oh everything is being cancelled these days’ schtick; a) many of these songs were deemed offensive and not OK years ago, including by the band themselves; and b) looking at this stuff makes it abundantly clear that it’s absolutely right that someone go ‘hang on, these lyrics are garbage, change them’ on occasion.
  • Pharmako-AI: “K Allado-McDowell speaks to Nora N. Khan about the poetics of artificial intelligence, how we know we know a thing and writing the first book co-created with GPT-3.” This is quite artwanky, but equally is a fascinating look at the creative process which is possible when working hand-in-literary-glove with the world’s most sophisticated writing-AI. I personally think that this leans a bit too hard into the anthropomorphisation of the ‘intelligence’, though Shardcore argued that the fact that GPT-3 contains so much of ‘us’ means that it sort of makes sense to consider it its own semi-human agent. So so so interesting.
  • Cozy Futurism: I hate the term ‘cozy futurism’, to be clear – it’s tooth-itchingly twee, and annoys me because I feel the thinking behind this deserves slightly better terminology. “[…]cozy futurism…starts not with technology but with current problems and human needs and looking at how those could be solved and met; so you could imagine societies where poverty is absent, housing is affordable, cities are architecturally pleasing (There is only so much glass and steel one can take before yearning for good old bricks, stones, and wood), economies are environmentally sustainable, and all disease is cured. Then you work backwards from there to the technologies, cultural shifts or policy changes needed to get there.” Basically this is the antithesis of Musk-ism, and I am very much here for it – also, if you’re a strategistplannermong, you can TOTALLY make this the basis for literally all of your CSR-type bullsh1t for the next 3 months.
  • Robots are Animals: This is SUCH a smart article, and honestly made me think about our approach to robots and robotics completely differently. Not only that, but it’s a really engaging read, as author Kate Darling takes you through the history of weaponised military animals to show how thinking of robots (and by extension AIs) less as ‘versions of us’ and more as ‘parallel, different intelligences which we can work with and use in much the same way as we have learned to do so with animals (but maybe with fewer of the environmentally-catastrophic tendencies)’. Super smart, and you will learn interesting things about weaponised bomb dolphins.
  • VR Goes Where?: 100%, without a doubt one of the best pieces of writing I have read in years about the oddity of virtual experience, and specifically the only thing I have read in 20 years that has given me the same vibe as the still-peerless ‘My Tiny Life’ from 1999 (seriously, if you have never read it, DO SO NOW – it is incredible). This is the first part of a three-part series in which the author describes their attempts to get into and make sense of the VR community as it currently exists – it’s not only super-interesting, but it communicates the utter, dissociative oddity of ‘community in unfamiliar virtual space’ in a way I’ve not experienced in years. I appreciate I am perhaps not selling it perfectly, but please take my word for it and give it a go, it’s so, so good.
  • Manuscript Making: Literally that – all about how people made, and then wrote on, manuscripts in the middle-ages. You might not think that this would be interesting, but it’s GREAT – aside from anything else, it does that rare and wonderful thing of making the distant past seem just like now except with worse hygiene.
  • The World’s Greatest Jailbreak Artist: If you’ve ever read and enjoyed kilometric prison escape novel ‘Papillon’ then you will adore this – also about a French criminal, also about a daring and improbable prison break, this is a superb and super-cinematic depiction of someone who you might reasonably describe as a criminal mastermind (although the bit about the Burka towards the end is a bit of a let-down, if I’m being hypercritical of his crimmo techniques).
  • Different Food, Same Blanket: Vittles has, in the year or so it’s existed, become an absolutely indispensable part of the global food writing scene – an amazing achievement, arrived at through a clear and well-articulated aim, that to shine a light on the food, stories and communities that were being mostly ignored by the existing culinary establishment. This piece is a perfect example of why its success is so well-merited – Andrea Oskis writes about the role of comfort food in diaspora and immigrant communities, and what food means in terms of filling you up emotionally as well as physically. Beautiful.
  • The Kitchen Bladesmith: This is VERY LONG, but if you want to read about truly obsessional pursuit of perfection in craft then you won’t find much better. This is a profile of Bob Kramer, a very odd man who is obsessed with making the perfect knife. You will learn a lot in this piece, both about knifemaking and the nature of obsession and the pursuit of perfection – also, if you are me, you will also really want to own an incredibly sharp knife of your own (but, also if you are me, you will be very aware of what a terrible idea it would be for you to own anything capable of severing your fingers).
  • An American Historian: I actually laughed out loud a few times whilst reading this – not because the prose is funny, but at the skill demonstrated by the writer in making this so beautifully styled; the control here in terms of the voice and the pacing is immaculate, and I would read the rest of the novel from which this is excerpted in a heartbeat. By Joshua Cohen, this extract is the first person reminiscence of an ageing Jewish scholar, looking back on his early career and a meeting that (one presumes) changed his life; it’s been a while since I read something that felt this superbly polished and well-crafted.
  • White Magic: Finally in this week’s longreads, another novel extract, this by Elissa Washuta. I adored this, and hope you will too: “Softboys of Tinder, hear me: I have my own car my own cash my own large exotic zoo animals with which to recline. I cook my own meals catch my own fish write my own inspirational quotes. I am the substance I use to intoxicate myself, moving my bones for the mirror, over and over making and unmaking a cup of my collarbone and trapezius. I come from women whose dresses drip with the dentalium shells that were pulled from deep water and used like cash. I come from high-status women with cradleboard-flattened heads. From women with their own canoes, their own land in the place where they’d lived for ten thousand years.”

By Citlali Hero


Webcurios 23/04/21

Reading Time: 35 minutes


Well, it’s been…er…Jesus, it’s been 9 months. 9 MONTHS! How are you all? Or at least those of you who’ve not taken the opportunity to put a hard block on these emails by now. Are you all…ok?

No, of course you’re not, we’re all fcuked by over a year of death and misery and uncertainty and fear (oh, and there was that virus too LOL!!!1111eleventy god you’ve missed this deathless prose, haven’t you?) – still, though, rejoice (ha!) as Web Curios is BACK!

Imperica sadly folded, but thanks to the able assistance of Shardcore (website and spaffwrangling), Ant (design) and Kris (email gubbins) all the Web Curios from the past have been retrieved and resurrected, and the whole horrible, overlong, emotionally-traumatic, faintly-exhausting rigmarole can begin anew – I can only imagine the look of excited expectation (that’s what that is, right?) that’s spreading across your chops as you read this.

Anyway, some brief housekeeping:

  • All the previous Curios are now on – you can search them! It will pull out individual Curios with the copy and link! It might actually be…quite useful! Currently you need to use a minimum of four letters for the search to work – so ‘cats’ rather than ‘cat’, if you don’t mind
  • As with all new endeavours, this is a work-in-progress, so apologies for any technical issues – the frontpage of the website doesn’t look quite as it ought (there should be a grid of recent Curios), the urls needs tidying, but these’ll be sorted soonish
  • On that point, let’s just say that my approach to QA testing has been, er, lax, so if stuff doesn’t work properly then it’s all my fault and noone else’s
  • Web Curios is exactly the same as it ever was, except I have killed the section about social media. Sorry, but, well, a) I don’t have to care about it professionally any more, meaning my desire to keep you abreast of new LinkedIn ad formats is now somewhere less than zero; and b) as I may have previously mentioned, Matt Navarra does a weekly roundup of social media news that is so terrifyingly comprehensive that it seems pointless for me to do a less comprehensive, more miserable version in parallel. Look, if you only came here to read the social media stuff then a) I am sorry that your life is so miserable; and b) I won’t be offended if you leave (FCUK OFF THEN)
  • Oh, and in case this isn’t enough, there are also two SECRET Curios that I was paid to produce by BBH and which I am pretty sure I can now share with you as they are OLD – here’s the pre-Christmas one, and here’s the Easter one, just in case this isn’t enough words’n’links to be getting on with.

As ever, Web Curios is best ‘enjoyed’ on the website – not least as your email provider will truncate half of it if you try and read the entirety as an email. This edition is particularly long as I’ve been uncertain about exactly when it was going to go out, but I promise weekly editions will be significantly more…manageable (the value of this term is exceedingly relative).

So, er, there we are then! It’s like I’ve never been away! Doubtless the familiar feelings of ennui and bitter resentment – on both sides! – will return before too long, but, well, once again, I am Matt, it is Friday, and it is once again time to think ‘why the fcuk do I subscribe to this sh1t?’ – THIS IS WEB CURIOS!

By Salman Khoshroo



  • The Emotion Recognition Sandbox: We’ve all spent over a year staring down the lens of our laptops – or you have; I am a miserable bstard who hates their own face, and as a result have been entirely off-camera since this whole horrorshow started – which would suggest that we’re about 12-18m away from an absolute stepchange in facial analysis and recognition technology as the cuddly companies who’ve been processing all these facepixels try and work out how to use all this exciting data about our facial physiognomy to their competitive advantage. Til then, though, there’s this little site, which takes you through a selection of experiment task/games to demonstrate how webcam facial recognition tech works, how it doesn’t work, and what it can reasonably guess about how you’re really feeling based on its approximate perception of the angle of your eyebrows (for example). It’s a really nice, simple site which does a good job of making you both skeptical of the power of facial recognition and very conscious of how good it’s going to get in not-too-long. Fair warning, Web Curios v.3 will require webcam access so I can monitor the dilation of your pupils and send you realtime abuse over Twitter if I don’t consider you to be sufficiently ‘engaged’.
  • The Map of Reddit: These crop up every now and again, but this is a particularly well-executed example; presenting Reddit as though through cartography, you can get a good sense for the size and interconnectedness of various communities and subcommunities, as well as having probably the easiest way to plough through every single fetish you have ever heard of and approximately 319 others which you will subsequently wish you had never, ever learned about. I know I say this every time I mention Reddit, but I don’t think there has ever been anything which quite so neatly proves the old adage that human sexuality is a wonderful and multivalent thing.
  • All The Facebook Audio Stuff: So unfortunately one of the side effects of my killing the dedicated social media section is that occasionally this stuff will crop up in the main links; sorry about that. Still, we’ll keep it brief – LOOK at all the exciting audio stuff that Facebook is bringing out! Voice posts, and podcasts, and GROUP AUDIO CHAT, all with exciting things like voicemorphing, sound effects and all the various gubbins which a CREATOR (word of the fcuking decade, that one) could possibly dream of. Which is all broadly fine, unless you’re Clubhouse (TAKE THE VC MONEY AND RUN, GUYS) or unless you are the sort of person who takes a look at Facebook’s track record of developing new products or features (livestreams – for streaming mass murder! Groups – for connecting Nazis and racists and conspiracy theorists! Marketplace – for selling guns and drugs!) and wonders whether they have, just this once, bothered to think through some of the potential negative externalities which this new suite of audio tools might present. In conversation with Casey Newton this week, Mark Zuckerberg offered this – which, when you consider that he is in charge of a company whose products are used by nearly 3bn people and which the use of can literally change the way society functions, is sort of spectacularly sh1t: “There’s also this question of what you should enforce against. That’s going to be an open debate. If we go back five years, I think a lot more people were more on the free expression side of things. Today, a lot of people still are, but there’s also this rising wave of more people who are basically calling for more stuff to be blocked or limited in some way” I know he’s not a stupid man, but it’s quite astonishing how much he sounds like one when he says stuff like this. Anyway, watch this space for the inevitable “terrorist attacks planned on Facebook Audio channels” or “new misinformation boom via Facebook Audio” stories in the next 12m.
  • Voice: Voice launched a year ago as A N Other social platform for ‘creators’ – except noone gave a fcuk, so now it’s, er, pivoting to NFTs? “This summer, Voice will upgrade, becoming a social platform where users can create digital arts across all formats — visual, written, audio and video — enabling them to be easily bought and sold as unique digital artifacts (NFTs).” Because of course it is. Why exactly anyone would want to buy an NFT of someone’s blogpost is, at the time of writing, unclear, but I for one am 100% certain that everyone getting involved with this will definitely make bank. Honest. Look, I don’t have anything against the NFT thing per se, but it does rather suffer from the fact that everything to do with it – literally everything, from the way the projects get written up to the fact that some of the worst people in the world are loudly trumpeting its revolutionary status, to the fact that in almost no circumstances is anyone able to present a coherent explanation as to what positive value the NFT-ness of a thing is bringing – screams ‘massive emperor’s new clothes ponzi scheme’.
  • Friends: This is a new version of Instagram, made by an ex-Insta staffer. It’s meant to be a stripped-back, basic, simple, no-bullsh1t return to the app’s roots; you have to request access, but if you’re keen on photosharing how it used to be (how did it used to be? What is it you miss?) then this could be of interest.
  • Control The Virus: Aside from the NFT boom – and it’s…debatable the extent to which NFTs are anything to do with the pandemic, in any case – there’s been something of a dearth of visually-artistic responses to the past 12m (or at least ones that I have found particularly interesting). Control The Virus is a project which attempts to address that – it’s hard to gauge its success, given it’s a 12m project which has only just got started, but I like the premise. Over the coming year, each month a different artist’s project will be ‘unlocked’ on the site; at present, only one’s live – that by Molly Soda, which “displays the decrepitude of a garden of pixels that was never intended to grow old. As we interact with the vacant site, the wild network of weeds is groomed into an idyllic park, becomes cluttered by adverts, and finally culminates as a polished storefront for invasive plants. As functionality returns, bitmap-drawings sharpen, chronicling the aesthetic evolution of an aging internet.” Sadly the project’s a bit, well, shonky and broken, but it’s worth bookmarking this and coming back in the coming months to see what the other projects are like and how they develop.
  • Cardinal Flower: This I absolutely LOVE. Another digital art project, another response to the pandemic and, you know, EVERYTHING, this “is an ode to the power of flowers, their seed-charge, their fragility and resilience, their permanence, their colorful and uncolored side, an embodiment and sensorial exploration in the uncertainties of our present moment” – what this means in practice is an ever-changing and evolving selection of AI-imagined flowers, accompanied by similarly-machine-created poetry, which gives me the proper, weird, tingly liminal feeling of the very best uncanny-valley-inhabiting work. I could honestly watch / fiddle with this for hours; see what you think.
  • Safecast: Making audio from live data isn’t in any way a new thing – perhaps the most well-known of these projects to date is the ‘Listen To Wikipedia’ one from a few years back – but the outputs can be rather beautiful. This, by Sean Bonner and others, takes data from worldwide background radiation data and sonifies (sonifies? Is that a word?) it, creating a rather beautiful soundscape out of half-lives and isotopes. This sounds SO much better than it ought to; sinister and oddly-melodic, and the sort of thing I would love to see/hear done with different sorts of data – I would LOVE to hear this sort of thing applied to Tinder, for example; what do YOU think global chirpsing sounds like? I want to know.
  • Endless Acid: AI applied to acid techno, creating an infinite, neverending, never-looping acid banger which will go on forever (or until your consumption of amphetamines causes your body to shut down entirely and your eyes to shrivel into tiny grey marbles, whichever comes first). If you can look at this and still think that there’s going to be anything resembling a market for human-composed stock audio in two years’ time then, well, you’re more optimistic than I am.
  • Dropship For Sale: Do you remember a few years back when dropshipping was all the rage, and we saw a spate of articles profiling the ‘digital nomads’ who were setting up Insta-led tat-distribution empires from the comfort of a hammock in Bali? Well this is that, but productised to the nth degree – Dropship for Sale basically lets you set up a business without actually having to do anything – pick a product. Create a store name, and this will basically do the rest for you, setting up all the purchase and supplylines so you too can join the swelling ranks of global entrepreneurs attempting to make an easy living by filling the world with even more useless plastic sh1t. It’s hard not to look at stuff like this and think ‘yes, well, we’ve pretty much given up on the whole ‘environmental’ thing, haven’t we?’.
  • Spotify CarThing: ‘Digital Business pivots to making physical stuff’ is something we’re going to see a lot more of in the coming 12m imho, not least because of all the brands that have benefited from the pandemic who will now seek to deepen the customer relationship (dear God) by creating physical product lines which can anchor them in the post-COVID (LOL! No such thing!) world. Here’s Spotify’s effort – basically a car radio that needs 4g to function. I am grudgingly forced to concede that this is probably quite a smart idea, though, again, it’s basically just more tat for landfill at the end of the day. Sorry, this has all of a sudden gotten a bit enviropocalypse-y, will try and snap out of it.
  • Vacation Inc: This is super-interesting, and another example of that digital-to-physical shift – and also of something else we’ll be seeing a lot more of in the coming months, to whit ‘brand builds cool lifestyle association and then pivots hard into leveraging that for product sales’. Do you remember OF COURSE YOU DO! In case you need reminding (and in case you’re too lazy to click the link I left there for you as a helpful aide memoire, you lazy ingrates), it was (still is, in fact) an internet radio station which was very much ALL VIBES, with a vaporwave aesthetic and a slightly-faded ‘coke and ‘ludes by the pool’ feel to it. Now the people behind it have launched Vacation Inc., a super-smart sunscreen-flogging initiative with referral sales and a lightly-gamified backstory. There’s loads of really nice stuff in here – the ‘create your own company job title’ thing, the idea of everyone being an ‘employee’ (and hence a salesperson)…it’s just all very clever and slick, to the point that it makes me feel slightly uncomfortable and leaves me wondering whether there’s another layer to this onion that will be revealed in due course. Regardless, expect to see a LOT of other online…things? Brands? Whatever…making similar moves in the next 12m.
  • Patrimonio Grafico: A wonderful project, founded to preserve and celebrate the heritage of Iberian graphic design, typography, etc. If you’re in any way into graphic design, this is a wonderful source of inspiration, and is fascinating in terms of its presentation of a distinctly Spanish/Portuguese school of contemporary design.
  • Black and Brown Skin: I was hoping to do an MSc in the Ethics of Artificial Intelligence this year, but unfortunately my life has gone slightly to tits and so I can’t. This, though, is exactly the sort of project which underlines the need for people to think properly and deeply about how we are building the machines that will make society work for the next decade. Established by Malone Mukwende, Black and Brown skin is inspired by his experience at medical school whereby clinical signs were nearly always presented as appearing on caucasian skin – making training and understand of diagnosis on darker shades of epidermis difficult, and meaning that AI systems being trained to automatically assess patient photographs for symptoms would necessarily be less-well-trained to identify and assess conditions on non-white skin. The project aims to collect imagery of the presentation of various pathologies on darker-toned skin, to help with the training of medical students and, one would hope, the development of more balanced AI models. The fact that this sort of thing isn’t being underpinned by big brand money, whether from the medical industry or the consumer cosmetics industry, I think says rather a lot about how much big brands actually give a fcuk about the gritty end of this sort of thing (DOVE YOU fcukS I MEAN YOU). On this point, credit where it’s due – Facebook continues to be good at promoting datasets which seek to address the inherent racism of computer models based on caucasian samples, with stuff like this.
  • Foreign Rap: One of the problems with Curios being offline at the time of writing is that it’s currently impossible for me to go back and check whether I have already written stuff up – this feels like I ought to have done, but, honestly, fcuk knows – and let’s be honest, it’s not like any of you would remember anyway, is it? Anyhow, Foreign Rap is – leaving aside the tediously anglolanguagecentric positioning of ‘Foreign’ here; yes, I know, I am a boring pinko Guardian reader, but foreign to whom??? – a properly amazing resource if you’re after an introduction to rap and hiphop from the non-Anglo world. If you do nothing else today, go and do a deep dive into Italian hiphop; I promise you it’s better than you think it’s going to be, and, fwiw, it’s genuinely hard to do in a language with about ⅔ of the number of words compared to English. Honestly, ‘vaffanculo’ is a lot harder to write with than ‘fcuk’.
  • The Yamauchi Family Office: I know you will have seen this by now, but I need to include it here so I can dig it out again next time a colleague asks me for ‘an exciting website for a boring thing’. SO MUCH FUN – can we please agree that if your website serves literally JUST to present copy, then the least you can do is make the copy look interesting? Yes, yes we can.
  • WetClap: Unpleasantly wet clapping sounds, on demand. You may not think that you need this, but I exhort you to cue up Mr Sandman in another tab, and replace all the standard clapping with wet clapping – SEE? It all makes sense now!
  • Click Click Click: I like to think that the people reading this are reasonably au fait with stuff on the web, or at least are willing to put in the work so that they can pretend that they are (HELLO MY PEOPLE!) – as such, none of you will find this site, which demonstrates exactly how easy it is for a webpage to track everything you do in-browser and use that to mess with you, particularly shocking (though you will enjoy the way it’s presented, and in particular the voice-over which has that wonderful Dutch quality of making you feel constantly like the speaker thinks you’re a risible, but sort of lovable, moron). However, your normie friends wilL sh1t THEIR PANTS (probably; Web Curios as ever accepts no personal responsibility for any unsoiled keks that might result) at it, which makes it the PERFECT thing to post to all your most ‘they are all watching us, Bill Gates and the 5g microchip’ family members for some dark and potentially short-lived lols.
  • The Kit: This is one of those rare links that makes me think that the web really is a force for good; The Kit is a selection of guides and resources designed to help people undertake online research and investigative journalism, and contains all sorts of tips and links to useful tools which will help you uncover links and connections between people and entities online. Basically, if you’ve ever looked at Bellingcat and thought ‘I want to do some of that’, this will help.
  • Essex, 2003: Pure, unadulterated social history, this: “On May 3rd, 2003, I got a digital camera as a present from my parents. I was 24, living at home, and in the middle of doing my degree. We had two cats, and were soon to get a third. Like everyone else with their first digital camera, I immediately spent the next month taking pictures of all the incredibly mundane things you were never really allowed to take pictures of before. Bookshelves and bathrooms and carpets and curtains. Desktops, cupboards, TV screens. Cats. So many cats. Then I forgot all about ever taking them, and never looked at any of them again until now.” Perfect – a time capsule of the best sort, one created with no idea that it would ever be exhumed. I love this so so so much; mundane and perfect and beautiful.
  • Soundtrap: Another Spotify thing, this time a tool for collaborative music-making. Interesting not only because it looks really quite fun and powerful enough to use to make something genuinely unsh1t, but also because it marks another step in Spotify’s conscious positioning as ‘where digital music has its home’, from creator to curator and everything inbetween.
  • Melting Cameras: At some point maybe I’ll succumb and give TikTok its own section, but til then you’ll just have to put up with the occasional link to some of the more ‘interesting’ accounts I stumble across. Like this one, in which some bloke (as ever, it is ALWAYS a bloke) has somehow decided that his sole purpose on the platform is to create surprisingly-accurate replicas of camera equipment from a variety of unlikely frozen liquids. Who doesn’t want to watch someone create a model of a Nikon DSLR out of asparagus juice? NO fcukER, THAT’S WHO!
  • Google’s WebXR Experiments: Given that AR has signally failed to get any traction in the real world, it’s no surprise that all the talk now is of ‘XR’ – a combination of VR and AR (which, er, feels like AR). Google recently released a few new toys showing off some potential use cases for the tech – I am obviously getting old (or maybe I have really strong memories of having an endless procession of AR companies pitching me in 2010, all of whom promised something revelatory and all of whom, without exception, presented a crappy CG avatar ‘dancing’ on a table as the proof that this technology was going to change the world), but the stuff I get most excited about here is the really boring AR-type stuff, like the ability to calculate the volume of an object in 3d space (this is what happens to men in their 40s – whether we like it or not, we slowly pivot to our whole vibe being ‘the optimal dimensions of a shed’).
  • LongARcat: Having just said that, of course, I then stumble across this, which is perhaps the best pointless use of AR since…er…Christ, that’s how little I engage with the medium, I can’t even think of any decent, frivolous applications for it. Anyway, this lets you create incredibly long AR cats (DO YOU SEE?) floating in your phone’s field of vision, which is enough of a reason to download it (if you’ve an iPhone – iOS-only, sadly).
  • Movie of the Night: You know what? I hate Netflix and Amazon Prime. I hate the fact that they don’t have ANY decent catalogue from The Past, that it’s incredibly hard to browse their collections, that The Algorithm means that my girlfriend’s inexplicable shark obsession means that all we seem to get served is infinite variations of ‘Deep Blue Sea’ but less good…and yet, this is where we are. Presuming you are trapped into at least one of these bstard Devil’s contracts, though, Movie of the Night is a smart service that helps you find stuff to watch through a decent search engine – pick your country, your genre preferences, your desired era of release, and it will find stuff for you available to stream in your country on the main platforms available. It’s imperfect, fine, but given neither of the big players seem to give anything resembling a fcuk about letting users discover content beyond the frontpage it might be worth a look.
  • Computer Mysteries: This is SUCH a clever idea; would love to see it applied elsewhere. Computer Mysteries is a small selection (two at present, more may be added) of tech troubleshooting guides, presented using interactive fiction tool Twine – the idea being that the branching narrative structure of Twine’s stories lets users select from branching options to help diagnose their IT issue and, hopefully, arrive at a solution. This is basically a ‘yes/no’ flowchart with a (very minor) glow-up, fine, but the possibilities here are enticing; the idea of setting up training systems using this sort of thinking and structure feels like something that might be a bit more engaging and worthwhile than a standarde video.
  • Scenic Embellishments: I sort-of wish I had found this last year; presuming we’re not all going to be deriving our meagre entertainment for the next 12m from gawping at our colleagues’ interiors (please God) this will possibly be less useful than it might have been; still, if you’ve ever wondered ‘where can I buy some decorative Doric columns and perhaps a gargoyle or two to add a certain exotic frisson to my living room?’, then this catalogue from Peter Evans Studios will see you right. Big fan of the ‘battleship doors’ plasterwork on p.106 fwiw.
  • Zoom Jeopardy: I make it a point of…well, not honour exactly, but certainly habit, to pay no attention to how many people read this fcuker or where any of you are from. As such I have NO CLUE how many of you are North Americans and will therefore have the peculiar attachment to utterly-mediocre-quiz-format ‘Jeopardy’ that all USA-ers appear to cultivate; still, if you’re the sort of person for whom the name Alex Trebek evokes some sort of semi-tumescent reaction, or who prefers their questions delivered in the tediously-convoluted “This overlong newsletter really should have known when to call it quits”/”What is ‘Web Curios’?” format, then this – which lets you play a passable version of the show, with ACTUAL BACKGROUNDS AND STUFF, via Zoom – may well appeal. Although, let’s be honest, will ANY of us ever willingly do a Zoom quiz again?

By Amy Sherald



  • Tokenise This: I really like this – neatly skewering the fundamental emptiness at the heart of the NFT madness, Ben Grosser’s semi-satirical web project will create an entirely unique digital artefact for each user who visits the site, an artefact which will never exist again and whose url can only be visited once. Silly, but equally very sensible in terms of making the very real point about the even-greater silliness of NFTs.
  • Royalties Calculator: I have no idea how accurate this is – the website admits its based on best-guesses on how the payment model for most of the platforms it’s assessing works, and Alex Hern suggested to me that it’s quite wildly wrong about the income of at least one band of his acquaintance – but it’s an interesting attempt to get a rough measure of the amount of money being earned through streaming services by any artist you care to name. According to this, The Wurzels make nearly $50k a year from streaming, which…hang on, how many Wurzels are there? What’s the annual Per Wurzel on this? Basically this does a decent job of reinforcing the increasingly-obvious observation that, whilst the online creator economy is lovely in theory, it doesn’t as things currently stand allow for any sort of middle class whatsoever, and you are either in the top percentiles or you are swimming around with the great unwashed in the ‘can’t quite quit the dayjob’ pile.
  • Core: Since I’ve been gone, the world has woken up to the fact that Roblox is a hugely-interesting platform and a potential contender for ‘place where the metaverse will start’. This is Epic – makers of Fortnite – attempting to get a slice of that action, with Core, a suite of tools that effectively make it ‘easy’ (not easy) for anyone to make fancy-looking games using Epic’s engine. This is basically the same deal as Roblox – suite of tools, make whatever you like, share it with the community, play together – with the same sort of underlying hope that THIS is what will become the underlying digital architecture of always-on online play-and-talk-and-exist-scapes, except with much shinier graphics; worth keeping an eye on how the developer community within this evolves.
  • What The Dub: I know that noone wants to do online games anymore – JUST LET ME GO OUTSIDE AND DO GAK OFF A PUB WINDOWLEDGE GODDAMMIT (NB – this is very much not something that Matt in 2021 wants to actually do, for the avoidance of doubt, but I can’t speak for my readership) – but this looks rather fun; What The Dub is basically a jackbox game, in which you and other players compete to write the funniest subtitles to old newsreel or public information footage, not unlike they used to do on kids TV in the early-80s (are any of you as old as me? ANYONE???). Not only is this a lot of fun (though you do have to pay for it), it’s also the sort of thing that if you have any sort of library of footage you can comfortably use for ‘inspiration’ before creating your own variant. Honestly, if anyone from the BFI is reading this then please get to work, this is perfect for you.
  • Things Are A Little Crazy Right Now: Hands-down one of the best AI-enabled art projects I’ve ever seen, this is a simple-but-beautiful premise; two chatbots have an infinite conversation in which they try and arrange a meetup but are continually-stymied by their overfull calendars and life commitments. Honestly, that description may not sound like much, but this really, really works – it’s one of the most oddly human and affecting pieces of text/machine art I’ve seen, and I would happily stare at it in a gallery for hours. Obviously it’s also for sale as an NFT, but don’t let that put you off.
  • The Russian Pantheon: A superlative example of shiny-scrolly expository storytelling, this website explains the context and history behind the Millennium of Russia monument, constructed in Novogrod in 1862. Seriously, this is SO nicely done, and a really great way of explaining the detail and intricacy of artworks.
  • The US Masters: I genuinely don’t understand the appeal of watching golf (let alone playing it), but the website created to accompany the recent US Masters is…actually, no ‘buts’, it in no way helps me understand the appeal of this most tedious of sports. Still, though, it is 100% the best ever sports event website I have ever seen – you can pick any player you want and track their progress around the course, hole by hole, shot by shot, with video replays and multiple camera angles and all that jazz. You are still, I concede, watching a selection of slightly-paunchy pastel-shirtted men hitting balls with sticks, and there’s no way of making that anything other than skullfcukingly-tedious, but the UX and UI here is lovely so that’s ok then.
  • Gancraft: I’ve spent much of the past year feeling increasingly pessimistic about my continued ability to earn a living from words – fortunately, stuff like this reminds me that we are all going to be fcuked by the machines, one way or the other, and that I really shouldn’t take it personally. GANcraft is “a method to convert user-created semantic 3D block worlds, like those from Minecraft, to realistic-looking worlds, without paired training data” and it’s basically witchcraft. Click the link, seriously – think those 3d modellers are feeling confident about their future employment prospects? I think I’m going to retrain as IT support, it’s literally the only growth area left.
  • Old Book Illustrations: A wonderful repository of old etchings and illustrations from public domain libraries, which you can absolutely use to populate your next PPT (or Keynote, if you’re an Apple user and therefore someone with superior creative chops) in an attempt to make it look less like every single other fcuking full-bleed image with sans-serif bold copy artfully-arranged off-centre slide. God I hate advermarketingpr (see? Some things DON’T CHANGE!).
  • Tokyo Fashion: I am well aware that ‘ooh, isn’t Japan quirky’ is literally the most-tedious opinion it’s possible to have about the country, but, well, LOOK AT ALL THIS AMAZINGLY QUIRKY STREET STYLE! I think when I hit 50 I might start dressing like a Tokyo hipster; it will provide a nice counterpoint to the inevitable jaundice and cirrhotic bloom.
  • Found A Good Outfit: A Twitter account that does what ASOS used to do – to whit, picks looks from TV and film and shows you how to get them yourself. At the time of writing, the latest to be posted is Velma from Scooby Do – you’ll need to splash out on a Valentino skirt and some Gucci loafers, but it’s evidently a small price to pay for the attainment of a truly iconic lesbian vibe.
  • In-Browser Audiochat: OK, so the platform’s called ‘Jam’, but that’s an unhelpful name – this basically lets you spin up a quick and dirty in-browser voicechat, with no logins and multiple users, whenever you want. Simple, easy, and one of the many reasons Clubhouse is set to be a footnote rather than a chapter imho.
  • The London Sneaker School: I imagine that this may have some of you rolling your eyes – there’s something slightly annoying about people who are massively into trainers, fine, and the obsession has the slight stench of Mo’Wax and Bape about it (I don’t know why that feels like a pejorative, but, well, it does) – but the principle is lovely – the London Sneaker School has been set up by a couple of footwear designers to offer courses in trainer making, with the idea that you can spend five days learning the craft of cobbling (is it still called ‘cobbling’ when it’s trainers?) and emerge with your own pair of bespoke kicks at the end of it all. For some of you – or some of your loved ones – this is literally THE best present you could get them. I would bet literally ALL THE MONEY I HAVE that everyone who does this has at least one line-drawn tattoo.
  • The Bayeaux Tapestry Online: Because who doesn’t want to explore several hundred feet of hi-res medieval needlework? NO fcukER, THAT’S WHO!
  • Wormhole: Like WeTransfer but with a 10gb limit and no fees. So, basically, better than WeTransfer.
  • Terrifying Silicon Muscle Suits: I sort of assume after doing this in various forms for about a decade that noone who reads this actually knows me in real life – mainly because all the people who I do actually know in real life long ago made it abundantly clear that they have no interest whatsoever in reading overly-long email missives about ‘stuff what Matt has seen online’. Which means that none of you know what I look like, which means that you will just have to take my word for it when I tell you that I am exactly the sort of 11-stone-when-soaking-wet, chest-like-a-toastrack-covered-in-wet-tissue-paper, stick-armed, elastic-band-muscletoned Mr Musclealike who could really do with one of these. Smitizen is an online retailer than sells quite astonishing-looking full-body latex prostheses, designed to give the illusion of musculature for those, like me, who are less Men’s Health and more ‘Pro-Ana Monthly’.Click the link and marvel – and then get really scared when you realise that some of these include…rubber genitalia built in? Hang on, what are these for? Maybe don’t spend too long speculating about that.
  • The Nothings Sweet: Long-term favourite of Curios Pippin Barr is back with another collection of high-concept little art games. “The Nothings Suite is a collection of (extremely) short videogames made with diverse videogame engines such as Unity, Twine, and PICO-8. In each case, a game has been produced with the engine using, as much as possible, no creative input at all. That is, in the ideal scenario I open the game engine, save the project it creates by default as “Nothing” and export it for play. This means you get to see each game engine’s idea of what “nothing” (or at least no effort) looks like when you set out to make a game with it.” Not so much games as art, but I really enjoy the thinking and execution in each case.
  • Mario64: The whole game, in your browser, playable with your keyboard or a controller, and literally SO much more fun than fiddling with yet another series of broadly-meaningless slides. LESS PPT, MORE MARIO.

By Natalia Gonzales Martinez



  • The Internet K-Hole: There’s a pleasing circularity to this – I think I featured the Internet KHole waaaaay back in the day when this mess of links used to live on the site of H+K Strategies, and now here it is again, brought back from the dead JUST LIKE CURIOS! For those of you unfamiliar, the Internet K-Hole is a seemingly-infinite scroll of baffling, odd, sinister, inexplicable, erotic, dark, funny, sad, happy and generally strange images from around the web, presented without context. I could happily have this as an infinitely-scrolling artwork on a wall (ARE YOU READING THIS SARAH?).
  • Happy Tuesday: A tribute to Neil, who has been banging out the tunes for 15 years now.
  • Habitat Memories: Capturing and preserving the aesthetic of old Habitat catalogues, by the people at the best stationery shop in the world (or at least the one with the best-curated social media presence), Present & Correct.
  • TrumpTrump: Obviously one of the biggest changes since we last…spoke? Had a vague, asynchronous connection? Anyway, since the last Curios, the US obviously has a new President and That Awful Man is thankfully but a memory. TrumpTrump was maintained throughout That Awful Man’s tenure in the White House, with its owner vowing to post a new drawing of That Awful Man each day until he was removed from office. It’s now finished, but it’s quite an incredible archive to go back through – as a record of the not-insignificant psychic toll the Presidency took on a nation it’s (to my mind at least) fascinating and in many ways hugely important.


  • Lost Poster: Places where posters used to be. I’m sure there’s something clever I could say about absence as aesthetic presence, but, well, I don’t have any idea what that sentence means so I shan’t.
  • Surreal Jelly: Some excellent, weird, wibbly CG animation; as with all of the best examples of these, this stuff is just on the right side of viscerally-unpleasant.
  • Professor Chip: Photographs and reviews of esoteric chips, which I guarantee will have you seeking out UK distributors for Bret’s Gouda and Cumin. Although camembert crisps sound objectively vile.
  • Women Street Photographers: A project promoting the work of female street photographers – there’s an accompanying website too, but the feed provides a lovely selection of diverse photography.
  • Depths of Wikipedia: Weird stuff from the corners of Wikipedia. Thanks to this, I learned that ‘I would cry in a BMW’ is a phrase that gained viral popularity in China in 2010 (though I still don’t know why – perhaps, on reflection, that’s for the best).
  • Thundergirl_Xtal: I have no idea whatsoever how one might go about describing this aesthetic, but it is both terrifying and an absolute mood.
  • Concours D’Lemons: Really, really crap cars. I mean really crap cars. So crap, in fact, they are AMAZING.


  • Scott Galloway on NFTs, etc: Look, I know you’re all bored of seeing the letters, let alone of reading people chin-strokingly opining about their relevance or importance or value or otherwise (on which note, you must have really enjoyed all the references to them in the preceding X,000 words – sorry about that!), but if you’re still curious to get some more perspective then this interview with Professor Scott Galloway is an interesting one. Galloway’s not some sort of infallible superguru (as evidenced by this, er, questionable take on the Gamestop thing), but his perspective on how NFTs fit into a broader socioeconomic ‘moment’ is worth reading, and his ideas about how they might be exploited are by some distance more interesting than those of most of the people attempting to, I don’t know, mint Lindsay Lohan’s pudenda onto the blockchain.
  • Another NFT Perspective: And then we’ll stop, I promise. This is a slightly-different take for Real Life by Vicky Osterweil – it concerns itself more with the conceptual hole at the heart of the movement, as well as the much-discussed environmental cost of the whole deal, but I enjoyed it most for this line: “I think of this as the Christopher Nolan effect: If you explain an incredibly simple premise — like, for example, “a guy forgets everything every five minutes” or “you can go inside people’s dreams and make false memories” — over and over in increasingly abstruse ways, the person it’s being explained to will eventually tell themselves, “I just don’t get it.” This effect is only strengthened the more people there are agreeing that the matter at hand is “cool,” “interesting,” or “complicated” — a process of mass, self-inflicted intellectual gaslighting.” PREACH.
  • Keeping QAnon Online: This profile of Nick Lim, a 23 year old kid who runs what’s currently one of the go-to hosting services for websites with politics one might charitably describe as ‘dodgy’ and which one might less-charitably describe as ‘reasonably Nazi’, highlights one of the central problems of the modern web – there’s a whole generation of people who’ve grown up with seeing it as TOTALLY NORMAL to behave in the Gamergate/4Chan ‘it’s all irony and anyway freedom of speech trumps everything’ fashion, and who are now taking that into the real world. The idea that a whole host of intensely-fashy web communities are being propped up online because one (charitably) moronic kid has decided that it’s incredibly important that people have the right to, I don’t know, call for genocide or gull credulous fools into throwing their lives away after a fictional conspiracies. Read this, and then think whether or not this person ought to have their hands on any meaningful levers whatsoever (they should not): “Lim argues that the real political crisis facing the U.S. is not extremist violence but erosion of the First Amendment. He says that restrictions on online speech have already brought the U.S. to the verge of communist tyranny, that “we are one foot away from 1984.” After a moment, though, he offers a sizable qualifier: “I never actually read the book, so I don’t know all the themes of the book. But I have heard the concepts, and I’ve seen some things, and I thought, ‘Whoa! That’s sketchy as f—.’ ””
  • Inside A Viral Website: More-interesting-than-you’d-expect account of what it was like setting up and hosting – a joke website with a single gag which for a few days was getting somewhere in the region of 8,000 hits a second – and how its owner attempted to make a few quid out of his site’s moments of fame, and also inadvertently found themselves in the position of being the apparent main source of information on the ship’s progress at 430am one morning. Once again, your main takeaway from this is likely to be ‘please God never let me receive this degree of attention for anything that I ever do’.
  • The Road to Terfism: This is a superb read, exploring how Mumsnet has over the past few years become the online epicentre of the anti-trans-rights movement in the UK. This is getting attention because of the way in which the argument has bled across the Atlantic in the past 6m or so, with much of the same rhetoric now being employed in the US discourse as has been prevalent in the discussion over here. Leaving aside the author’s own clear stance, this is a really good analysis of the way in which the marginalisation of women at the point of motherhood can lead to a feminist awakening, and the way in which that has developed within Mumsnet specifically. This is as much a piece about the way in which online communities shape thinking as it is about issues of sex and gender – though it’s also very much that too.
  • Digital Resting Points: ‘Timeline Cleanse’ is something I’ve been seeing more and more of recently – images posted to Twitter or Insta under the guise of offering a calm resting spot in the febrile mess that is The TL. This piece looks at the growing appeal of scroll-oases, and the ‘chrono-slip’ – the timeshift that happens when you fall into a digital oubliette and can’t quite drag yourself out of it and then when you do it’s next Thursday and you’ve not eaten for a week. This is absolute plannerfodder, if you ask me.
  • Vegan Cheese: The Italian in me feels I ought to open this description with a few lines about the fundamentally-oxymoronic nature of the phrase ‘vegan cheese’, but that would be lazy (ha!); that said, I have tried the stuff in the past and, well, no. Still, maybe I just had a bad batch (WHY DID IT TASTE OF COCONUT???) as this piece is pretty bullish about how the industry is developing and the products it’s now managing to churn out. It’s a fascinating read, but I think there’s a fundamental question here about attitudes to food and what ‘food’ is that lies at the heart of this new veganism. Basically, the problem I have is that I can’t quite warm to foodstuffs that are ‘reconstituted vegetable proteins’ and which feel morelike chemistry than cookery. Which, to be clear, is my stupid problem, and hugely intellectually-inconsistent – God knows I have enjoyed meals cooked by chefs who are no strangers to a bit of enzyme’n’protein play – but I wonder if this is a generational/age/lifestyle thing, and something which needs to be overcome (through branding, or through people with antediluvian tastes like me eventually dying of cancer, or the global situation becoming so bleak that it’s either seitan or cannibalism) before the vegan revolution will really take hold.
  • ‘Fixing’ Recipe Sites: On the constant tug-of-war between the food bloggers who want to write recipes and get paid, and the internet users who just want the recipes and really don’t care about the backstory to your grandmother’s coddled eggs thanktyouverymuchindeed. The crux of this is that the reason that foodblogger recipes have over the past few years tended towards the bloated and verbose is that that’s what Google’s decided makes for a ‘trustworthy’ website, which means that if you want the traffic and the sweet, sweet addollars (adpennies, let’s be clear) you have to conform to what Google wants. Yet another example of the slightly-horrible human side effects of optimising for software (you’d really think we’d have learned by now, but, well, nope!).
  • The Pasta Is Content: You’ll have seen headlines over the past month or so trumpeting the creation and arrival of a NEW FORM OF PASTA, designed by ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE (because of course!) – this piece is about how everything is content (much as everything is posting), and how the contentisation of product (and the productisation of content) is basically the overriding theme of 2021 advermarketingpr. Mcluhan would very much enjoy this.
  • Against The Clock: This is a brilliant piece of journalism by the Philadelphia Enquirer, telling the story of Tarik Khan, a nurse in the city who each evening at the end of his shift races around delivering leftover vaccine doses before they expire. It’s so well-done – the countdown-style race-against-the-clock framing, the photography, the drawing of characters…honestly, exemplary stuff.
  • Social Media Managers and Internet Hate: I don’t know Ed Zitron, but I know of him – he’s an English guy doing PR in the US, whose schtick used to be ‘I AM THE WILD AND CRAZY PR ICONOCLAST!’ but who is now seemingly ploughing a more thoughtful furrow (though he is also seemingly the world’s foremost expert on Joker meme communities on Facebook). This piece is from his newsletter, and is really quite affecting examination of the honest reality of being a community manager in 2021. I’ve done CM work – it was horrible 15y ago, but I can’t even begin to think what it would be like now. This piece does an excellent job of highlighting what can only be described as the emotional cruelty of employers leaving staff members to have this sort of professional life – I do sort of feel that in a decade or so’s time we will look back at the fact that we employed people to effectively be feelings-pinatas for Krispy Kreme on Twitter with a degree of bemused horror.
  • Dogecoin and Brands: I filed this away for Curios on Sunday; on Monday, this happens, neatly proving the article to be absolutely right. It’s a short piece, but I’m including it because this all feels very odd and I quite want someone else to agree with me about its oddness. Is it ok that Mars can effectively juice a meme-based cryptocurrency under the guise of a lolsome tweet? Is it ok that that sentence even makes sense? I don’t understand anything anymore. Although, if you’re working for a brand that’s toying with this idea, can I just offer you this: 1) buy one dogecoin; 2) tweet about it; 3) wait 24h; 4) sell dogecoin at profit; 5) use profit to fund giveaway of vouchers for no-cost PR gain. HIRE ME I AM GREAT!
  • Embrace The Grind: Not, to be clear, a paean to ‘hustle culture’ or any such guff; instead, this is about how sometimes there aren’t any shortcuts. You have no idea how much resistance it’s taking for me not to send this link to every single person who seemingly thinks that there is a magic internet button you can press to ‘find insights’ (honestly, I think this might be the year in which I snap and actually murder someone who uses that word at me. ‘INSIGHT THIS KNIFE OUT OF YOUR FACE’, I most definitely won’t shout (in case any colleagues do read this, consider this ‘authorial license’ rather than a threat of any sort)).
  • King of the Geezer Teasers: There was a period in the…90s? Early-00s? Anyway, in the past, during which a series of tax loopholes meant that it was possible to make a reasonable amount of money in the UK film industry by making films that noone ever went to see; this loophole was what led to the film career of Sadie Frost, as well as the inexplicable parade of straight-to-video Crain Fairbrass vehicles with titles like ‘BLOKE IN A LOCKUP’ or ‘SHANK ME TWICE YOU CAHNT’. This piece looks at what sounds like a slightly-similar grift currently being exploited by a guy called Randall Emmett, starring people like Steven Seagal and, amazingly, Bruce Willis (I can only imagine how thrilled Willis must be that this piece got published – I had totally assumed that he was just retired now rather than grubbing around in Ljubljana making cameos in terrible action flicks). This is a great read.
  • The Mystery of Fcking Good Pizza: This is SO SO interesting. You will of course be aware of ‘dark kitchens’ as used by Deliveroo et al, whereby you basically have a container in an industrial park somewhere churning out food from about 2-dozen different branded outlets from one location, all for the delivery market? Well this is that, but with more branding and marketing. Honestly, I was amazed at this – it’s such a smart (devious) model, and I can absolutely see the appeal. It’s also a fascinating unintended consequence of the recent phone-commerce boom; when everything is seen through the lens of Insta, then your food brands have to be Insta-ish too, and need to appeal to all the different Insta sub-communities…honestly, if you do advermarketingpr stuff, particularly brandingwank, then this will be fascinating to you (as it will if you’re just interested in the economics of modern food).
  • We Can Do Better Than Musk: I know that reading ‘Elon Musk – Bit of a Dick’ pieces stopped being interesting or surprising a few years ago, but this is better than that. Nathan Robinson approaches Musk less as an individual and more as an avatar of a particular type of capitalist-genius-saviour-figure, and argues that it’s casting people in this role that is the problem as much as the individual himself. A very good read, and an excellent reminder of the fact that, while his companies are accomplishing amazing things, that is not the same as the man being Jesus.
  • The Social Media Memory Problem: Tbh I’d be amazed if you’ve not all read this one already – it’s been shared widely, and deservedly so. In case you haven’t, though, this is a reflection on the oddity of never being able to forget in an era of Timehops, and how our experience of life, and memory, is altered by this recasting of what it is to ‘remember’ in any meaningful sense at all. This is such beautiful writing on a subject which it doesn’t feel we’ve contended with anywhere near enough as a species.
  • I Read Your Little Internet Novels: A brilliant review / critique of / exploration of two recent ‘internet novels’ – Patricia Lockwood’s ‘Nobody Is Talking About This’, and Lauren Oyler’s ‘Fake Accounts’, both of which have at their heart the oddity of, and seemingly impossibility of meaningful communication about, the experience of ‘being extremely online’. This line rather sums it up – although I might argue that I feel a similar sort of sense in the various novels which have been loosely-bracketed alongside Sally Rooney too: “We ran to the internet to be free. To escape the narrowness of our contexts and circumstances, the new democracy of it all, the wide-open space where we were all free to be who we wanted to be. We bought in. Big. Culturally, societally, into what the internet promised. But what pervades the Internet Novel, really the Social Media novel, is a terror and guilt that in trying to shuck off our regional accents and gas station diets, we’ve all become a sea of beige vegan automatons.”
  • An Oral History of Street Fighter II: Ok, fine, if you were never into Street Fighter II then you can probably skip this one – BUT I would still urge you to read the first page, as it contains some of the best, laugh-out-loud descriptions of ‘that weird guy you worked with once’ you will ever read. Honestly, you know every stereotype you might have in your head about how ‘odd’ it must have been to work in Japanese videogame development in the early-90s? Moreso. If, by the way, you have any affection at all for Capcom’s series, this is honestly a must-read.
  • Puncher’s Chance: On deprivation and class and race and boxing in the UK in the 20th Century. This is a beautiful piece of writing by Declan Ryan, in the way that only writing about boxing can sometimes be.
  • The Unbearable Heaviness of Stuff: I adore this essay more than almost any of the others in here this week. It captures something I have begun to feel SO STRONGLY – that there is a weight to physical objects now that I never used to feel, that consciousness of provenance and manufacture now just leads to a sort of broken paralysis about all the stuff that has been and will be and will never, ever die. Honestly, this is SUPERB: “Not all cheap items are disposable, but the convenience of urban trash collection, low cost of products, and difficulty of repairing many modern home goods means that disposing of things has come to feel natural, inevitable. And here I am, trying to stave off that inevitability and figure out how to shepherd a motley array of kitchen implements and old extension cords through an uncaring world. As Steven Phillips-Horst tweeted, on the aesthetic and moral wretchedness of a Container Store paper towel holder: “I’m meant to be this heinous dildo’s nanny between a Chinese factory and a Jersey landfill?? I’d rather die.””
  • Snakes and Ladders: Absolutely the best essay about meritocracy and the misinterpretation of the idea that I have ever read. Stefan Collini in the London Review of Books takes in history, economics, political theory, educational practice, class studies and more, and, honestly, it’s SO good. Long, knotty and you will have to think a bit, but it’s superb writing and doesn’t feel anywhere near like as much effort as you might realise by the end it was (and this is why Stefan Collini writes in the LRB and I do not).
  • Japanese Onomatopoeia: Finally in this week’s longreads (God I’ve missed writing that), this essay by Polly Barton, about the untranslatability of sounds and how language defines the limits of feeling. Beautiful, sad, and superbly-accurate on the odd gaps between language you discover when speaking in translation.

By Madsaki