Webcurios 01/09/23

Reading Time: 37 minutes

It’s odd how, despite the fact that my life (and I presume yours – I doubt any school-age kids are reading this and, if you are, STOP IT IT IS NOT FOR YOU) has long-since decoupled itself from the rhythms of the scholastic calendar, I can’t help but feel a vague sense of loss at the start of September – yes, Keats, fine, I’m sure for YOU it’s all ‘mist’ and ‘fruitfulness’, but here it’s ‘six months of largely-horizontal rain’ and ‘that part of the year when the slugs start appearing unbidden through my girlfriend’s floorboards’ (don’t ask) and ‘oh Christ soon people are going to start talking about the fcuking John Lewis Christmas advert and once again I will have to resist the urge to do the ‘down and not across’ thing’.


I am still Matt, this is still Web Curios, and I would pinch you and punch you if I could only reach.

By Jocelyn Carmes



  • Bland: An unhelpfully-named business/url to kick off with here – IT IS NOT BLAND IT IS VERY INTERESTING AND COMPELLING THANKYOU VERY MUCH – but then again I suppose that if I were the people behind a company that seems, at least at first glance, to be a genuine boon for scammers and criminals and (less law-breakingly, but, morally, about on the same level) telemarketers then perhaps I too would try and deflect attention from it by hiding behind the webaddress equivalent of a giant beige tarpaulin. Anyway, Bland! A genuinely-impressive and almost-entirely-evil (oh, ok, fine, ‘evil’ is probably a stretch, but I don’t think it’s ‘good’ by any means) concept which, basically, lets anyone set up an AI-enabled, fully-voiced robocalling system for, based on the pricing here laid out, about 5p a call! It’s not clear whether this is just a one-way broadcast offering or whether there’s currently any voice recognition, pseudo-interactive layer to this (I think there isn’t, but that there inevitably will be as soon as the tech can handle it), but, regardless, this will let anyone who can be bothered to pony up the cash set up an autocalling system for…well, for whatever they want, which, inevitably, is going to mean that the barrier to entry for phonescamming will end up resting no more than a couple of millimetres above floor level. It’s stuff like this that is going to render the phonecall utterly obsolete, isn’t it?
  • Some Impressive XR Stuff: I continue to be…underwhelmed by AR/VR/XR stuff, in the main – I am still yet to see anything from it that compels me to strap 2 lbs worth of plastic, metal and glass to my face, or to observe the world through my phonescreen – but that’s possibly because most of the stuff that I’ve seen over the past year or so has been related to tHe MeTaVeRsE and as such has had the sad, Zuckerbergian patina of ‘LinkedIn, but all around you’ that all of the Meta Horizon stuff carries with it like a faint whiff of mildew. This clip lurched across my field of vision on Twitter this week, though, and made me momentarily curious again – it’s by some VR outfit called Sidekick, which as far as I can tell is a developer community for people making experimental software in the space (although details are a bit sketchy tbh, so I might have got that wrong), and while the stuff they’re demonstrating is…ok, a bit *functional* (it’s more ‘virtual entertainment spaces and SCREENS IN VR’ than it is ‘LOOK AT THE AMAZING SPACE DINOSAUR DIORAMA THAT YOU CAN EXPERIENCE VIA THE MAGIC OF HEADSET-BASED GRAPHICS’, so, er temper your expectations), it’s also really very impressive; I think watching this was the first time I really got a sense for how multiple screens and things might usefully work in virtual space, and how this might be appealing for both working and entertainment purposes. That said, there was also a significant part of me that is so utterly broken by the internet that all it could think of when watching this clip was ‘god, the goon cave stuff emerging from this sort of tech is going to be deeply, deeply troubling’ which is a sentence that a) I wish I had never had cause to type; and b) I sort-of hope you don’t really understand (if you don’t, and if you feel compelled to google ‘goon cave’, know that you probably oughtn’t do it on a professional device).
  • Singify: As I type this, Radio 4 is running with a story about how Warner has signed THE FIRST AI ARTIST EVER, which is, as is par for the course with much mainstream discussion of ‘slightly fringe tech stuff’, a depressingly PR-led take which completely erases Hatsune Miku from history – JUSTICE FOR HATSUNE MIKU! JUSTICE FOR THE VOCALOIDS! Still, it’s something of a sign of the times here, as is the ease with which you can use a tool like Singify (seamless!) to quickly spin up AI-enabled cover versions of any song you can think of by a whole raft of AI-spoofed artists – you basically select the vocal model you’d like to use (from what seems like a reasonably wide-ranging selection on the site – they tend to skew ‘contemporary internet’, so there’s Lil’ Peep and Bieber and Grande, but no (for the sake of argument) GG Allin, then feed in a song (either an MP3 or a link to the YouTube vide of your choice), hit a button and AS IF BY MAGIC you’ll be given a version of the track with the vocals magically replaced by the artist of your choosing. This is, obviously, incapable of producing anything even remotely listenable – or at least it was for me; perhaps it was my choice of the Morgan Freeman voice model singing Britney’s ‘Toxic’ that was the problem – but it’s bleakly compelling, and (with my regular ‘this is the worst it’s ever going to be’ refrain) it feels like it’s going to be ‘good enough’ pretty quickly; at the moment, though, the best use-case I can think of is for creating ‘comedy’ cover versions, or, for those of you with children, for trolling your kids by ruining whatever their favourite songs are by refusing to play the originals and instead ONLY allowing the AI-generated, Mickey Mouse-voiced alternatives on the stereo.
  • Text To Sing: More AI music ‘fun’ here, this is a Hugging Face-hosted demo which offers a tantalising glimpse of something very fun just around the corner; it basically lets you rewrite songs with new lyrics, and creates new versions of the track with your new masterful wordplay inserted in lieu of the originals. Because it’s just a proof-of-concept there is a finite list of songs you can play with in this demo, but there’s something slightly-magical about the way this works; just get a vague feel for the rhythm and meter of the lyrics and then type whatever rubbish you can think of that vaguely fits, and then hit the button (and wait a bit – Hugging Face continues to be…quite…slow) and listen in awe as your composition is magically tweaked to fit the melody, and your lyrical genius is laid bare. This is, of course, very shonky and doesn’t sound great – but, again, you can absolutely see the potential here for quickly and easily editing audio like this. If any of you fancy using this to write a jingle for Web Curios then, well, that would be nice (but also, perhaps you should find better things to do with your life).
  • Pictures of Paintings: This project is a lot…stranger than I initially thought when I discovered it, but in a pleasing way. Pictures of Paintings is ostensibly just AN Other ‘digital art gallery that you can wander through in your browser’ site, displaying pictures of a variety of world-famous works by Monet and others…except as you look, you might realise that the paintings don’t look quite as you might remember them, and they are collected from all sorts of different galleries rather than representing the collection of a single institution. That’s because the person behind the site – one Yaz Ashmawi, whose personal site I also rather like fwiw – has built it from photographs that he has personally taken of each of the works in question, photos that he’s in each case manipulated and digitally altered, in some cases significantly while in others imperceptibly. To quote Yaz himself, “It’s been built by taking photographs of innumerous frames and paintings and gallery spaces. By swapping them all around with one another and sorting them out I’ve created this unique collection here. I’ve done my best to organise things into coherent sets and rooms for you in order to the showcase these art pieces appropriately. Beware however! I’ve held nothing back with regards to the edits. This project has originated from my own personal love of recreating and re-interpreting of the work of others, and is the result of many hundreds of hours of editing the paintings in these collections. They’re all retouched. In some cases, they vary significantly from their original appearance.” I LOVE THIS – there’s something really interesting about the idea and execution here, the idea of personal curation and tweaking of the works and their placing in a personal virtual space to reimagine and recontextualise them – and it’s a genuinely nice website to wander around for 15 minutes, exploring the themes Yaz has pulled together and seeing the ways, big and small, he’s fiddled with the works.
  • AI Stickers: Do YOU want the power to create digital stickers using THE MAGIC OF AI? No, probably not, because (unless I am massively misreading my tiny readership’s demographic profile) none of you are 12. Still, should you feel unaccountably YOUNG for a moment you can try out this fun service (mobile-only – on which, by the way, MOBILE ONLY SITES ARE SH1T STOP MAKING MOBILE-ONLY SITES PLEASE) which works with Midjourney to spin up cutesy little sticker graphics for use on all your socials based on whatever prompt you feed it (and, I presume, some sort of hacked-together pseudo-API access under the hood).
  • Dream Football Jobs: I confess that the concept of a ‘dream job’ is one utterly alien to me (see also: dreams) – I don’t know about you, but I tend to find that as soon as any financial remuneration is introduced to a process or practice, all the joy is magically leached from it and it becomes NO FUN AT ALL, and that all the jobs that I have ever done which have involved any field that might reasonably be considered from the outside to be ‘fun’ or ‘cool’ are in fact about as far as its possible to be from ‘fun’ and involve dealing with the genuinely borderline-sociopathic (hello, the art world!) or actually turn out to be intensely, tediously mechanical and process-y (hello, videogames!). Still, I concede that there may be some of you reading this who have not yet been ground down to worrying smoothness by LIFE and who might still approach the future with wide-eyed hope and the belief that things CAN get better – in which case (and, er, presuming you like football) this website might be the start of a whole new exciting chapter in your professional career. Getting a (non-playing) job in the football industry is not easy – roles in-house at clubs tend to be rarer than hen’s teeth, and there’s no real guide to what the wider ecosystem around the sport might look like, careers-wise – and so this website, effectively a careers portal for the European football industry, is a great place for anyone who’s interested in pursuing a career in the sport to get a feel for the sorts of roles that are out there. At present there are gigs being advertised working for EA Sports in Sweden, Norwich City FC, Sports Interactive (the people who make Football Manager) and, glamorously, to be  a content manager at Benfica in Portugal. Know anyone who wants to move to Lisbon and make TikToks of footballers?
  • Subconscious: Another week, another new tool which seeks to help with the ORGANISING OF THOUGHTS AND INFORMATION; this, though, feels…very ambitious. Rather than being a sort of personal taxonomical note-taking system a la Evernote or similar, Subconscious is a (still very beta) project which, er, is trying to create what I think can best be described as ‘an internet of ideas’. It doesn’t exist yet, but from what I can glean from the website and having a bit of a poke around the Discord, there’s a BIG CONCEPT here about the creation of a conceptual network of open notes, created by anyone and hyperlinked to develop what might best be understood as a sort of universal knowledge graph (yes, I know, and I’m sorry) – it’s not totally clear how this would practically work, but there’s something quite interesting about the idea of a system that allows for the open linking and concatenation of ideas and concepts in much the same way as you have within Wikipedia, but across the whole web. I appreciate that nothing I have written here really explains what this wants to be – LOOK THIS IS QUITE HARD TO TRY AND EXPLAIN BASED ON LIMITED SOURCE INFORMATION – but if you’re interested in broad concepts of information wrangling and tagging and linking then you could do worse than sign up for updates to this; aside from anything else, the associated newsletter contains quite a lot of interesting writing about how we think and how we organise ideas, should you be in the market for such stuff.
  • The TikTok Effect House: I always forget that TikTok has its own AR tech, like Snap’s but, well, different – now, much like as with Snap’s, anyone can make AR lenses using the TikTok tech thanks to the platform’s ‘Effects House’. This is, based on a cursory poke, actually pretty powerful stuff (broadly comparable with the Snap lens tech, from what I can tell) and the tools available to make stuff look generally user-friendly with a decent degree of hand-holding and explanation as to how they work and how you might deploy them. If you want to experiment with building AR lenses and layers this looks like an interesting place to do so, and has the added benefit of the fact that you’re doing so on a platform that people actually use (yes, I know that the data says that KIDS ALL USE SNAP, but, well, I remain skeptical).
  • Wandrer: I LOVE THIS! Such a great use of Strava integration (the ONLY good use of Strava, imho – YOU ARE NOT ‘KING OF THE ROAD’, TONY, YOU ARE A MIDDLE-AGED MAN FROM SYDENHAM AND YOU LOOK RIDICULOUS IN THAT LYCRA!) to make exploring the bits of your neighbourhood that you don’t know FUN and EXCITING! Basically Wandrer rewards you for exploring the area around you – it’s basically a map app that tracks where you go over time (hence the Strava integration) and which incentivises you to travel down roads you’ve never visited, around neighbourhoods you’ve never seen (much like in videogames), thereby turning your daily walk/cycle/jog/limp into an exploratory journey of discovery and giving you a real sense of accomplishment as your increased curiosity is mapped across your local area and you can see your EXERCISE TENDRILS OF DISCOVERY spreading across the map. This is lovely, a really nice bit of pseudo-gamification, and it feels like something that you could borrow and tweak for all sorts of fun purposes should you be so minded.
  • Fancy Parking: As a non-driver I am still frankly amazed that people I know can drive cars (and, in some cases, that they are allowed to – I am sure this applies to every single person currently alive, but there are a few friends of mine who I am very much convinced should not be given license to command a several-tonne wheeled death machine), and even more when they can do stuff that, to my untrained eyes at least, looks like physics-based witchcraft. As a result I felt a strong degree of empathy with this site, which exists to celebrate the craft of what the site’s creator likes to call ‘fancy parking’ – that is, the practice of parking your car in such a way that when you leave the parking spot you can just drive straight out, no reversing, like some sort of car park Fonz. Anyway, this is a website dedicated, specifically, to the act of parking in reverse – no, really, you’re WELCOME!
  • Pair Up: This is an interesting idea – Pair Up is a virtual meeting place for anyone seeking another mind to bounce creative stuff off, from just asking for feedback to collaborating on projects, effectively like a dating app for people who work in design or UX. “A place for creatives to find and offer their time to others with the goal of sharing, learning and problem solving with each other,” runs the blurb, promising that there are 100s of creative professionals worldwide signed up and waiting to collaborate and work alongside YOU. Create a profile, confirm what you’re working on and what your skills are, and use the site to post requests for help or to discuss projects or simply to browse other people who you might find it interesting or useful to collaborate with – this is in beta but already seems pretty well-populated, and there are people on there from across Europe already, so this could be worth a look should you be feeling creatively solitary.
  • Cliquart: A lovely little site by Philippe Caron from Canada, where he explores concepts around generative art; it’s not been going long, I don’t think, but there is some gorgeous work on there (I am personally a sucker for this sort of highly-mathematical type of work, but the aesthetics here are gorgeous too, even if you don’t particularly care for the high concept) and there are a couple of interesting pieces of writing on the site about how his process works and how he thinks about generative art and the intersection between maths and visuals – this is very much worth a click and explore.
  • Copy Magazine: I didn’t, I confess, have ‘high fashion publishing’ high up on my list of ‘industries set to be fcuked to the point of shattering by the advent of generative AI’, but, having seen Copy Magazine, I am on the verge of revising my opinion. Oh, ok, fine, the fashion crowd isn’t going anywhere JUST yet, and there are obviously some not-insignificant questions as to what the fcuk the POINT of an AI-generated fashion magazine in fact is, but, at the same time, the aesthetic here is…actually pretty much on-point, and it’s interesting quite how ‘right’ much of the imagery looks in terms of fitting in with the prevailing aesthetic of the glossy advertising pamphlets that masquerade as ‘magazines’ in this particular industry. You can’t see the whole magazine on the site – it is, though, on sale as a physical artefact from all the usual online retailers of glossy, limited edition style publications, should you wish to see it up close and personal.

By Keita Morimoto



  • Magic Circle Enquiry: A reader writes! Tiz Cree got in touch this week to share this link and (very politely) request its inclusion in this week’s Curios – in their words, “We are conducting a Public enquiry created by artists to understand the underlying meaning of art and its role in the world and contribute to our collective understanding of art. This poll is all about getting a pluralist perspective on art, and we would forever appreciate your help sharing it in the newsletter (I will forever appreciate it) The poll is short and anonymous, and it will only take a few minutes to complete. The experience is presented as a chatbot asking playful and reflective questions to explore the infinite perspectives of art, its oddities and dilemmas using elements of storytelling and visual novels. The chatbot and the results will be presented in the international event Mind the Gap: Designing residencies for everyone – London Conference 2023. The experiment is not seeking truths but thoughts, perspectives and desires. Some questions may seem subjective and ambiguous; it’s by design.” This is a) really very quick and not particularly onerous, and so will cost you nothing; b) just a nice, pleasing way of gathering data which I think more people could try and replicate. Tizz said that the results will eventually be published online in some sort of fashion, and ‘students from UCL will make something with the results’, so I’ll share any updates as and when I receive them – in the meantime, though, take a moment and do Tizz a favour (imagine that there is some sort of WEB CURIOS COMMUNITY (there isn’t) and that by doing this you’re contributing to it in some sort of small-but-meaningful way).
  • Deck Gallery: I have expended more words than is probably strictly necessary on these digital pages explaining my particular and deep-seated disdain for the term ‘deck’ when applied to slides; I don’t know why it riles me so, although I think at its root is the possibly unfair belief that the term is used solely to mask the fact that, when it comes down to it, a significant proportion of time spend in the ‘creative’ industries is spent MAKING FCUKING POWERPOINTS and if that fact became widely known the pipeline of eager young things wanting to get into advermarketingpr would dry up almost entirely (“no, no, you’ll spend your days making DECKS; nothing like boring old PowerPoints, FAR more exciting. Now fcuk off to Pret, there’s a good kid”). Anyway, for those of you whose reaction to the prospect of making another 70-slide aberration for an audience of semi-interested morons is less ‘kill me now’ and more ‘where do I sign?’, here’s an EXCITING RESOURCE compiled by a produce designer by the name of Muharrem, who writes “Time and again, I found myself lost in endless searches for deck design inspiration. Realising there wasn’t a dedicated hub for this niche, I decided to create one. This platform is a curated collection for those, like me, who seek that perfect deck design spark. If you’ve crafted a deck that you’re proud of, I’d love to spotlight it here.”Now, I have all the visual and design acuity of a spleen, and so I couldn’t really tell you how amazing the designs here collected are – but they seem nice, so perhaps take a look and see for yourself if anything grabs you.
  • Flagfinder: I don’t know why you might need a website that lets you search the world’s flags based on keywords – stripes! Stars! Union jacks! Birds! Colours! – but, well, in case you do, here’s one!
  • Brain Explorer: I don’t know if any of you have read the ‘About’ section of Web Curios (you should, I took literally SECONDS over that copy) but there’s a reference in there to one of the principal preoccupations of this newsletterblogtypething being ‘the unrelenting horror of being made of meat’, and I very much felt that horror again when I came across this frankly-incredible website which lets you EXPLORE THE BRAIN in a variety of different CG cross-sections, and which will give you all sorts of details about what specific bits of your mind-meat are for and what they are meant to do.  I can’t pretend that I understand much about what this is attempting to tell me, but that’s not really the point – I am just slightly awed (and not a little disgusted and freaked out) by the fact that I can look at an accurate representation of the thing that is allowing me to be aware of the fact that I am looking at an accurate representation of it (if you see what I mean).
  • The List of Graphs:You think you know graphs? PAH! Your pies, your bars and your lines – the stuff of AMATEURS! Here we deal solely in Horton Graphs, Moser Graphs and the mysterious Tutte’s Fragment – and a couple of dozen other types of graph whose functions are, honestly, a complete mystery to me (honestly, what the everliving fcuk is this meant to mean? “The Robertson graph is not a vertex-transitive graph and its full automorphism group is isomorphic to the dihedral group of order 24, the group of symmetries of a regular dodecagon, including both rotations and reflections.” – no, life is TOO SHORT) but which look really, really cool, like mad spirographs of DATA. Please can one of you try dropping a casual ‘and of course, we could always visualise this using a Dyck graph’ in a meeting next week and see if anyone challenges you or whether, as I believe is significantly more likely, people just nod blankly in assent? Thanks!
  • Crab Tales Magazine: Do YOU write short stories with a uniquely-crustacean bent? Do YOU struggle to find a home for your fictional tales of cancrine love and lust and pain and woe? Well STRUGGLE NO MORE! This is, as far as I can tell, a real thing, and it is SEEKING SUBMISSIONS! “Crab Tales is a speculative fiction magazine for flash fiction stories about crabs. We are brand new, so we are currently accepting submissions for our first issue!” I have no more information than this but, well, what more could you possibly want? I expect at least one of you to submit something to this, and I will be VERY DISAPPOINTED in you if you don’t.
  • Vases: Via Kristoffer comes this lovely webtoy which lets you create wireframe vases using a series of different sliders to affect the height, shape, curvature, etc – I know you might not think that this SOUNDS fun, but I promise you that you will lose more time than you might expect trying to make something that you might actually want to have in your home. Part of me wishes that it were possible to export the resulting wireframe as a 3d model, as it would be lovely to be able to 3d print the resulting designs to render them real, but this is very soothing and incredibly pleasing nonetheless.
  • Wingnut Toons: This is why the web is wonderful, and why it’s important to preserve it, and why I love it, and, to a small extent, why Web Curios exists. Wingnut Toons is a site that was first created, according to its footer, nearly exactly 26 years ago, on 22 August 1997, by someone known only as ‘Ronn’, and it is…God, it’s amazing, it’s like a time capsule and and a psychological profile all in one. The site’s contents aren’t hugely compelling, fine (unless of course you’ve long been in the market for an exhaustive-if-poorly-designed compendium of every single Hannah Barbera or Scooby Do cartoon ever created), but I genuinely adore every single aspect of it; the design, the ‘legal disclaimer’ copy at the foot of the homepage, the fact that, because of the fact that this will have been built in Dreamweaver or something similar, all of this will have been coded pretty manually and it will have taken MONTHS to compile and arrange, the fact that it is such a huge labour of love for such a vanishingly-niche concern…(Eh? What? Oh), the sense of someone realising that the web was a place where you had infinite space to explore and share your passions, and that you could ‘own’ that place and make it your own, and that there was a whole world of other people, and their ‘places’, to discover…honestly, I find stuff like this almost unbearably poignant and perfect and compelling and boring and sad and beautiful, which is, basically, LIFE. Yes, that’s right, I have just drawn a poorly-considered connection between ‘a hobbyist website about old cartoons’ and ‘the mystery of existence’ – the only way is up, I suppose.
  • Tiny Desk Korea: NPR’s ‘Tiny Desk Concerts’ has been one of the breakout musical content formats of the recent internet era; now they’re launching a separate offshoot of which focuses exclusively on music from Korea. It’s VERY new and so there are only a handful of performances on there, and it’s aimed at a Korean audience as far as I can tell (and so there’s no subtitling of the inter-song chat), but I’ve been listening to the latest performance by an artist called ‘Sunwoojunga’ this morning as I type, and her voice is gorgeous even if I obviously have no idea what her vaguely jazz-lounge-inflected tracks are in fact about. If you’re into Korean music, or if you’d like to see some brilliantly talented artists you may not have heard of from the other side of the world (to me; obviously I have no idea where YOU might be, but this is my newsletter, not yours and so MY EXPERIENCE IS THE ONLY ONE THAT COUNTS) then this is definitely worth bookmarking.
  • The YouTube Video Clock: Hot on the heels of last week’s Song Clock, the Pudding’s Clock Team (not sure if they do in fact have a dedicated ‘clock’ team, but I like to think so) have spun out this variant, which rather than pulling a song whose title features the current time, instead pulls a YouTube video fragment which references the time of day. This is very smart, and pleasingly-batsh1t; the juxtaposition of content and tone and style you get subjected to minute-to-minute is quite dizzying, and elevates this slightly – I could totally see this as a gallery installation, and not a terrible one. 9:34am was just flagged to me with a video about ‘the execution of Irma Grese’, which was a somewhat dark turn from the cheery YouTuber who just a minute earlier was excitedly informing me that it was in fact 9:33am – it’s this sort of breakneck shift from minute-to-minute that really makes this perfect, imho.
  • Numbers: A website listing lots of numbers along with facts about what is special about each. You need to be significantly more comfortable with maths than I am to understand what most of these mean – seriously, can some explain “3780 is a highly abundant number”? Is that…good? – but there are some lovely little numerical factoids in here which even someone as mathematically-illiterate as me found pleasing. Did you know that 8420 is the number of symmetric ways to fold a strip of 20 stamps? NO YOU DIDN’T STOP LYING.
  • Stick Figures In Peril: Via Caitlin comes this superb Flickr album which offers up the most comprehensive selection of stick figures in peril that you will ever see, ever. In case you’re not 100% sure what I’m talking about here, picture a standard ‘warning’ sign from wherever you live – the sort of thing that advises against particular types of activity, like ‘flying your kite near the power lines’ or ‘putting your hand in the meatgrinder’ – and then imagine hundreds of them from across the globe, a seemingly-neverending parade of nervous stick figures in peril, types of peril so varied that you couldn’t possibly conceive of them all (seriously, just a few rows down is one warning against…getting your leg ripped off by some sort of very specialised ski resort machinery? You cannot BEGIN to imagine the variety of potential injuries that you’re going to see here presented). This is GREAT, although I am yet to find my personal favourite example of the genre (it’s the expression on the face that really makes it for me).
  • You Say Potato, I Say Fcuk You: Winner of the coveted ‘Web Curios Best URL Of 2023 (So Far)’ award (prizeless, I’m sorry to say), I don’t really know how to describe this site because, well, I don’t really understand what it is or why it exists. Ok, that’s not strictly true – it is in fact a long-running (15 years!) webproject by artist Clara Bahlsen, to which people contribute photos they have taken of various anthropomorphised objects; these are presented on the site, and you can pick through everything and filter the images to see commonalities of theme and design that emerge…as to why the cursor is a potato, though, I am fcuking baffled.
  • The Lunar Codex: We have a reasonably-rich history of lobbing our art into space in the hope that it will persuade anyone who finds it that we are worth engaging with rather than crushing under the stiletto heel of an alien spaceboot, and the Lunar Codex is the latest attempt to create some sort of lasting artistic legacy for our species in the stars (or, specifically, on the moon). The first part of the project happened last year, but the main bit of it kicks off later in 2023 – to quote the site, the Lunar Codex is “the first significant placement of contemporary arts on the Moon in over fifty years. While focused on visual art, the Lunar Codex also includes a substantial collection of contemporary books, stories, poetry, essays, music, films, and more. Some have called the Lunar Codex a “time machine to the future.” Others have called it the “ultimate anthology,” and referred to it as a “museum on the Moon.” At its essence, the Lunar Codex is a set of time capsules, a message-in-a-bottle to future generations. This website, LunarCodex.com, is the Earth-bound documentation of the project. It details the NASA programs that made it possible, the rockets and lunar landers we launched and landed with, and our time capsules – put together with off-the-shelf and cutting-edge archival technology, and unique technology developed during the project for color and audio preservation and reconstruction. More importantly, this website provides a manifest of the journey – a record of the art, writing, music, and film, that the project has curated and collected – and the contemporary creative artists whose works are celebrated and preserved in the Lunar Codex. Every piece of human creativity in our time capsules is traceable through the manifests.” I LOVE THIS – apart from anything else, there’s a truly global feel to the curation with artists from over 150 nations represented across painting, sculpture, music and letters, and there’s something beautiful and simultaneously hopeful/hopeless about the endeavour which I find personally rather affecting.
  • Devlin McGregor Pharmaceuticals: Do you remember the TV series (and subsequent film) The Fugitive, about a man on the run from the police, framed for a murder he didn’t commit? No, of course not, it’s OLD and you are all YOUNG and THRUSTING and DIGITAL (and also I think most of you are from the UK, and I think it was very much a US phenomenon). Anyway, the film version of the story involved the following plot point, according to Wikipedia: “Kimble’s wife is killed in an attempt on Kimble’s own life (rather than during a robbery attempt, as in the TV series) as the result of a conspiracy involving a pharmaceutical company called Devlin MacGregor, by which the one-armed man is employed” – this website is a terrifyingly-thorough and very real-seeming corporate online presence for that specific fictitious company, and as far as I can tell it’s been made by someone…for fun. WHY? For some reason I find the existence of this site…troubling, though I couldn’t for the life of me explain why that is.
  • Space Invaders Worldwide: Having said a few dozen links back that I didn’t really ‘get’ AR, here I am closing out the miscellanea with a link to an AR app. SOME CONSISTENCY MATT FFS! Yeah, well, BE GRATEFUL because this is actually quite fun, and uses Google’s StreetView-based spatialAI t let you shoot spaceships out of the sky over London (or whichever city you happen to find yourself in, presuming it’s one of the 100 or so that have been properly mapped by the tech). This is…quite fun, and actually really impressive from the point of view of integrating the real-world with the CG visuals, but it does rather suffer from the problem inherent to all AR games, to whit: you look a total tit when playing it, waving your phone around pointed skywards like you’re trying to ward off a hex. Still, this is the best ludic use of AR I’ve seen since Pokemon Go (and that didn’t really need the AR anyway, so doesn’t really count tbh), and you could do worse than give it a try.

By Romain Bernini



  • Real Footage: This Tumblr collects screencaps of content from the corners of the internet obsessed with the paranormal and the SPOOKY, and WOW are there some special comments and headlines here immortalised. I particularly enjoyed the story from the person who SWORE DOWN that they saw their dead grandmother’s corpse emerge from the mouth of an octopus, but frankly there is a lot to love in here.


  • My Hand On Yours: Also via Kristoffer, this one – the Insta feed accompanying the art project of the same name, in which the artist (whose name I couldn’t find) explores ideas of contact and intimacy and online life, making available a digital rendering of their hand which anyone can use to create an image of it ‘touching’ them in some way; this Insta feed collects user-submitted images to the project, so you can see people ‘interacting’ with this digital hand in all sorts of ways; having it rest over theirs, petting their dog, working their mouse, stroking their face…this is odd and strangely beautiful, and you can participate by visiting the project’s main site here and having a play.
  • Sh1t Men: Not in the way you might immediately think – poor the men! – this Insta account collects images of poorly-drawn humanoid figures on roads. Click the link and find ALL your misshapen traffic men needs catered for! Some of these are so half-ar$ed that they are practically art.


  • Uncertainty and Climate Change: Apologies for once again leading on a longread which focuses on the climate emergency; on the other hand, though, it is…well it is an *emergency*, so perhaps we all ought to be focusing on it a little more? Anyway, this is an excellent (if quite chewy in places – or at least for me, due the extent to which it centres around questions of probability; those of you less maths-handicapped than me might find it a breeze) article by Geoff Mann in the LRB, about the models we are currently employing to work out What Should Be Done as regards mitigating the effects of our existence, and the reasons why statistical probability is an imperfect tool when trying to formulate courses of action in this specific situation. This isn’t by any stretch a ‘hopeless’ piece so much as it is a sensible one, and it helped me think through quite a lot of questions about ‘how predictive models work’ and ‘what we are trying to achieve when we think of the future through the lens of probabilities’ – you can get a feel for the overall tenor of the piece from this extract, but it really is worth reading for any of you with an interest in stats or prediction or, you know, THE FATE OF THE FCUKING PLANET: “increasing or decreasing the complexity of the models provides no answer to the fundamental question of how we can calculate anything at all when there are so many known unknowns, to say nothing of the ‘unknown unknowns’. You can’t solve an equation in which one of the key parameters is undefined: there is no meaningful solution to 2 x we’re-not-sure. One way to deal with this uncertainty is to choose a value or ‘point estimate’ that accords with common wisdom or the modeller’s best guess. But many dynamics have a range of possible outcomes, and the uncertainties are often so extreme that this practice is difficult to justify. Take, for example, the rate of economic growth. Setting aside the fact that different regions will continue to experience growth at very different rates, ‘expert’ estimates of the average annual global growth rate range between 0.5 per cent and 3.5 per cent across the next 75 years. You could simply pick, say, a figure of 2 per cent and run the model, but that will drastically narrow the usefulness of the results. An alternative might be to run it multiple times using a range of values then average the results, but that’s to assume all the values are equally probable, which is highly unlikely. The struggle is to find a sweet spot between illusory exactitude and unhelpful handwaving.” BONUS ORTHOGONALLY-RELATED CONTENT!: this is a piece that’s ostensibly about ‘futures thinking’ and the inherent limitations of the discipline and the models it employs, and while it’s not exactly an overlapping text it does cover some similar ground in terms of the way it thinks of prediction as a science (or, more accurately, ‘art’).
  • The End of the Googleverse: Ryan Broderick writes for The Verge about the end of an era (or at least the potential beginning of the end of an era) – the sociocultural dominance of Google and the power of ‘search’ to shape society. This is a really good read that not only does a decent job of charting the company’s rise and development, but also of examining the question of the extent to which Google really can be said to have meaningfully shaped large parts of the web and online culture (and, as an extension, offline culture and human behaviour/thought) – something which Google has always been at pains to deny (after all, as a quoted Googler says somewhere in the piece, search is downstream of culture), but which, as Ryan persuasively argues, is possibly a simplistic reading of the extent to which ‘thinking of the world as something that can be indexed and ranked and retrieved; was a fundamental change in the way we conceived of things. This is generally great, but a particular treat for those of you who can still remember The Before Times, and who know what an AltaVista is.
  • The Anything Tool: Another excellent explainer about ‘How GPT Works’, which does a really good job of taking the reader through the basics of the tech, the ways in which the launch of ChatGPT was transformative, and which (most importantly, to my mind) does a really good job of explaining how and why the most interesting things you can do with these tools involve their ability to effectively draw ‘conceptual’ (the wrong word, but bear with me) links between disparate bits of data, and how multimodal generative AI is likely to be really interesting from the point of view of innovative use-cases. It also scores points (from me at least) by effectively ending by comparing the tech to spreadsheets, which is a comparison I am increasingly fond of and which is helpful in countering a lot of the ‘CREATIVE MAGIC’ snake oil you will doubtless be getting bombarded with on the daily.
  • AI Images: Not a longread so much as a (series of) longwatch(es), this is an incredible resource for anyone who REALLY wants to get into the science (and maths) behind generative AI for image creation. Honestly, if you are serious about learning about this stuff – not just making stuff, but BUILDING stuff, or thinking about how it gets built – then this is fcuking GOLD DUST: “Critical Topics: AI Images was an undergraduate class delivered for Bradley University in Spring 2023. It was an overview of the emerging contexts of AI art making tools that connected media studies and histories of new media art, with data ethics and critical data studies. Through this multidisciplinary lens, we examined current events and debates in AI and generative art, with students thinking critically about these tools as they learned to use them. They were encouraged to make work that reflected the context and longer history of these tools. As a final project, students collected 500-1000 of their own images, cleaning them to create a unique, personalized dataset. Then, using RunwayML, they extended StyleGAN2’s training data with their datasets to create a custom generative model. Along the way, we discussed the politics of image assembly and archives, the human labor of datasets and content moderation, and more. The course included interviews with AI artists from a variety of perspectives. Students responded to each with short essays highlighting the diversity of thoughts and opinions about what AI art means, how it is made, and the ethics that surround it. This website collects all of the asynchronous video lectures, alongside works referenced in the lectures. Guest lectures and artist talks are also archived, with permission.”
  • Immersive Himalayan Cultural Heritage (With AI): I very much enjoyed this – it’s the first in what I hope will be a series of essays in which Mrinali Singha explains the work she’s doing with various bits of AI-enabled worldbuilding kit to try and create an interactive avatar who can be used to embody the qualities and life experiences and ‘personality’ of a ‘typical’ Himalayan farmer – this is the first in a planned diary detailing her process and practice, the tools she’s using it how it all works, and I am fascinated to see how it comes together; there’s something really interesting about the marriage of this sort of hi-tec kit and the very old-school, semi-anthropological nature of Singha’s artistic practice – in her words, she’s ‘an artist and creative technologist from Himachal Pradesh in the Western Himalayan region of India” and has “been actively exploring immersive technologies and experimental methods for cultural preservation and engagement in the region…writing this piece with the hope of sharing some of the excitement in the field of creative technology and to make it accessible for cultural archivists to perhaps try out with their own projects.’ So interesting, and a tiny glimpse of the potential applications of this sort of avatar-ish tech.
  • How Midjourney Reads a Mugshot: Eryk Salvaggio fed That Fcuking Man’s mugshot to Midjourney’s ‘describe’ function to see what prompts emerged – the resulting article, explaining what The Machine said and trying to parse *why* it said it, is a genuinely interesting read, and one of the more involved explorations of how and why certain tags work the way they do within latent space (with the obvious caveat that, of course, NOONE ACTUALLY KNOWS!). I particularly enjoyed the closing thoughts about algorithmic hauntology and his concept of ‘seance as politics’ inherent in the creation and classification of this sort of digital imagery.
  • Carbon Offsets: You may find this a surprising revelation, but I can be…quite a cynical person – I KNOW, RIGHT? As part of this charming persona (so tired, so tired of myself) I have for years rejected the concept of ‘carbon credits’ out of hand as being an obvious con designed to allow brands, businesses and individuals to keep behaving exactly as they please, just as long as they can afford to throw enough money at a system that DEFINITELY mitigates the cost of their actions; this article in Vox actually does the proper journalistic work of trying to work out if, and if so to what extent, they actually do what they purport to do in terms of ‘offsetting’ the carbon cost of your actions. You may be surprised to learn that the answer is IT’S COMPLICATED – whilst it’s possible that my blanket derision of the whole idea as ‘an obvious scam, you rubes’ has been a bit harsh, it’s also quite clear from the piece that there is, at best, something of a lack of clarity over the exact validity of how credits are calculated, and how offsets can be meaningfully assessed, and there is obviously a LOT of ‘creative accounting’ happening here from an environmental perspective, designed to make the system look as effective as possible whilst at the same time making it very difficult to meaningfully interrogate. Read the piece and come to your own conclusions – personally, though, I find it hard to disagree with this perspective: “if it is so difficult to explain that carbon credits have integrity, it’s equally hard to feel much confidence that these abstract instruments are shifting the climate dial.”
  • What Happened In 2012?: If you listen to a particular type of person, certainly in the UK, you may well get the impression that 2012 was the high point of human civilisation (“THE OPENING CEREMONY OF THE ‘LYMPICS!”, they will moan, weeping openly in reminiscence, “WHEN ALL OF BRITAIN SIMULTANEOUSLY ORGASMED IN RED, WHITE AND BLUE AND WE ALL CAME TOGETHER REGARDLESS OF COLOUR OR CREED!”) – according to this piece, though, 2012 was also a year in which A LOT OF WEIRD STUFF STARTED HAPPENING. I really enjoyed this (although part of me does wonder whether you could basically pick ANY year with enough data around it and find a bunch of datapoints that shift markedly from that point on), although it does rather feel like there is a single answer to the question of ‘what happened?’ and that is, basically, ‘2012 was sort of the tipping point for the modern internet and a significant majority of the Western world suddenly, thanks to smartphones and high-quality, high-bandwidth connectivity, started spending LOADS more time on it than they did previously’ – it’s…fascinating and not a little worrying to look at all the things that changed pretty much as a direct result of this shift (and not necessarily for the better, it may surprise you to know).
  • Dynamic Shops: Matt Webb’s thoughts are always worth reading, and this – on his recent experience of ‘dynamic shopfronts’ in a service station – is no exception; this is SUCH an interesting series of observations and questions around retail and physical space and the time it takes to innovate and and and. This isn’t super-long, but it will make you think about LOADS of things (and, for once, none of them are unpleasant!).
  • The Met Museum in Roblox: This is that rarest of things – a ‘metaverse’-y activation that doesn’t absolutely stink! Yes, ok, fine, it’s videogames rather than ‘the metaverse’ (although I maintain that they are basically the same thing tbh), but it’s still a really smart bit of work by the Metropolitan Museum in New York, which has partnered with Roblox to create a really fun way to persuade kids to engage with the museum’s contents. Visitors to the Met can download a new app, which directs them around the exhibits using AR, and encourages them to scan specific items using their phones, which unlocks both new information about the artefacts AND (and this is the cool bit) gives you an ACTUAL BIT OF DIGITAL CLOTHING YOU CAN USE IN-GAME! This, honestly, is SUCH a nice idea and a really smart execution, and I am genuinely impressed – in particular when you compare it to the British Museum’s latest forays into this space, which apparently involve ‘NFT collectibles and a dedicated space in The Sandbox’ (although on the plus side, at least noone’s going to want to steal those! Eh? Eh? Jesus, tough crowd).
  • The Broken Promise of NFTs: I don’t know if you paid enough attention to the frothy NFT art bubble of 2021 to remember that one of the promises inherent to the boom was that the tech guaranteed that artists could derive income from ongoing sales of their work thanks to the MAGIC OF ON-CHAIN TECHNOLOGY, and that the smart contracts built into the NFT meant that the original creator of the jpeg would get a cut of any future sale price that said jpeg fetched on the secondary market…did you? Do you remember? Well, no matter, because, er, they scrapped that! Yeah, actually, turns out that artists who sold an NFT now WON’T in fact get any crypto kickbacks if said work inexplicably sells again – thereby neatly removing literally the only reason I can think of that anyone might still look halfway-favourably on the medium. This isn’t a longread – sorry! – but I thought it worth flagging as the final nail in the racistmonkeys.jpeg coffin.
  • How VICE Became a Saudi Propaganda Machine: In 2001 I was doing my MSc at the LSE, and I was friends with a Canadian guy on my course called Chris Camp – he’s now a violently rich corporate lawyer somewhere, I think, but back in the day he was…significantly less straight-laced, and I spent quite a lot of time doing drugs with him and his cousin and, occasionally, another Canadian kid called Chris who used to work for VICE back in Montreal when it really was an underground concern, and who used to tell all these wonderful stories about how MAD AND GONZO it all was (but, mainly, about the industrial quantities of blow that everyone would apparently get through). Anyway, that’s by way of preamble to this piece in Novara by Simon Childs (himself ex-Editor of VICE UK’s News section) which details the extent to which what remains of the former enfant terrible of Western lifestyle media is now basically a sponcon factory for Saudi Arabia and the extent to which that is impacting on editorial (insofar as it still exists). On the one hand, this is a sad footnote in the decline of a genuine media phenomenon of the early-21stC; on the other, it’s also just another story of how, in the end, everyone becomes fat and bald and sells out (HI CHRIS CAMP, IF YOU GOOGLE YOURSELF!).
  • Exploring Exif: OK, fine, this is QUITE technical, and I appreciate that most of you didn’t wake up this morning thinking ‘you know what, I would LOVE to read several thousand words detailing the exact sorts of metadata that gets attached to photographs and what you might do with that data if you were so minded’ (although if you did then please do let me know as I would like to celebrate this small act of psychic connection in some way), but, well, here we are. Read this, look at all the FRANKLY INSANELY GRANULAR data that your phone collects each time you snap a pic, and then start thinking about how you can use this for FUN PURPOSES. If nothing else, I quite like the idea of a ‘phonecam top trumps’ game where you and a mate upload photos and try and beat each others specific data values but, well, as you can tell from that p1ss-poor idea I am neither a game designer or in fact any sort of creative whatsoever, and I am sure you can do MUCH better.
  • Everything In Cooking Videos Now: I very much enjoyed this NYT piece on the evolution of the cooking video in the age of TikTok; if nothing else it’s a really good primer on the preferred visual language of the day when it comes to food (and, frankly, video more generally) – in particular, the breakdowns of the different prevailing styles employed were fascinating, not least the note about a 33s video employing over 40 different shots, which is frankly insane.
  • The Fan-Made Spiderverse: I genuinely had no idea that fan-made Spiderman films were such a big deal, but, according to this piece (also NYT) they very much are – to the extent that a recent crowdfunded example of the genre ended up with a six-figure budget. The article looks at the controversy around that specific film, but that’s the least-interesting bit of it (the controversy: the guy who made it said Bad Things On The Internet in the past, basically; oh, and there’s a bit of ‘it’s not a fanfilm if you raised six figures to make it’ gatekeeping, but, as I said, not that interesting per se); far more curious is the wider SpiderFanVerse ecosystem that exists on YouTube and that this alludes to, and that you can find yourself stumbling into via a few hyperlinks in the piece and which OH MY GOD IT’S SO PURE. Honestly, I don’t think you will find anything this weekend as perfect and lovely as the YouTube rabbithole of ‘kids from all over the world making shonky-but-heartfelt superhero films and putting them on the internet’.
  • An Oral History of Cyberdog: When I was a child and used to go clubbing, my genre of preference was psytrance (literally the least cool flavour of techno in the world, there, beloved of white people with dreads and dogs on strings, the Israelis and the people of Oxford, and, seemingly, NOONE ELSE) and I had a couple of ‘outfits’ that I would wear (I am once again infinitely grateful for the fact that this predated ubiquitous digital photography by several years), one of which included a tshirt from famed purveyor of silly-looking rave outfits in Camden Town, Cyberdog (I thought it made me look INCREDIBLY COOL; in fact, it made me look like a special needs person being indulged by their carers); about 15 years later, I did a one-person immersive theatre thing called ‘You Once Said Yes’, one part of which saw me dancing for five solid minutes on one of the in-store podiums there (stone cold sober, at approximately 3pm on a Friday afternoon – still get slight cold sweats at the memory tbh); all this is to say that this is a shop that MEANS SOMETHING to me, which is why this profile in Time Out made me so happily nostalgic – there will be some of you who will feel much the same way (I hope; please tell me that I’m not the only person who liked psytrance and overlarge trousers).
  • Juggalos: Every few years you get a piece cropping up about ‘The Gathering of the Juggalos’, the annual get together of Insane Clown Posse fans which basically sounds like Reading Festival, if Reading Festival were exclusively attended by the people who work the itinerant fairgrounds of North America – this is another, but is distinguished by the fact that the author here, Micco Caporale, is themselves a (new-ish) Juggalo and so writes from the perspective of a semi-insider rather than an observer. All the classic ICP tropes are here – Outsiders! Faygo! Tolerance! A surprisingly-progressive attitude to race and gender! – but it’s an unusually comprehensive and warm picture; I think I would enjoy the Gathering a lot more than I would Burning Man tbh, based on this piece (although I think I would find the people TERRIFYING).
  • How They Tried To Kill Me: It’s not often you read someone dispassionately recounting how they were the subject of attempted murder by poisoning by the Russian secret services (mostly because, well, they’re dead), but that’s exactly what Elena Kostyuchenko does in this remarkable piece. Kostyuchenko was a journalist at Novaya Gazeta, a Russian paper, when war broke out; the paper’s critical stance of the invasion led to its being closed down shortly after war broke out, by Kostyuchenko went to Mariupol to follow the story anyway, and then ended up in Germany seeking refuge and safety from Russia. And then she was poisoned. This is properly terrifying, mad John Le Carre’ stuff, except, you know, real – the bravery here recounted, and in writing this followup piece detailing her experience, is astonishing.
  • Roddick:I wonder whether there’s something about two-person sports that means they produce the best writing – boxing, famously, has inspired some classic prose from some incredible figures, as has bullfighting (not, I appreciate, a ‘sport’ per se, and not technically ‘two person’, but, well, you get what I mean, right?), as has tennis – this portrait of 90s US tennis star Andy Roddick is up there with the best sports profiles I’ve ever read, and I say that as someone with a vanishingly tiny interest in the sport. Seriously, this almost made me cry – ok, fine, I am somewhat emotionally vulnerable these days but, honestly, it is GLORIOUS and you will come away thinking that Andy Roddick may be your new favourite sportsperson.
  • Daddy Issues: Finally this week, an interview between Robert Kazandijan and Gabriel Krauze in Huck Magazine, about masculinity and fatherhood; Krauze wrote the Booker-longlisted ‘Who They Was’ a few years back (which, if you haven’t read it, is astonishing and one of the best debuts I have ever read) and this transcribed chat covers his and Kazandijan’s thoughts on fatherhood and masculinity and growing up, and…look, I don’t really understand why this is, but I have, as a general rule, very little interest in ‘man’ things, in the concept of ‘masculinity’ or in interrogating it particularly hard (I presume this is as a result of being brought up by a single woman, or because my dad, bless him, has all the emotional openness and availability of a whelk – pretty sure he doesn’t read this, although, er, if he does, SORRY DAD BUT YOU KNOW IT’S TRUE) although it might just be basic incuriosity on my part), and I am never going to have kids and so don’t have any big feelings on fatherhood, and yet this moved me more than I could ever have expected and in ways I can’t quite explain. You really don’t need to be a ‘man’ to read or enjoy this, by the way.

By Michele Poirier Mozzone