Webcurios 01/07/22

Reading Time: 37 minutes

38 degrees. 38 DEGREES.

It’s not ok, is it? Look, ordinarily I would say something ‘funny’ here but, honestly, it’s too hot and I am, for a variety of reasons unconnected to Web Curios and Stuff on the Internet, having a fcuking pig of a week, and so I am just going to leave the preamble here and let you all get on with it (God, really makes you want to read on, doesn’t it?).

I am still Matt, this is still Web Curios, and I still want to do untold and very-specific harm to a significant proportion of Rome’s administrative and medical services.

PS – Web Curios is off next week as a result of my girlfriend visiting, but normal service will be resumed in a fortnight. Try not to die between now and then and I promise to do the same.

By Theresa Gooby



  • The OpenAI Jukebox: There are an awful lot of companies working at bringing the glorious AI-powered future we’ve all been promised to fruition (it…it will be glorious, won’t it? Won’t it?), but OpenAI is the one whose work has best managed to capture the shiny end of the public consciousness – yes, fine, DeepMind may have managed to beat humans at Go! and might be leading the way with all that boring medical stuff, but can it imagine a cat wearing a sombrero and serenading a stadium full of goth geckos with a ukelele-metal rendition of ‘My Heart Will Go On’? No it cannot, and therefore by some sort of weird barometer OpenAI WINS! Anyway, that’s by way of unnecessary preamble to OpenAI’s latest impressive-sounding public-facing AI research, this time into audio – you can read the accompanying explanatory blurb here, but the gist is that Jukebox is ‘a neural net that generates music, including rudimentary singing, as raw audio in a variety of genres and artist styles.’ What the site here linked to affords you is the opportunity to have a listen to the stuff that the machine’s produced, based on various different artists – so you can search the archive for, say, Metallica and hear a bunch of different tracks that the software has created based on being made to listen to ‘One’ for 3,500 hours. Now, none of the stuff you will be able to hear here is ‘good’ by any appreciable standard – unlike the piecework photoshop artists of the world, it feels like session musicians have a good year or so before they’ll really feel the hot, digital breath of the AI on their necks, professionally-speaking – and there are some weird anomalies in the output (the ‘Craig David’ stuff sounds a lot more like Take That, for example – and yes, I am aware that there is something more-than-slightly-ridiculous about complaining that an AI-imagined new Craig David song actually sounds like late-period Barlow), but, at the same time, this is just on the cusp of being really interesting and potentially useful. As with DALL-E, OpenAI is obviously being careful to sell this as ‘your new favourite songwriting partner is just around the corner’ rather than ‘LOL sucks to be you, jobbing composer, you have approximately 18 months before literally all stock music libraries are entirely AI composed and all session musicians are rounded up onto a cruise ship and set adrift in the Pacific’, and I think there’s going to be some fascinating human/machine centaur composition happening in the not-too-distant future.
  • The LVMH Virtual Apartment: We’ve apparently reached the stage now in the ‘brands must have some sort of 3d-modeled virtual showcase for their stuff as a result of someone in the creative team having done cocaine with a VC whose fund has invested heavily in something metaverse-adjacent’ lifecycle whereby there are obviously one or two companies that have cornered the market in churning out marginally-different off-the-shelf offerings to gullible luxe-brands that still haven’t worked out that NOONE WANTS TO BROWSE A PSEUDO-3D VIRTUAL HANDBAG SHOP IN-BROWSER. How else to explain the existence of both this LVMH Virtual Apartment (introduced by Livi, LVMH’s own virtual influencer – WHY?????), designed to present all of the fashion house’s tech investments and metaverse-adjacent digital gubbins and job offers, and the EERILY-SIMILAR look and feel of the Dior Riviera Experience, in which you can also scrolly-navigate through a glassily-vaporwave environment to look at some expensive accessories in not-particularly-well-rendered 3d. Well done to the people who sell this stuff, is all I can say, you are silver-tongued magicians (or, alternatively, your buyers are all drug-addled morons who sleep on mattresses stuffed with 100 Euro notes).
  • The Gucci Vault Space: If you’ve spent the past few weeks looking at the bonfire that is the NFT ‘art’ market and thought ‘who still thinks that this stuff is a good idea, really?’, then cast your eyes at this url for the answer. “What is the Gucci Vault Art Space?”, I imagine you’re all asking yourselves – well, let me tell you: “Vault Art Space Presented by Gucci and SuperRare conjures up a temporal flux by inviting 29 handpicked artists to reflect upon the House’s century of heritage and envision what comes next. Filtered through multifaceted perspectives of forward-looking creators, the codes of Gucci’s past and present become suggestions of its future. Presented and auctioned off in three drops, each work from ‘The Next 100 Years of Gucci’ is a collectible fragment of Alessandro Michele’s kaleidoscopic narrative for the House.” What that means in practice is that Gucci is offering a selection of UNIQUE ARTWORKS available for sale to the most DISCERNING of customers, for prices as low as…er…£900. Still, if you’re dropping £3k+ on a handbag I suppose an additional grand or so on a jpeg that looks like a poorly-animated club flyer from 1993 is small beer – just maybe don’t think of these as investment opportunities, eh? There’s something quite funny about the fact that the only corner of the market that is still currently going hard on this stuff is the same corner that for years has been built around persuading people that it really is worth paying significantly more for style than it is for substance – fashion is at the very least extremely internally-coherent.
  • The Unseen: A project by fashion photographer Rankin, who for the past few years has been mildly-obsessed with social media and filters and algorithms and manipulation and HOW THE PLATFORMS ARE SHAPING SOCIETY (I have spoken to Rankin about this, fwiw, and the potential degree to which anyone whose work has involved the same degree of fashion industry tropes and photoshop and post-production as his always has also bears some degree of responsibility for our slightly-toxic relationship to imagery of the human body and, well, we agreed that it’s complicated) and who has pulled together this collection of imagery which has been suppressed or censored across social platforms. “THE UNSEEN is a community-first project started by RANKIN CREATIVE to utilise the platforms and voice of the group to those who have been unfairly de-platformed online. THE UNSEEN has bought together hundreds of people, spanning a huge range of identities and experiences of becoming UNSEEN across multiple platforms. We aim to showcase the breadth and human consequences of unfair censorship practices and move forward the discussion on solutions in a way that emphasises the voices of those affected.” There’s an interesting degree of commonality in terms of the images here, insofar as a lot of them involve either female nudes or depictions of non-standard bodies or sexuality, and some equally-interesting questions being asked around the accepted norms established by platforms and who exactly is determining them and why – there’s also a lot of slightly-annoying talk about ‘shadow-banning’, which I personally think is unhelpful and just feeds into the broader lack of confusion about how platforms work and why (which confusion is, I appreciate, in no small part the fault of the platforms themselves), but overall this is an interesting collection of (occasionally-NSFW) images.
  • Wordeebee: A nice little tool that lets you plug in any word you like and see the frequency with which it’s appeared in the New York Times since 1851 – so, for example, you can see that the paper hasn’t mentioned crypto at all before 2021 and then FCUKING HELL WOULD IT NOT SHUT UP ABOUT IT, or that ‘Fear’ peaked in 1918-19, or that ‘Sex’ apparently peaked in 1998 and 2004 (1998 was Clinton, fine, but wtf happened in 2004?). You can’t click through to pull individual headlines or content, which is a slight shame, but it’s an interesting way of travelling through time should you be so inclined – if anyone wants to take it upon themselves to build this out so it allows for comparisons between outlets, that would be great thanks.
  • Latest Homepages: Ooh, this is really interesting – this site presents a constantly-updating, automatically-scraped archive of the frontpages of 222 different news websites from around the world, captured and stored on the hour, so that you can if you choose explore the different ways in which a global or national news story gets reported across different outlets, and how that reporting evolves as a story breaks and moves.
  • Me, But Online: Long-term readers may be aware – but, equally, may not; I have no idea whether anyone pays attention to this stuff. Do you pay attention to this stuff? – that I have a particular affection for the nicely-made personal website, a nicely-made interactive portfolio, say, or a CV in the form of a scatological rap performed by a cast of cartoon beetles (I am yet to encounter this latter example, by the way, so if anyone fancies knocking such a thing up for themselves then know that I will give it proud of place in a future Curios). Me, But Online is therefore an absolute GIFT, offering up a huge selection of “minimalist, original personal websites with great typography”, curated by one Kabir Goel – if you want a nice overview of some pleasing contemporary webdesign styles then this is an excellent place to start (though if someone else fancies making one of these collecting the most insanely maximalist personal websites in the world, that would also be great, thanks) (sorry, just realised I am being INCREDIBLY needy this morning in terms of demanding that my readership go off and build me things – it’s ok, I don’t actually expect anyone to do this, for the avoidance of doubt).
  • Sitegeist: Send a message to someone 10 years in the future. Who that someone is is up to you – this site simply asks that you provide it with an email address and a message, and it ‘guarantees’ (I am not entirely sure that the guarantee is watertight, but webs) that said message will be delivered to its intended recipient in 10 years’ time. Now obviously 10 years is A LONG TIME, and in internet years it’s basically a century or so, and therefore there is no certainty in the assumption that the email address you’re writing to will exist in a decade, or that the person you’re writing to will still be alive, or that they won’t react to your missive and the appearance of your long-forgotten name in their inbox with anything other than horror…but, equally, THINK OF THE FUN YOU CAN HAVE! This is effectively a chance for you to plant INTERESTING MINES in the path of future versions of yourselves and loved ones (and after all, what is the present but the time during which you plant the mines that will eventually blow you to smithereens later down the line?) – why not tell that friend of yours EXACTLY what you think of them right now? Why not pour your heart out to your crush? Why not share that DARK FAMILY SECRET with a future version of your siblings? Just IMAGINE the potential for truly-ruinous revelations to emerge! If you ever worry that your future life might end up being a bit dull, a bit pedestrian, why not take steps NOW to ensure that you have a really ‘interesting’ Summer 2032? NB – AS EVER WEB CURIOS TAKES NO RESPONSIBILITY FOR ANY ILL EFFECTS RESULTING FROM THESE ILL-THOUGHT SUGGESTIONS AND STRONGLY ADVISES YOU NOT TO ACTUALLY DO ANY OF THIS STUFF. Oh, this is part of a series of small, curious webprojects under the banner of the ‘Future Webring’, which you can explore via a couple of links on the page if you’re curious.
  • NBA All World: Niantic don’t really seem to have quite managed to build upon the success of Pokemon Go – the Harry Potter AR game seems to have quietly died, and the LEGO one never took off, and, based on what I can tell from the blurb here, I’m not convinced that this NBA reskin of what basically seems to be exactly the same core product is going to be any different. This is pre-launch, but you can express interest on the homepage which I presume will help determine the territories in which the company will choose to roll out the app in the coming months – “NBA All-World unleashes the new era of Hoops. Get outside, step into the sneakers of today’s NBA stars & go 1v1 against the best players in the world. Explore your neighborhood while competing in mini-games to become King of the Court. Be on the lookout for sneaker & gear drops to flex your style & increase the performance of your squad. Represent where you’re from along with the best ballers in the world.” Leaving aside the slightly-clenchy nature of the copy (‘ballers’ is a words I really, really can’t abide, sorry) it seems a huge missed opportunity not to integrate any, I don’t know, actual playing of the game of basketball into the mechanic. Still, if you’re interested in participating in what effectively sounds like ‘Pokemon NBA’ then you may want to sign up here for beta access.
  • Unreal Margot: Hot (well, ish) on the heels of ‘fake Keanu’ from a few months back, TikTok now brings you FAKE MARGOT ROBBIE! Despite the fact that the handle is ‘Unreal Margot’, there are a…troubling number of people in the comments here who don’t seem to have cottoned on to the fact that this is another DeepFake account, which doesn’t fill me with hope when it comes to the eventual mass-disinformation we’re set to see using this sort of tech around about 2024 (yes, I know that people have been predicting a DEEPFAKE NEWS APOCALYPSE for years, and I know that we’re a way away from that, but based on how decent this stuff now looks on a small screen I don’t think that ‘within two years we’re going to see a massive swell in home-cooked variants of fake video’ is too wild a reach).
  • And By Islands: An imagined map, with imagined islands, and imagined descriptions of destinations and locations which change and shift as you click on the places that they are describing. There’s something rather beautiful about this, the changing prose suggesting (to me at least) something about the parallel experience of navigating the online environment as it shifts and alters as you move through it. “The island upon which I was cast away will go on page by page as you write it. I wake up not knowing where I am. Waiting for some saviour castaway to arrive in a boat with a sack of corn at his feet. There was no soap. Terror, when the waves engulfed you. I roamed along the beach, keeping an eye out to sea. From Bristol ships sail to all corners of the globe. You will have many more stories to tell. If I cannot swear to the truth of my tale, what will be the worth of it? Questions echo in my head without answer. The world is full of islands. I am a castaway, not a prisoner.”
  • Elliott Computer: Elliott is an artist. They are currently in Rotterdam – I know this because Elliott Computer is an incredible link to Elliott’s whole life – the work that they have made online and off, the places they go, the things they see. You can book appointments to talk to Elliott if you want – I have no idea what the experience of talking to them would be like, but they seem interesting – or look through the many, many links…honestly, this in itself is a good afternoon’s worth of webspelunking, and I could spend hours clicking around and exploring – this is a PERFECT Curio in almost all respects.
  • The Overedge Catalogue: Ooh, if you do anything around the intersection of technology and society (lol, there is literally nothing in 2022 that doesn’t exist at the intersection of technology and society) then this is potentially super-useful: “Research organizations and institutions often are shoehorned into a set of well-established categories: universities, public companies, tech startups, and certain types of non-profits, such as think tanks. But there is the need for innovation here, particularly when it comes to encouraging the development of new ideas and the ability to operate on long timescales. We need new types of research organizations. In cartography, most maps are bound by the straight lines at their borders. But occasionally, there are parts of the map that don’t quite fit. They bleed over the edge and yet still cry out for being included in a map. These are the overedges. The Overedge Catalog is devoted to collecting the intriguing new types of organizations and institutions that lie at the intersection of the worlds of research and academia, non-profits, and tech startups. This is a small but growing number of organizations, but hopefully by collecting and highlighting all of these here, it can spur further institutional innovation.” Basically if you’re in the market for funding for your esoteric ‘what would happen if I built an AI solely on recorded Furry discourse since 2003?’ research project then perhaps one of the organisations here listed might be able to help you.
  • Venthaven: One of my least-favourite things about the past 25-or-so years of heavily-networked human existence has its been its role in the rise of coulrophobia as a ‘thing’ – LOOK CLOWNS ARE NOT SCARY NOONE IS REALLY SCARED OF CLOWNS IT IS JUST A THING THAT PEOPLE SAY BECAUSE THEY USED TO THINK IT MADE THEM SOUND INTERESTING BUT IS NOW LITERALLY THE MOST BASIC THING IN THE WORLD, THE PHOBIC EQUIVALENT OF THE PUMPKIN SPICED LATTE, CAN WE PLEASE STOP WITH THE ‘SCARY’ CLOWNS THING FFS??? As any fule kno, the really creepy things are ventriloquists’ dummies, as amply-evidenced by the website for Venthaven, “The World’s Only Museum Dedicated to Ventriloquism” – look at their chattering jaws and their mad eyes, the malice bubbling just under the poorly-painted surface! This is great – if, to my mind, intensely-unsettling – and contains loads of interesting examples of different styles of dummies being shown off in a series of videos which I strongly suggest you don’t watch in a darkened room before bedtime. Oh, and can I just ask that you go to the homepage and scroll down and look at the image of ‘Our Sponsor’ Emily Smith. EMILY WHAT HAPPENED TO YOU WHAT DARK WITCHCRAFT IS THIS?!?!?
  • Exaluminal: What would YOU do if you suddenly go the one-hour warning that the Earth was going to be obliterated and that all human life was about to be snuffed out (let’s presume in this thought experiment that you’re one of the privileged few with this information and that you can reasonably go about your business without there being panic and civilisational collapse all around)? I imagine that most of your responses would probably centre on either spending time with loved ones, speaking to your friends to say goodbye, having one last orgasm, or taking enough drugs to make the eventual end-of-everything a barely-perceptible blip on your consciousness – now, though, you can buy a device that will allow you to test that assumption! Extraluminal is an internet-connected device that you keep plugged in at all times and which will let you know when a star is about to go supernova in a manner that might cause the Earth to get blown up as collateral damage. “The Exaluminal service detects neutrinos by linking together a half-dozen neutrino observatories around the globe. By correlating neturino flux measurements from these observatories, the Exaluminal service serves as an early warning system for local supernovae. This data is then pushed to the Exaluminal device, a small alarm that works on your local network to receive warnings from the Exaluminal service.” Oh, ok, fine, this isn’t actually real and is instead a joke/proof-of-concept, but it ought to be.
  • Save My Ink: I…I don’t really know what to think about this. We all have tattoos now, of course (well you all do – my body is far too ugly a canvas to be a good candidate for inking), and our tattoos are all MEANINGFUL and IMPORTANT and PART OF WHO WE ARE, and it seems a terrible shame that all this beautiful art and personal significance should disappear with our meat prison at point of death. Wouldn’t it be nice if, rather than consigning Uncle Tony’s impressive collection of original Chelsea Headhunters sleevwork to the crematorium, you were able instead to preserve said ink in a tasteful and respectful manner? I mean, perhaps, yes, but I am not entirely convinced that preserving a slice of Uncle Tony’s skin in a frame so that you can gaze upon a part of him, under glass, forever, is necessarily the best way of going about it. “Welcome to Save My Ink Forever where we have developed a unique proprietary process for PRESERVING TATTOOS.  Our mission is to help carry on a loved one’s story. We hope to ensure that the spirit and legacy of your loved ones can live on for generations to come. Save My Ink Forever focuses on creating an everlasting memorial. At Save My Ink Forever we create more than just a picture. You receive the ACTUAL TATTOO. This becomes a framed piece of art that is presented to the family in a DIGNIFIED MANNER.” Capitals here are ALL THEIRS, by the way, and I confess to losing it slightly at the ‘dignified manner’ bit. I mean, WOW. Guaranteed to be a talking point – and, on reflection, were I dying and tattooed I would totally consider making pre-mortem arrangements to have myself skinned and framed and then bequeathed to a particularly-disliked family member as the world’s darkest inheritance along with some pleasingly-ambiguous allusions to ‘bad luck’ should the skin ever fall out of family hands.
  • The Crime Museum: While you wait for every single crime ever committed to become the subject of an overlong and massively-insensitive podcast, why not sort your BAD PEOPLE fix by browsing the archives of The Crime Museum, “an educational resource on law enforcement, crime history, and forensic science…a repository for artifacts on America’s favorite subject – from Jesse James and Al Capone, to John Wayne Gacy’s Clown Suits and the OJ Simpson Chase Bronco, and also operate the Natalee Holloway Resource Center, and Crime Library.” I personally have next to no appetite for this stuff – sorry, but the ‘Old Smokey’ electric chair copy here just turns my stomach – but I appreciate that I am a milquetoast and that your mileage may vary. Still, if you’ve ever wanted to get a really in-depth understanding into the specific differences between serial killers and mass murderers, for example, then welcome to your ‘happy’ place (you fcuking sicko).
  • Alluder: This is potentially-interesting for the cinephiles amongst you – currently in Beta, “Alluder is an online database of timestamped information related to what happens within a film and how one film connects to others, history, & art in general. With Alluder, break film down shot-by-shot and discover every one-shot, two-shot, crane shot, literary reference, and Easter egg that went into making your favorite film.” The idea is that this works as a plugin which works alongside your favourite streaming service to let you add ‘notes’ to specific moments in films as you watch them, with the idea that eventually it will provide a layer of annotations around every single film in the world to allow cinephiles to share their thoughts and opinions and knowledge and, inevitably, get into tediously-overwrought online debates about whether or not the dolly needed to be 0.5cm higher in that tracking shot (I am just using words here, please do not write in to explain that what I just typed makes no sense from a filmmaking point of view as I do not care). Obviously depends entirely on enough people using it to make it useful, but I can see how it might be of interest to movie buffs.
  • Census Population Change: This is a brilliant bit of data usage and visualisation by the UK’s Census Bureau. “The population of England and Wales has increased by more than 3.5 million in the 10 years leading up to Census 2021. Using the first results from this census, we look at which places have seen the biggest increases and decreases, which areas had the largest growth in different age groups, and how your chosen local authority area compares with others.” Plug in where you live in the UK (or anywhere you fancy – I just assume that everyone’s as fundamentally-solipsistic as I am) and it will tell you how the population of said area compares in terms of size and age and gender distribution to others around the country. This isn’t groundbreaking, fine, but it’s a really smart example of how to make data personal and interactive and relevant and interesting, and most people are still fcuking terrible at all those things so it’s worth pointing out when someone does it well.
  • Primitive Survival: Or “the YouTube Channel from which all those videos of people in extremely rural settings building insanely-impressive structures from mud over a period of days and weeks which have inexplicably flooded the TL over the past fortnight have come from”. In case you haven’t seen it, the basic schtick is ‘pair of blokes start digging around a patch of cleared earth in a vaguely-tropical looking setting and with what looks like relative ease (but which you know is the result of some pretty fcuking back-breaking labour) craft amazing buildings and miniature temples and pools and suchlike out of mud and clay, and then finish the video by triumphantly relaxing in the midst of the splendour’ – seriously, this stuff is AMAZING. As ever with these things, though, I want to know the economics and the operation behind this – where are these guys filming? Is there someone with a laptop and some CAD software out of shot? Does someone have a small digger for the bulk of the heavy lifting (I really hope so)? This is exactly the sort of thing that I could imagine leading to heated domestic arguments about the slow progress of the patio, just FYI.

By Caroline Absher



  • The Urban Wildlife Photography Awards: I love this – I know that there are now possibly TOO MANY photography awards and competitions, but I think the focus here on urban wildlife and the intersection between animal and human as we butt up against each other in cities and on streets is fascinating and leads to some wonderful images (also it’s a PR initiative by Picfair, a company whose success I’ve watched with pleasure because it’s a great idea and good for photographers). Some of these are GREAT – the raccoon hiding in the concrete pipe like some sort of ur-parody of raccoonness, the squirrel posing against the San Francisco skyline, and of course several EXCELLENT foxes – and it made me miss London’s urban wildlife (oh, ok, foxes and pigeons) something chronic (Rome doesn’t really have foxes, I am too close to town to get any wild boar, and the pigeons here get eaten by seagulls, the cnuts).
  • CSV to Midi: Do YOU have a bunch of data in a CSV (of course you do, EVERYONE has inexplicable data in a CSV, it is part of the modern richness of life!) that you want to turn into sound? No, fine, I appreciate it’s unlikely to have occurred to you to wonder what a bunch of survey data sounds like, but now that I’ve planted the seed, aren’t you curious? Well WONDER NO MORE thanks to this neat little site which takes any CSV you care to throw at it and converts said CSV (presuming, of course, it’s got some numbers in it) into surprisingly-not-awful-sounding plinky-plonky sounds. Which, to be clear, has no immediate relevance in and of itself, but when combined with other stuff could be used for some potentially-interesting applications – what happens if you feed a year’s worth of data turned into music to an AI like the Jukebox toy featured up top, say? What does it sound like if you speed it up? What if you feed the resulting music into a sequencer and start to mess around with it? What I’m basically saying here is that if you have access to any sort of semi-regular data source you owe it to yourself (and, crucially, to me) to see what sort of awful, cacophonous mess you can turn it into. And then chuck an Amen break over it, or even better put a donk on it.
  • People Dancing To Stravinsky: A Twitter account sharing videos of people dancing set to the music of Stravinsky. You may not think you need a succession of clips of iconic dances recut so that the dancers are grooving to one of the 20th Century’s modernist masters, but I promise you that you will never see the David Brent dance in quite the same light ever again.
  • JD Brick Productions: A YouTube channel whose output consists exclusively of incredibly-detailed stop-motion recreations of, er, the First and (I think) Second World War (I don’t think I have EVER felt so confident in saying that I am certain that this channel is run by a man). There is a 10-minute animation of the Battle of Verdun here, ffs, complete with explosions and tanks and mud and quite possibly the odd flying limb crossing the screen as the horror really ramps up (I confess to having only scrubbed through it because, well, look, life is short). Go back further and there’s a slightly-wider variety of stuff, but it seems that the war material is really paying dividents because this channel is now ALL WAR, ALL THE TIME – my snark aside, this is some really impressive animation and the care and attention to detail is really impressive (though equally I am sure that the comments contain rather more discussion around ‘the right shade of grey brick to use to replicate a Panzer’s livery’ than anyone really wants or needs).
  • Internal Tech Emails: ANOTHER Twitter account, this one sharing leaked tech company internal emails that appear in public records. So for example this has featured Facebook memos about the company’s pivot towards a more algo-curated feed to compete with TikTok, or stuff from the Theranos hearing, or Musk kissing the Saudi’s behinds…You need to have some sort of personal or professional interest in the tech industry for this to be worthwhile, but if that happens to be you then this is a useful follow.
  • Kululu: Do you remember about…15 or so years ago, when no event was complete without a TWITTER WALL which would display any tweets featuring the event hashtag and which were inevitably either entirely dead or a car-crash of insufficient moderation? LET’S BRING THAT BACK! Kululu is basically ‘that, but for pictures’ – sign up to the platform and it lets you set up a private photowall app for your event guests to contribute to, with pre-moderation so that you can ensure noone’s going to attempt to share a Goatse on your Special Day. Which, fine, is dull and not particularly worth commenting on – but just IMAGINE the beautiful chaos that would ensue if you just set this up unfiltered at a wedding and LET IT ROLL. Come on, it would be ART – fine, yes, it would also quite possibly end friendships and relationships, but the content would be unparalleled. Seriously, just imagine – you set this up, you tell everyone to GO WILD, and then on the side you also have a couple of people you’ve employed exclusively to take CANDIDS FOR THE WALL…oh God, by 1030 there would be FIGHTS, I tell you. Please can someone do this, please.
  • The Digital Transgender Archive: “The purpose of the Digital Transgender Archive (DTA) is to increase the accessibility of transgender history by providing an online hub for digitized historical materials, born-digital materials, and information on archival holdings throughout the world. Based in Boston, Massachusetts at Northeastern University, the DTA is an international collaboration among more than sixty colleges, universities, nonprofit organizations, public libraries, and private collections. By digitally localizing a wide range of trans-related materials, the DTA expands access to trans history for academics and independent researchers alike in order to foster education and dialog concerning trans history…the DTA virtually merges disparate archival collections, digital materials, and independent projects with a single search engine. With rich primary source materials and powerful search tools, the DTA offers a generative point of entry into the expansive world of trans history.” This is fascinating and important and a useful reminder that  being trans is neither a craze nor a fad nor a MODERN INVENTION but is something that has been a reality of human life for people for millennia, a reality which, disappointingly, we appear to be struggling to accept and comprehend here in the year of our Lord 2022.
  • Spirograph:  A digital Spirograph! Who doesn’t love a Spirograph? NO FCUKER, that’s who! This is very soothing and even someone as visually-incapable as me was able to make something vaguely-pleasing and geometric with basically no effort whatsoever.
  • Hypothesis: The idea of ‘annotations across the web’ is one that has bubbled along in various guises for the past decade or so without ever really taking off – I think even Google at one point had a version of this sort of stuff on the go. Still, it does feel like there is something useful to be explored in or around that space, and perhaps Hypothesis is a workable version of the basic principle – the idea here is that the product is aimed at academic institutions, to allow students and teachers to access the same shared annotations across a bunch of resources, for collaborative learning and study, and it seems to me that you might similarly explore how this could work in (sorry) agencies for planning and strategy and creative research within teams, for example. Or you might think that that’s an awful idea, which is also fine, I’m not . precious (I am, so so so precious).
  • Mapping Reddit: The Nth iteration of ‘a different way to browse Reddit’ that I have featured on here – this one lets you type in any topic you like and pulls together the network of the subReddits it considers to be most relevant, demonstrating links between them in one of those ‘floating node’-type configurations so beloved of social media data analysts circa 2012, and which lets you browse each sub via a convenient sidebar. This is almost certainly going to be used mainly for exploring bongo – look, you know this, I know this, let’s not beat around the bush here – but I promise you that I am not judging (we’ve been through this before, I always judge).
  • FootballData: Not all the football data, obviously, that would be insane, but a small and potentially-interesting part of it presented here for your analysis. Twitter user ChicagoDmitry has created a bunch of datavisualisation tools to help the layperson explore statistical player data from the Premier League – this particular toy lets you pull information on shots and assists for every single player in every single team last year, to let you analyse EXACTLY how pivotal, say, Adam Idah’s failure to net double-figures was to Norwich’s relegation last season. You can go all the way back to 2017 if you want, and should you or anyone you know be the sort of (poor, mad) person who spends their Summer glued to Fabrizio Roman’s Twitter feed being drip-fed stale morsels of transfer gossip then you might find this a helpful way of whiling away the time between announcements to definitely assess why signing X instead of Y is the worst decision your club could EVER make.
  • Aranmula Kannadi: Because of one or two, er, long-standing issues around self-image, I don’t ever look in mirrors unless I cannot avoid doing so (meaning I very often walk around with spectacularly-bad hair and toothpaste all over my face – which, fine, means I look like a d1ck but is equally a small price to pay for being able to forget what I look like for a while) – as such I was until this week of the naive assumption that all mirrors are basically created equal. NOT SO! “In Malayalam, “Kannadi” means “mirror.” These unique metal mirrors are made out of tin and copper alloy. Unlike ordinary mirrors, which have a gap between the object and the image whereas, in the Aranmula Metal Mirror, there exists no gap. It is completely handmade and they reflect you with zero distortion. Only a few Vishwakarma families in Aranmula know the secret to crafting these 250-300 years old metal mirrors. Aranmula Kannadi has a prestigious national and international reputation. It’s a known fact that the Aranmula Kannadi is costly. Because this is a handcrafted metal mirror, it requires extra labour and time to create. Every piece of Aranmula Kannadi is the result of hours of effort and hard work.” Now I confess that my bullsh1t antennae pricked slightly at the phrase ‘Unlike ordinary mirrors, which have a gap between the object and the image whereas, in the Aranmula Metal Mirror, there exists no gap’ – that certainly sounds like total rubbish, doesn’t it? – but overall I think this is pretty cool and if you’re in the market for a hand-made artisanal mirror in which to admire your BEAUTIFUL FACE (or to constantly worry at yourself because of the myriad imperfections the magically-reflective surface will reveal, either/or) then this might be up your street.
  • Blessed Images: A (very) sporadic newsletter which features only images which its editors considers ‘blessed’. Honestly, this is like an aesthetic cleanse in your inbox, I promise you – whoever is curating this has a wonderful eye for a picture, and there’s a nice sense of thematic consistency running through each edition. Check out a previous one here, and then sign up – I promise you that this will give you 5 minutes of aesthetic relief every now and again which may not sound like much but which Future You will be very grateful for.
  • Can I Send You An Email?: You may well not want to receive any more emails ever again (I know, Web Curios has that effect on me too sometimes), but make an exception for this. Fill in your details, and the site’s owner, Shen, will (at some indeterminate point in the future) (probably) write to you. What about? I HAVE NO IDEA I HAVE NOT RECEIVED MY EMAIL YET! Still, I like the idea behind this very much, and I now quite want to start leaving my email address written in obscure places with the simple instruction “tell me something”, just to see what happens (I once went through a phase of writing my mobile number on banknotes to see what would happen – ‘nothing’, in the main, though I did get one call from a very drunk Geordie girl in a chipshop once which probably just about made it all worthwhile).
  • Return To Monkey Island: Yes, fine, this isn’t so much a ‘Curio’ as it is ‘website advertising the forthcoming new game in the Monkey Island series, which if you’re 40-ish and someone who’s been into videogames since childhood will probably cause some not-insignificant nostalgiapangs’, but, well, I love Monkey Island and this website features a whole, far longer than it needs to be, interactive segment featuring Stan the Salesman (look, if you know you know) and basically it got me really excited for the game and LET ME HAVE A MOMENT OF JOY FOR ONCE FFS. Thanks.
  • Wordles: Ok, look, here’s the deal – this link contains ALL OF THE WORDLE CLONES EVER. I am going to put it here, you are going to bookmark it if you so choose, and then we will both agree that I will feature NO MORE Wordle clones (unless they are particularly-inventive or somehow compellingly-awful) because it’s been six months now and, please, enough. There are seemingly literally thousands of these things, which is an insane degree of cultural impact for what is basically a relatively-simple vocabulary game- make the Wordle bloke your Man Of The Year, TIME!
  • Emily Blaster: Finally this week, a small shooting game in which you attempt to piece together selected poems by Emily Dickinson by shooting words out of the sky in a manner not-unreminiscent of Missile Attack; this is both a cute way of learning the verse AND a fun way to spend 5 minutes, and it’s also been produced as part of the promo for a book (which sounds ace btw) which I am going to take as a direct reaction to someone somewhere having read me repeatedly going on about how games are great promo vehicles for anything and should be used more widely (regardless of the fact there is absolutely no evidence whatsoever to suggest I had any agency here whatsoever).

By Malika Favre



  •  Rongzhi: I find glimpses into other languages’ memetics fascinating, and this Tumblr, collecting a bunch of viral-ish content from the Chinese social media sphere, presented with subtitles and the occasional contextual explanation, is no exception. To be clear, the subtitles don’t always do much to explain what the fcuk is happening – they tell you what’s being said, but not the layers and layers of meaning you’re expected to be able to parse below the surface – but that’s part of the charm and intrigue – as I type, the top clip is a video of two people’s eyes meeting as they both eat spaghetti in the messiest way possible, sitting in otherwise-sterile surroundings. I am fcuked if I have the faintest idea of exactly what this is meant to communicate (maybe nothing! Maybe it’s just “don’t you love it when you realise someone else is a disgusting carb’n’soss goblin just like you?”!) beyond the ostensible, but I think I perhaps prefer it that way. Wonderful cultural tourism.


  • Crash Txt: Tiny emoji and symbol and ascii art, in your feed. This is a really nice aesthetic counterpoint to basically literally anything else you will see on Instagram.
  • Gstaad Guy: I feel a bit…dirty linking to this, if I’m honest. So Gstaad Guy is an Insta feed which started as a parody of the sort of rich Eurotrash kids you see in places like Gstaad (so I am informed – it may not surprise you to know that I do not ski and I do not hang out in places like Gstaad), expanded to include the sort of rich kids who are getting into crypto, and is now…a sort of self-aware performance art piece which is being co-opted by brands to market their overpriced tat for morons to exactly the sort of morons who are being parodied by the account who have all started following it because…it’s such a nailed-on demolition of their aesthetic? Because when you’re that rich who cares if people are making fun of you for being a vapid fleshsack? Anyway, this is now approximately seven layers or irony and a triple backflip deep now, and I don’t quite understand it, and generally find its whole vibe a bit hateful, but your mileage may vary. BONUS: here’s a Forbes article about the whole thing, which rather says all you need to know imho.


  • Why Does The Bad Stuff Keep Happening?: The Roe vs Wade judgement dropped post-Curios last week, and I am sure you’ve all spent the past week feeling enervated and rightly-miserable about the continued slide towards political positions around bodily autonomy that we’d all hoped we’d long abandoned. This piece is about the RvW judgement, but it’s more about how does this stuff keep happening in the US? The answer, posits Cory Doctorow in an excellent essay, is that the Republic Party is basically hoovering up all the single-issue nutcase groups in the US and promising them whatever batsh1t stuff they want because it knows that the single-issue nutcases only care about that single issue and so if you give them that they will literally support you on ANYTHING, and so this is an excellent way of ensuring you have the votes to ALSO pass legislation that, for example, keeps your taxes as low as possible if you’re a billionaire. Effectively the premise of this piece is that this is all part of the continued plot by the super-rich and super-powerful to maintain and consolidate that power: “These two blocs [pro-guns and anti-abortion], along with racists, homophobes and transphobes, provide the bulk for the master strategists of the GOP, people who aren’t merely elitists, but actual elites. By definition, elite politics can’t win majorities on its own, because elites are always in the minority – that’s what “elite” means. The cruelty isn’t the point. The cruelty is a means to an end. The cruelty is how you mobilize useful idiots to turn out to the polls and vote for the vast expansion of the wealth of a tiny number of people.” You may read this and think ‘hm, no, that sounds like a mad conspiracy’, and that’s totally fine – but, well, it does rather look and feel like that’s what’s happening.
  • The Infanticide Issue: A quick caveat here – this is a link to Quillette, a magazine which I know is more than a little fash-adjacent and which I can appreciate many of you might have some qualms about. This particular essay, though, is not a fashy one, promise (it is a bit swivel-eyed, and it’s not exactly dripping in human warmth, but it’s not fashy) – it’s instead a relatively clear-minded analysis of why even from the point of view of ‘protecting the child’ a ban on abortions isn’t necessarily a good idea given the likely rise in infanticide that it will lead to. Astonishingly bleak, fine, but also a useful counterpoint to the (admittedly-deranged) ‘think of the children’ bleating from the anti-abortion crowd.
  • When Bad Websites Matter: Last RvW-adjacent link this week is ANOTHER essay by Dan Hon, who I feel I am featuring often enough in here to demand some sort of kickback. This is a reflection on what the website of the Democrats looked like this week in the wake of the Supreme Court decision, and all the ways in which said website singularly fails to do any of the jobs you might want it to do – as a piece of analysis on communication and ‘organisational purpose’ (sorry) and how said purpose is communicated (whether online or not), this is really, really smart – if you do anything relating to comms or campaigning then you really should read this (and, after having done so, go and take a look at the website of whatever political party you most identify with and analyse it through this lens – it will make you think differently, I promise).
  • A Reasoning AI: This is a couple of weeks old now, but don’t let that put you off (shut up Matt literally noone else shares your tedious obsession with novelty ffs) – this is a relatively short essay about Google’s new prototypical AI PaLM, which is a language model like others you may previously have come across but one which can seemingly display a rudimentary ability to reason. Not complex reasoning, fine, but actual reasoning. You need to read the piece to get a clearer idea of what that practically means, but it’s fascinating – and not a little creepy when you get to the inevitable ‘and none of the engineers can quite explain why this model works in this way when previous ones haven’t’ bit. Still, rest assured that noone involved with this particular piece of code seems to want to erect a shrine to it just yet.
  • None Of The Investors Can Explain The Point Of Web3: Building on something I mentioned last week, this is a superb analysis by Charlie Warzel of all the ways in which the Web3 emperor is naked, judging by the inability of said emperor’s courtiers to explain what he is wearing or what it looks like or how the emperor is planning to avoid freezing his metaphorical nuts off come winter (sincere apologies for that tortuous and largely-unsuccessful metaphor).
  • Whither All The CryptoWank?: Or, perhaps more helpfully, some sensible ideas for what all this cryptoweb3nftstuff might practically be used for beyond the preposterous hypetrain of the past 12 months. This is a reasonably-sober look at some practical applications of the tech as it stands – what I like about it is that it’s relatively modest, all told, with the basic ideas being simply explicable as ‘you take all the information about the online you with you wherever you go rather than it being platform-dependent’, ‘shared ownership and influence’ and ‘better archiving’, Which, fine, may not sound as shiny and exciting to the Scrooge McDuck-pupiled VCs as ‘INFINITE INTEROPERABLE MONETISABLE PROPERTY ANALOGUES!’ but does have the significant benefit of perhaps actually making sense rather than simply being a selection of concatenated buzzwords in search of meaning.
  • Unicorn Syndrome: As Pride Month comes to an end, I found this essay in Art Review by Rosanna McLoughlin a fascinating one, examining the shifting meaning and applicability of the term ‘Queer’, and the extent to which it’s possible for a term whose original meaning was steeped in otherness to still have resonance at a time when it’s been so centred within mainstream (capitalist) discourse. “In a culture awash in depressing reboots of everything from film franchises to fascisms, queerness once appeared as a future-facing movement with a promise to see, be and organise differently. If it is to have any chance of reversing its slide into the Cherry Coke of identity – an auxiliary alternative to the status quo – it will require a committed reevaluation of queer exceptionalism. Mark Fisher argued in Capitalist Realism (2009) that the problem facing countercultures is no longer the danger of being consumed by commercial interests, but being preconfigured by them. What we are dealing with now, he wrote, is ‘precorporation: the pre-emptive formatting and shaping of desires, aspirations and hopes by capitalist culture’. There is no easy answer as to how precorporation might be avoided, other than by social withdrawal, just as there is no door marked ‘exit here’ that can be used to escape the reach of technocapital, but attending to the ways in which commercial interests are worked into the DNA of contemporary identity formation surely constitutes a start.”
  • Pronouns: A companion piece to the above – at least in my mind it is – this piece by Brock Colyar looks at the question of pronouns and how their feelings towards them have shifted as the conversation around queer and non-binary identities has been mainstreamed. This is a very good piece of writing – personal and occasionally very funny – with an interesting premise at its heart: “These days, it feels as if an identity that, not long ago, felt unique to me in most rooms I entered has gone mass. Yes, part of what I’m personally upset about is the fact that this thing I loved isn’t so alt anymore. But more than that, it feels as if pronoun culture has contributed to nonbinary becoming just the third gender after male and female, more static and concrete than its original fluid intentions.”
  • Surveillance in China: It’s been a while since we’ve had a good, alarming ‘China’s Digital Panopticon’ story, so here’s one in the NYT all about how the use of CCTV and facial recognition is growing and developing in the country. All of this is of course deeply-creepy (at least to our Western eyes), but I think the real story here is not about China doing this now at a state level but the extent to which we might perhaps want to be a little more creeped out at the extent to which exactly the same stuff is going on here except in the hands of private companies. Is that…better? Not totally convinced it is, tbqhwy.
  • Unilever and Global Plastic: Having Procter and Gamble as a client a decade or so ago so scarred me that I went through quite a long period of checking whether products were P&G or Unilever in supermarkets and deliberately choosing the Unilever alternative as an impotent act of rebellion against the company that was making my professional life a living hell (Pampers DryMax Active Core I WILL NEVER FORGET) – turns out, though, that they’re cnuts too! This is an excellent piece of journalism by Reuters looking at the various ways in which Unilever has acted to minimise the amount of practical action it takes amending its production and packaging processes to reduce plastic pollution, particularly in Asia. Turns out massive multinational FMCG businesses lie about their green credentials – I know, I was shocked too. Your regular reminder that if you’re a PR or advertising agency and you help these companies peddle their lies about how they are part of the solution to the climate crisis then you are as guilty as they are – you’re welcome!
  • Post-Human Fashion: I really enjoyed this piece on the strange and unexpected design consequences that we’re starting to see as a result of so much of the fashion trade now being algo-led in the wake of Shein’s meteoric rise (and the host of copycat businesses it has spawned) – when designs are being cobbled together by AI based on cobbling together elements from different virally-popular garments, weird trends ensue which no actual human has ever asked for but which due to more algorithms end up getting baked into this month’s lookbooks regardless. Honestly, I really hope someone somewhere is keeping track of all this stuff – there’s a really interesting book or TV show or webproject around documenting all the ways in which AI we don’t really understand is shaping our real-world physical existences in unexpected and not-necessarily-positive ways.
  • The Saris of Dall-E Mini: Or, as we’re legally-obligated to call it now, ‘Craiyon’ – anyway, regardless of what it’s called this week, this article looks at the curious phenomenon of the AI image generator’s seeming obsession with saris – why is it so keen to punt out images of South Asian-looking women wearing that particular piece of clothing? You may be surprised to learn that the answer is, once again, “No idea!” (although in fairness there are a few plausible-sounding explanations towards the end of the piece). We are absolutely about to enter a golden age for people just sort of shrugging and looking baffled in press conferences, aren’t we?
  • Backpack: You may not think that an essay about ‘what to carry in your backpack if you fancy living a properly-nomadic existence’ written by Ethereum founder Vitalik Buterin would be particularly-compelling, and, fine, on the one hand you’re right (Mr Buterin is obviously some sort of genius and is far, far smarter than I have ever been, even before the drink and the drugs, but equally I don’t think he’d mind me saying that he’s noone’s idea of a…compelling prose stylist, let’s say), but there’s something fascinating to me about these sorts of essays in which you can literally see how different someone’s mind is to yours. I mean, just the methodical way in which Buterin approaches the questions of what to carry and why and what brand of thing and why is so antithetical to my way of thinking (I am, let’s just say, a significantly-less structured thinker) that it’s like peering at the workings of a strange and compelling alien machine (and then left feeling quite a lot like my brain is rubbish by comparison, but that may just be me).
  • Male Sex Dolls: LOLSEXDOLLS! May well be what your immediate thought is upon seeing that headline and, well, yes, so was mine to be honest. This, though, is a far more interesting and sensitive piece than I expected, and is all the better for it – Hallie Lieberman speaks to various women who, for their own combination of reasons, have invested in male ‘companion dolls’, and tells their stories with a real sense of respect. I don’t think I’m being unfair if I say that each person here is, well, a bit broken in some significant way, but they’re portrayed fairly and as actual, rounded human beings rather than freaks, and I promise you will find this significantly more affecting than you expect to.
  • Iain Sinclair #2 – Rich London: More Sinclair, this time walking with Caroline Knowles, author of a new book about the super-rich and where in the city they choose to call home, this is just superb, rich with London history and knowledge and a healthy dose of disdain for the plutes carving the city up and emptying it from the inside-out: “There is a magic in these trophy streets. You detect it in the hotels favoured by ‘Middle Eastern’ men running up bills they are slow to pay and the quieter hotels where their wives and children are parked. In the tall trees of lovely green oases with regulation ironwork fences and locked gates. In strictly private equity and ‘single-family’ offices with no nameplates in Berkeley Square. If you wanted to make serious money in Mayfair, you could do worse than supply cans of magnolia paint to the Duke of Westminster’s estate: it is the only colour permitted. The charity of the super-rich is an obligation. Anything but animals, one benefactor reports. ‘Every donkey in the country has God knows how much money.’ Mayfair is a wealth allotment tended by uniformed butlers and bag-carriers. The hush is called security. Transgress and it’s like the moment when the whistle cuts out and the bomb falls.”
  • Glastonbury and People: This is possibly the best piece of writing about being a miserable, bitter, middle-aged man I have ever read, and I felt so seen by it that I had to go and have an ice-cream to try and cheer myself up.
  • Isabella of France: I have, I’m pretty sure, featured one of Anne Thériault’s ‘Queens of Infamy’ series of profiles in here before, but this is a CRACKING read on the messy life of Isabella the She-Wolf of France,who married Edward II of England at the ripe old age of, er, 12 (it’s ok though, he was only 13) and went on to have QUITE THE LIFE. This is so, so well-written, marrying some pretty serious scholarship with some equally-frivolous linguistic flourishes – if history had been written like this when I was a kid I might perhaps have remembered more of it than ‘Garibaldi, what a nutcase’ and ‘nazis’. A special mention for the fact that Thériault manages to quote an Eminem lyric midway through and lands the gag perfectly.
  • Scenes from an Open Marriage: It feels very much as though this essay will be sparking a lot of DISCOURSE over the next few days, so you could read it for that purpose alone – but, honestly, you should read it because it is jaw-droppingly good prose, I mean SO good, the sort that you occasionally find yourself stopping to reread midway through a sentence because it is so staggeringly right. This is about polyamory, which is how you can tell the writing is stellar – ordinarily there is almost nothing that could induce me to read about a bunch of poly people and their relationship travails, but this transcends even the horror of that specific trope. I cannot recommend this enough – the opening line promises a lot, but this essay delivers in absolute spades.

By Naima Green (because)