I don’t know about you, but this week I have been attempting to distract myself from The Bad Stuff by imagining what it must be like to be former tennis champion and all-round famous German Boris Becker, now doing bird in HMP Wandsworth. Do you reckon Boris is a dab hand at table tennis? Do you think, if you were him, you might start throwing a few matches to make sure that previous wing champion ‘Mad’ Andy doesn’t get the hump? Will he start training the lags? Will the prison tennis team enjoy previously-unimagined success under the tutelage of their demanding-but-deeply-human star coach? Will he quickly get very, very tired of the fact that everyone will inevitably make a lot of jokes about incredibly-fast-paced broomcupboard fcuking at him every day?
Basically what I am saying here is that ‘former Wimbledon Champion ends up in a low-security prison – hilarity ensues’ feels like a GOLDEN TV pitch, so if any of you fancy spending the weekend knocking this up then that wold be great, thanks.
Anyway, that’s the pointless preamble that noone reads done and dusted – now on with the words and links that, er, noone reads!
I am still Matt, this is still Web Curios, and if any of those of you in England happened to vote for the Conservative Party in yesterday’s elections then I would like you to please fcuk off and stop reading my newsletterblogtypething please.
By I-Chuan Lee
THE SECTION WHICH IS INCREASINGLY CONSIDERING GETTING A TATTOO THAT SIMPLY READS ‘LOG OFF’ ON THE BACK OF EACH HAND, PT.1:
- Peeled Maps: Do you have tattoos? It seems probable – every fcuker has ink these days, to the point where being tatt-free is more of a standout quality in a person than having full head-to-toe work covering every available centimetre of dermis. Presumably if you have you’ve also spent significant hours contemplating the beauty of your work – the barbed wire-esque tribal bicep piece that flashes you right back to Formentera 1998, the ‘Heaven This Way’ arrow in the small of your back that speaks to one crazy night in Doncaster…ah, the memories! It’s perhaps less likely, though, that you’ve spent a similar amount of time contemplating other people’s skin galleries, unless you’re either in an intimate relationship with a heavily-decorated individual or you simply have no care whatsoever for social niceties and personal boundaries. Which is why Peeled Maps is so interesting – it’s a website project by one David Schieffer which lets anyone submit photos of their tatts and then stitches them together into a navigable landscape which you can move your camera around to your heart’s content, letting you peruse the various lines and curlicues of others’ work at leisure. It also – and it’s quite important to be clear about this, I think – very much makes you feel like you’re standing in a striplit basement staring at the skins of the victims of a particularly-skilled serial killer; honestly, whilst the website maintains that all of these scans have been submitted by the owners of the skin in question, and there’s no suggestion whatsoever that everyone featured was the victim of some sort of horrific ritual murder, it’s also undeniably very creepy to WASD your way across someone’s skin like this. Still, it’s also super-interesting, not least in terms of the way it changes the way you think of skin – this really is ‘body as canvas’ stuff, and it’s fascinating. Do click through into the ‘archive’ section and have an explore – there’s one particular scan in there which features a subject’s stomach and upper thighs, and which features what is possibly the single most-upsetting depiction of a rendered penis I have ever seen in my life (no, you’re welcome!).
- The Merzmench Dall-E Gallery: More fun with computer-imagined images! This is a 3d gallery space curated by Merzmench, a digital artist and someone who’s been OpenAI’s ‘Community Ambassadors’ programme for a couple of years, and therefore has been able to play around with Dall-E2 for a while; they have created this online gallery space in Spatial, which you can now explore to see some of the outputs of their Dall-E2 noodling (or, if you don’t fancy wandering around a 3d gallery space – which, fine, I can totally understand, you can instead read this writeup of his experiments with the tool here). I am sure that at some point I will stop being amazed by the quality of these outputs, but not yet – this is still at the ‘fcuk me I cannot believe that this was created by a machine, in seconds, based on a few simple prompts’. Strolling around the space you get a sense of the stylistic range the machine is capable of, as well as of the pleasingly-esoteric ways in which it interprets the prompts its fed with – I am particularly in love with its output for “Renaissance Painting as a First Person Shooter”, but I encourage you to walk around it and see what grabs your attention – and look, I know I am boringly repetitive about this, but it’s worth popping over to DeviantArt or another online creators’ forum after you’ve spent some time with this to see whether or not the majority of the human-created output you’ll find over there is discernibly better (spoiler: it is not!). BONUS DALL-E2 CONTENT! Holly Herndon and Matthew Dryhurst have also been playing with the machines, with a slightly different focus, and have been creating some equally-wonderful works – the interesting thing about their explorations is the software’s ability to extrapolate from, and therefore extend, existing works, and the opportunity it affords for centaur-ish human/machine hybrid collabs, and I once again come back to the thought I half-explored last week about the degree to which ‘person who is good at interfacing with these sorts of online systems in ways that result in high-quality and interesting outputs’ really is going to be a viable skill in not-very-long-at-all. Oh, and if you happen to be in the market for a (slightly-technical) explainer of how the software does its thing, you can find one here.
- Smile: Do you remember Kreayshawn? I do, although tbh I can’t quite tell you why – fine, her track ‘Gucci Gucci’ was a memetic sensation for a few weeks (maybe longer) a decade or so ago, but I hadn’t thought about her or her work at all til this cropped up this week and made me gently happy. Smile is Kraeyshawn’s new Geocities-inspired microsite which features a mid-00s web aesthetic, a host of hyperpop mixtapes (I managed about three minutes of one of them before my nose started to bleed, which frankly is exactly as it should be – I am 42 years old, and it would be…wrong were I to enjoy this stuff, probably), and, should you take the time to click around all the stickers and labels and stuff, some surprisingly-deep spelunking to be done amongst the assorted mazelike hyperlinks. There’s a lot of stuff in here, and I like the fact that there’s little to no explanation of what the fcuk any of it is or why it exists. Incredibly-dense and aesthetically-challenging personal websites are the new Facebook Pages – YOU READ IT HERE FIRST, KIDS (not first at all)!
- Sharaf Rashidov: I’d like to caveat this link with the fact that I confess to not having done the deepest due-diligence dive into the history of Mr Rashidov, and whilst I don’t think they were some sort of monster with Terrible Beliefs and who did Terrible Things, there’s not exactly a wealth of readily-available information online and so I’d like to pre-emptively apologise if I’ve missed someone and am inadvertently linking to a website celebrating someone who, I don’t know, skinned babies for fun. Sharaf Rashidov was the First Secretary of the Communist Party of Uzbekistan, in charge for several decades before his death in 1983, and this site is a tribute to his life and works and achievements, and OH MY GOD is it literally the most-Soviet-Era thing I have seen in a long time. There’s just something about the way in which English scans when translated from Russian or another Slavic language that lends everything a sort of terminal profundity, an impression reinforced by the copy here which is VERY KEEN on ensuring you’re convinced of Rashidov’s unique genius at every possible moment. STATESMAN! LEADER! POET! HORSEMAN! Honestly, I think rather than a gravestone or plaque on a bench (Vauxhall Gardens, opposite the model village, please, with copy reading “Matt hated it here”) what I really want as a postmortem tribute is a heavily-parallaxed site which features copy along the lines of “Matt’s achievements as a prose stylist were matched only by his skills as a lover”. My light snarking aside, this is a really nicely-made website and Rashidov obviously had a life of incredible significance to the history of the Uzbek people – but, er, if he was some sort of Communist-era monster of genocide, corruption and horror, do let me know and I will respectfully delete the link.
- Spark: Are people planning on trying to get laid this Summer? I know that this time last year all the talk was of THE MAD HORMONAL RUSH of the first post-pandemic sunshine season (which didn’t end up happening due to the fact that a) the pandemic was in no way ‘post’; and b) we had all forgotten how to deal with each other in three dimensions), but how are we feeling this time around? Are you ready to GET BACK OUT THERE? Presuming the answer to that question is ‘yes! Oil me up and slide me right up you!’ then you may find Spark and interesting addition to the app hellscape – it’s basically Grindr for straights (as far as I can tell), with a standard ‘judge and swipe’ mechanic plus an additional layer of hyperlocalised search, so you can quickly and easily see who’s within a 15 minute distance and fancies a drink/frot/fist (delete as applicable). “On Spark, we show you users who are closest to you. It’s like being at the bar and scanning the room, except on Spark, you know who’s single, and you don’t have to leave the house. With Spark, everyone nearby is laid out in front of you so you can see who catches your eye, learn more about them, and spark up a conversation. Once you send a Spark, that person has 24 hours to spark you back or send you a message.” Depending on your perspective that will either sound like a smartly-efficient way of finding new people to bone in your local area or a hideously-dehumanising conveyorbelt of fcuk – YOU DECIDE!
- The World Regret Survey: I am slightly disappointed that I am only discovering this now that there’s a book coming out – still, the internet is not a race (it is), and this is still an interesting project which is worth a look. “Regrets are a universal part of the human experience. All of us have something we wish we had done differently – or some action we wish we had taken or not taken. For the last 18 months, author Daniel Pink has been collecting regrets from all over the world. So, far more than 19,000 people from 105 countries have contributed. Would you be willing to participate? The simple survey takes about 3 minutes. Your responses are anonymous. And we think you’ll find the experience interesting and meaningful.” Which is great but, well, look, I know and you know that the real meat here is in reading other people’s submissions and regrets, and let me assure you that this does not disappoint. You can select by country and dive in to read tiny vignettes of lost hope and failure and, honestly, I know I sound like a ghoul right now, but this is less about riffing on others’ pain and more about the vague sense of solidarity that one feels when confronted with the imperfect reality of others’ lived experiences. I promise you that you will feel marginally better about things after flicking through a few of these (but also, fine, possibly a bit sad), and if you’re in the market for it then there’s probably quite a lot of good life advice you can glean here (based on one regret I’ve just read, for example, GO TO THE DOCTOR AFTER PULLING A MUSCLE IN YOUR GROIN). Poignant and slightly-sad and a bit lovely.
- Learn Synths: A while ago I featured a site in here called ‘Learn Music’, which was a beginners’ guide to making electronic music produced by the clever music software people at Ableton – this is like that, but specifically for synths, and it is SO nicely-made and a joy to play around with. Honestly, just click the link and have a little play with the initial interactive slider that lets you generate synthsounds with varying pitch and tone as you move your mouse – see? It’s GREAT. Each page introduces another element of how a synthesiser works (or more practically, what you can do with it), and the way the interactive elements are arranged is just lovely – simple and clear and intuitive, and, crucially, fun. This is so, so well-built, and even if you’re not interested in playing around with sound effects like you’re in the BBC Radiophonics Workshop circa 1962 (and if you’re not, what’s wrong with you?) then I promise you’ll still enjoy the site.
- Manor DAO: Sorry, but it’s crypto again. Still, at the very least it’s not ANOTHER PFP project – this is instead a ‘token as access key’ play, which interestingly (to me, at least), is being run by the people behind Poolside.fm (and Vacation, the sunscreen brand). I find this company really, really interesting from a brand creation point of view – if you recall, Poolside.FM was a web radio project from (originally) 2014, whose whole original thing was ‘music with a vaguely vaporwave vibe attached to it’; Poolside was a much-loved fringe web staple which was resurrected a few years back and spun out to create real world product in the shape of Vacation, its (very well-marketed) sunscreen brand (which you will OF COURSE recall from Curios passim) – now Poolside is Poolsuite and has gotten into NFTs (OBVS), one element of which pivot is the newly-announced ManorDAO, which, as far as I can tell, is a Chateau Marmont-aspirational…hotel? Timeshare? Airbnb? CREATIVE COMMUNITY? Who knows! But it’s a DAO, and you need a Poolsuite NFT to potentially get access to it. On the one hand, this is literally just a rich person’s club which requires you to buy a stupid NFT to access it, and as such isn’t particularly interesting at all; on the other, I find the expansion of the Poolside/Poolsuite thing interesting and curious and slightly-emblematic of quite a few convergent trends in brandbuilding (God, sorry, what a hateful sentence!), and I am curious to see what these people do next (bracket this alongside MSCHF, in my head at least).
- The Tandem Shower: Showering with someone else is not, in my experience, all it’s cracked up to be. You never get as much water on you as you’d like, elbows and knees abut awkwardly (and I have very sharp elbows), and, despite what countless cinematic moments might have indicated, it is not in general a ‘sexy’ experience (perhaps, though, that’s simply what it’s like showering with me – maybe your experiences have been significantly more erotic. Maybe it’s all my fault!). Nonetheless, if you’re convinced that the only thing standing between you and true happiness and personal self-actualisation is the ability to have a comfortable shower at the same time as someone else then perhaps you will add your pennies to the frankly-staggering £600k (I will never understand crowdfunding) collected by this Kickstarter project, which promises to let you turn any standard, dull, solo shower into an exciting, sexy two-person ablution experience. This, to be clear, looks rubbish – sorry, but it really does, like those crappy setups that you get in rental properties where the landlord’s too cheap to install a shower and so you just have to sit in the tub, miserably dribbling too-hot water onto your skull from a pair of rubber hose attachments jammed onto the taps – but I am grudgingly-impressed by the sheer volume of copy that they have managed to pull together to describe what is (let’s be honest) a literal piece of rubber tubing with a showerhead attached to it. Hang on, I have just checked the RRP – $350?!?! Everyone is a fcuking moron.
- Occlusion Grotesque: “Occlusion Grotesque is an experimental typeface that is carved into the bark of a tree. As the tree grows, it deforms the letters and outputs new design variations, that are captured annually. The project explores what it means to design with nature and on nature’s terms…It all starts with the handover from the designer to the tree by tracing and carving an initial typeface. Conceptually this initial type design refers to the desire for control, a man-made almost mechanical sans-serif typeface in high contrast within the natural environment. The tree is now left untouched for a year, where the natural processes such as occlusion begin. A tree’s occlusion is the process whereby a wound – or in this case carvings – is progressively closed by the formation of new wood and bark.” This is beautiful; I rather like the idea of this technique as a means of creating one’s own bespoke organic typeface, but appreciate that it’s probably not a great idea from the point of view of arboreal husbandry to go around cutting letters into trees willy-nilly.
- Prismatic Ground: “Prismatic Ground is a New York festival centered on experimental documentary. Hosted by Maysles Documentary Center and media partner Screen Slate, the festival will plan to hold its first physical edition May 4-8, 2022 (with a virtual component). We seek work that pushes the formal boundaries of non-fiction in the spirit and tradition of experimental filmmaking. This “spirit” is somewhat amorphous, undefinable, and open to interpretation, but refers to work that engages with its own materiality, privileges a heightened artistic experience over clear meaning, and/or conveys a liberatory political sensibility in the agitprop tradition.” This is the website accompanying the festival, on which you can watch all the works from each day of the event in the comfort of your own home (or indeed anywhere you like) – I have only skimmed the selection, but what I’ve seen has been…interesting, although very much at the ‘art’ end of the spectrum (you’re not going to get much MCU-level entertainment here, is the takeaway).
- How Is Felix Today?: The concept of the quantified self is hoary and old now, fine, but it’s always interesting to see people who are taking said quantification to extremes, as in the case of Felix Krause who has for the past few years been collecting an insane amount of data about himself and is now making it all available via this website. “Back in 2019, I started collecting all kinds of metrics about my life. Every single day for the last 2.5 years I tracked over 100 different data types – ranging from fitness & nutrition to social life, computer usage and weather,” writes Felix, and the website How Is Felix Today? offers you the chance to explore that data, to really get to know Felix via his sleeping patterns and his gym regime and the places he’s lived and what he’s eaten so far today and his booze consumption and and and and OH MY SO MUCH FELIX! This is obviously utterly-unhinged (I think Felix would agree that he is an…atypical, and slighltly-type-A individual) but, equally, sort-of incredible; aside from the personal voyeuristic appeal of seeing someone’s life dissected in this sort of way, there’s a fascinating series of side-thoughts that occur when you consider how much you could do with this sort of data if it was collected for everyone (NB – not all of these side thoughts are necessarily positive ones). I am slightly disappointed to note that the only area of his existence which Felix appears unwilling to share data on is his sex life – WHERE IS THE EJACULODATA, FELIX? I feel we’re missing a potentially vital datapoint here.
- Dumpling Delivery: Look, I don’t really understand exactly why overpriced mailer software peddlers Mailchimp have seen fit to create a small browsergame in which you attempt to play minigolf with dumplings, but, well, they have, so we may as well make the best of it. Actually this is quite fun and nicely-presented, and is worth ten minutes of your time while you wait for dinner (it will make you hungry, sorry – or maybe it’s just me. God I could murder some decent non-Italian food).
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- Address Pollution: If you live in the UK, this website will let you input your postcode and get data on the air quality in your local area – and, when you inevitably discover that said air quality is depressingly-low, lets you sign a petition to complain about it. On the one hand, this is almost really excellent use of public data for digital campaigning purposes – it’s personalisable, it uses Google Maps integration to give you a proper ‘wow, this is where I live!’ vibe about the results it throws up, which makes it all the more hard-hitting when you discover that little Johnny’s lungs are set to resemble those of a Victorian sweep if someone doesn’t do something about the diesel emissions in your postcode. On the other, WHY A PETITION? This is a real bugbear of mine, so please bear with my while I rant – ONLINE PETITIONS ARE USELESS! THEY ARE IN NO WAY BINDING ON THE BODY POLITIC IN ANY MEANINGFUL SENSE! THEY ARE TEN A PENNY AND SIMPLE TO IGNORE! By the time you’ve built something that lets you plug in your postcode and get local data, you can also then really easily bake in an automatic ‘email your local MP with a complaint about this thing’ mechanic, which is significantly more likely to make said MP (or, more accurately, the poor fcuker in their office tasked with triageing their correspondence) take otice. Trust me on this, as someone who was briefly responsible for an MP’s mailbox, you really do notice when you start getting hundreds of bits of correspondence on a single issue. Sorry, that was…unusually serious and work-focused, won’t happen again – but, please, no more fcuking petitions.
- Playlist Lyric Analysis: Plug in any Spotify playlist you like and this tool will make you a LOVELY WORDCLOUD (who doesn’t love a wordcloud? NO FCUKER, that’s who!) of the most-commonly-featured lyrics, which is of no practical use that I can conceive of but which might give you a few minutes’ vague entertainment as you try and derive some sort of deep psychological insight from the fact that all your most-played musical selections revolve around the word ‘baby’. Playlists must be public and smaller than 150 songs in length, but otherwise this should work with anything – actually there’s a half-amusing project here running any publicly-available agency playlists through this to try and paint a picture of different company personalities based on their musical selections (but it’s only half-amusing, so don’t trouble yourselves unduly on my account).
- The PineWalk Collection: A TRULY ASTONISHING COLLECTION OF MUSIC HERE! No, really, you have no idea quite how much there is at this url, you may never need to click another musical link in your life (this is only very slight hyperbole). The Pinewalk Collection is a, er, collection of mixtapes from the 80s and early 90s – specifically, “DJ Sets from Fire Island Pines & New York City (1979-1999). These tapes were found in a recently purchased house on Pine Walk. There are over 200 tapes in total and they have been carefully digitized and remastered and offered to stream for free here on Mixcloud with permission from all of the living DJs we were able to contact.” Disco! Deep house! Electronica! SO MUCH 80s GAYNESS! Honestly, this is like some sort of astonishing aural timecapsule back to an era which in my imagination is all moustached men in satin shorts dancing together in a forest under moonlight (I have no idea of the truth value of this imagined reality, please don’t ruin it for me), and it is literally impossible for you not to find something to love in here. Wonderful stuff, though I would love to read an accompanying essay about the scene(s) that were going on at the time which birthed the mixes.
- Network Effect: Another link which I am slightly-amazed that I don’t seem to have featured here in the past but which apparently is new to Curios – Network Effect is an online art project which I think was made six or seven years ago, and which is designed to present a short, time-limited picture of human life online, letting you spend a short period browsing through online video streaming seemingly-randomly, sorted into thematic categories based on single-word classifications like ‘lick’ or ‘strip’ or ‘laugh’ or ‘breathe’. “Network Effect explores the psychological effect of Internet use on humanity. Like the Internet itself, the project is effectively endless, containing 10,000 video clips, 10,000 spoken sentences, news, tweets, charts, graphs, lists, and millions of individual data points, all presented in a classically-designed data visualization environment. To see and hear it all would take hours, but the viewing window is limited to around seven minutes (according to the average life expectancy in the viewer’s country), which induces a state of anxiety, triggers a fear of missing out, and totally frustrates any attempt at completeness. The videos activate our voyeurism, the sound recordings tempt us with secrets, and the data promises a kind of omniscience, but all of it is a mirage — there is no one here to watch, there is no secret to find, and the data, which seems to be so important, is actually absurd. In this sense, the project mirrors the experience of browsing the web — full of tantalizing potential, but ultimately empty of life. We do not go away happier, more nourished, and wiser, but ever more anxious, distracted, and numb. We hope to find ourselves, but instead we forget who we are, falling into an opium haze of addiction with every click and tap.” This is not only a brilliant bit of digital art in conception and execution, it’s also become an inadvertent portal to the past – the footage used is all from 2015 or prior, as far as I can tell, which is basically the last point in modern history when it vaguely felt like everything was sort of not totally and utterly fcuked, and there’s a weird…not positivity to it, so much as a vague sense of collective naivety, like we didn’t even know we were born. I don’t know, maybe this is projection born of hindsight, but I think this is rendered all the more poignant and powerful by the distance between the online world this presents and the one which we find ourselves in now.
- Everyone Everywhere All At Once: Apparently this is inspired by the currently-ubiquitous A24 movie ‘Everything Everywhere All At Once’, but, seeing as I haven’t seen it and have studiously avoided reading about it just in case I ever do, I can’t actually explain why. This is just a simple webpage which shows you a fast-moving cavalcade of images of other visitors to the site, taken with their webcam – you can choose to add your own to the collection should you wish. That’s it – nothing else to see here other than a dizzying range of faces and expressions all whizzing past you, which is sort-of beautiful really. See if you can spot me (although, on reflection, there’s no way in hell any of you will know what I look like unless you know me irl – god it’s nice being invisible online).
- Weird Medieval Guys: A Twitter account celebrating the odd little fellows who crop up in medieval manuscripts, the small gargoyles and beasts and homunculi and rats and monkeys and whatever the fcuk the rest of these things are supposed to be. If you think they were bad at babies during the renaissance you will HATE what they do to hedgehogs in the 1300s.
- A Map of London’s Cycle Routes: Technically this Google Map is called ‘Safe Cycling in London’, but, obviously, there is no such thing as ‘safe’ cycling in London as the many hundreds of yellowing bunches of flowers attached to various gyratory-adjacent railings will attest. Still, if you’re brave enough to take to two wheels in England’s glorious capital then you might find this a useful resource to plan routes around the city via bike – it’s actually testament to the work done on making London accessible and appealing to cyclists that this is so comprehensive, and it’s a fascinating contrast to Rome where I think I have seen, in total, three people riding bicycles in the past year (and, realistically, they were probably German tourists).
- Search Movie Quotes: Ok, fine, this seems to presuppose that the only sorts of ‘movies’ that exist are Marvel or Star Wars – which on reflection is understandable given how many of the fcukers there have been over the past few years. Still, if you have ever desperately wanted a resource that will let you type in whatever words you want and see if there’s an suitable quote from the MCU or Star Wars filmic canon then, well, you’re in luck! I can’t personally think of any use for this unless you’re a) the sort of person who loves both franchises immoderately, in which case I imagine you’re already aware of the site; b) the poor community manager of a brand whose fans respond to this sort of pop-cultural pabulum (I am so so sorry for you); or c) about to embark on a long-term project whereby you communicate with your colleagues exclusively using gifs clipped from superhero movies, in which case MORE POWER TO YOU, this is a cause I can definitely get behind (don’t come crying to me when you get sacked).
- Every .horse: I had forgotten that .horse is a viable domain – but it is! Well done to whoever the person is behind this site, which claims to be a running catalogue of every single website on a .horse domain – there are hundreds here, which could make for a thrilling afternoon of equine webspelunking should you be in the market for such a thing. Not all of these work, and a lot of them are rather sadly just redirects to less-interesting-sounding sites, but it’s worth having a bit of a random click because occasionally you will discover things that are beautiful and pure and wonderful and lovely, like for example the majestic creation that is cheese.horse.
- You Choose: This feels like it’s halfway to being a really interesting idea. You Choose is a plugin for Chrome which seeks to subvert the YouTube recommendation algorithm by letting you toggle between its recommendations for new vids and those made by the YouChoose community, effectively adding a layer of human curation to the murky business of YouTube recs. The idea is that individual creators of videos can create their own recommendation lists, which would be displayed alongside the algorithmically-defined ones for contrast and balance – this obviously only works if a sizeable enough number of creators sign up to the idea, which will obviously never happen, but I do really like the idea of a layer like this that allows anyone to add a recommended video to any other; effectively creating a human-curated network of information connections as a ‘shadow’ to the algocreated one. Imagine – with this plugin, anyone can choose to tag any video they watch on YouTube with a link to a single other video recommendation – other users viewing said video can choose to see the algorithm’s recs or those made by all the other viewers of the video, with a light layer of curation (upvoting, reporting, etc) to keep it clean and usable. That seems…interesting, no?
- Noto Emoji: Emoji, in a font! “Noto Emoji is an open source font that has you covered for all your emoji needs, including support for the latest Unicode emoji specification” This may seem trivial but is a really big step in terms of making emoji more accessible and usable across media and formats – and there’s LOADS of interesting thinking that’s gone into the process of creating the font, and attempting to turn the graphical design elements of modern emoji into something simple enough to work as a font, which you can read about in this really interesting post by Jennifer Daniel in which she explains some of the work the considerations that went into making it.
- All The Videogame Maps: I am increasingly of the belief that there needs to be some sort of species-wide hall of fame or memorial of sorts created to the unsung heroes who, across all sorts of different fields, have dedicated themselves obsessionally to a small, very niche field of human knowledge or endeavour, not for any material reward but insteads motivated solely by some sort of altruistic impulse to compile and share. For example, the person responsible for this absolutely astonishing collection of maps to vintage videogames, from the Gameboy to the Sega Master System to the NES to the N64 to the PS2, all of them made in MS FCUKING PAINT for God’s sake, which seemingly exist solely to help out others who might be struggling to complete, I don’t know, Gradius 2 or something like that. I have literally no idea who the mysterious StarFighter76 is, or what in the name of Christ motivated them to spend what I can only assume is literally thousands of hours painstakingly recording the screen-by-screen progression of hundreds and hundreds of vintage titles from a dozen or so different systems, but I salute their indefatigable endeavour. WELL DONE, ANONYMOUS ONLINE OBSESSIVE! Now please go outside, please, at least for a bit (I appreciate the irony of my telling someone to spend less time online, but, well, what can I say? WE KNOW OUR OWN).
- Startup Trail: Have you ever worked on a startup? It’s HORRIBLE – or at least it is if you’re lazy and unmotivated like me, and don’t understand why anyone would willingly choose to put themselves through the nerveshredding stress of raising money and building a thing and making it work and trying to make money and oh god just thinking about it brings me out in hives. Still, if you’d like to experience some of the horror without any of the real-world consequences (hair loss, ulcers, relationship breakdown, bankruptcy, tech journalists, etc) then this game might be up your street – choose your founder, pick your area of interest, and see if you can make it to market without burning all your seed investment, your bridges or your neurons in the process. As the title suggests, this is loosely-inspired by infamous settler simulator Oregon Trail and is about as forgiving – see how you get on, but in my several playthroughs I have so far been unable to do anything other than fail miserably. Still, if any of you fancy investing heavily in Web Curios as I attempt to pivot myself into web3 plutocracy then, well, STEP RIGHT UP!
- 90s Heardle: Last up this week, despite my promises to the contrary we have ANOTHER Wordle clone – this is Heardle (featured a few weeks back), except exclusively featuring tracks from the 90s, meaning that if you’re old like me and kept getting your Heardle score fcuked by the fact that it insisted on presenting you with songs from the past year which obviously you don’t know because you don’t spend every waking second on TikTok then this might be slightly more your pace (except I still failed today’s due to having a less-than-encyclopaedic knowledge of the JLo back catalogue chiz chiz).
THE CIRCUS OF TUMBLRS!
- All About Movies: A collection of film plots as written using only the most 10,000 commonly-used words in the English language. Which, fine, I appreciate doesn’t sound that interesting, but you’d be amazed at the linguistic contortions you’re forced to go through to explain something as ostensibly-simple as ‘The Hunger Games’ in super-simple language. You can play with the tool used to compose these here, should you fancy spending the rest of the day communicating solely in super-simple English – I promise, everyone you work with will DEFINITELY find this charming and not an infuriating affection, honest!
THE TROUGH OF (INSTA) FEEDS!
- Kerdalo: The Insta feed of Kerdalo, an artist whose paintings of people moving through urban spaces explore light and motion in a very particular style. I can’t quite say I like this, but there’s something compelling about the way the brushwork makes everything so kinetic.
LONG THINGS WHICH ARE LONG!
- Roxane Gay on Roe vs Wade: I don’t live in the US, and I am never going to need to avail myself of the services of an abortionist, but that didn’t mean that this week’s news from the US about the Supreme Court’s apparent intention to scrap Roe vs Wade wasn’t deeply chilling to me. You will, I am sure, have read a significant amount about how we got here and what it means, but if you have the appetite for more then this piece by Roxane Gay is a typically-superb essay about what she characterises, entirely fairly, as “a decades-long conservative campaign to force a country of 330 million people to abide by a bigoted set of ideologies. This movement seeks to rule by hollow theocracy, despite our constitutional separation of church and state. The people behind this campaign do not represent the majority of this country, and they know it, so they consistently try to undermine the democratic process. They attack voting rights, gerrymander voting districts and shove unpopular legislation through so that they can live in a world of their choosing and hoard as much power and wealth as possible.” When I was 21 years old I worked for the BBC in Washington DC for a few months – as part of that, I was sent along to the Washington Monument on the anniversary of the Roe vs Wade judgement in Spring 2001 to get some voxpops from the Christian fundamentalists who were protesting against the judgement and campaigning for its repeal; I remember vividly the placards featuring late-term abortion images of bloody foetuses in buckets, and the incredible anger of the peoples screaming in spittle-flecked rage at me as they realised I was from the ‘liberal, abortion-loving’ (this is a direct quote) BBC and proceeded to literally chase me across the Monument as they attempted to nick my minidisc player, and I remember thinking ‘Jesus, these people are lunatic nutcases, only in America, eh?’, and that I was very glad indeed that even in the early months of a Republican presidency they were still regarded as a mad fringe – the thought that this is now, two decades hence, the prevailing orthodoxy amongst a significant and power-wielding group of people is frankly astonishing and not a little scary.
- Roblox and the Metaverse: Yes, yes, I KNOW IT DOESN’T EXIST. Still, if we’re going to spend time discussing an entirely-theoretical concept as though it were in fact a real thing, we might as well do so in the company of Craig Donato, Chief Business Officer at Roblox and someone who, based on this interview, has a significantly better handle on How All This Stuff Might Work In The Future than lots of other people currently opining on our glorious metaversal tomorrow. This is a really interesting interview, in part from the point of view of Roblox as a business but also as a eagle-eye view of how an eventual interlocking system of interoperable digital worlds might work – it’s hard to read stuff like this and not think that, in the long term, it’s sort-of inevitable.
- Tokengated Commerce: It’s fair to say that anyone reading Curios over the past year or so will have worked out that I am not a massive fan of NFTs and the wider web3 hypecycle (and yes, I am aware that they are conceptually different, but, well, work with me here), and that I have limited interest in or appetite for the idea of turning everything that exists online into something that can be monetised. That said, I read this and I felt…I felt vaguely like something sort-of clicked for me as to the potential use-case for NFTs. Not hugely – and certainly not to the point where I am about to start feeding slurp juice to my apes – but just enough to penetrate my inches-thick, coagulated carapace of cynicism and ennui. This is LONG, and, yes, it’s a conversation between two believers, and gievn Shopify’s stock performance this week you might be forgiven for not necessarily wanting to take their head of blockchain’s predictions as gospel, but…it’s interesting. The basic gist of the conversation is the idea of NFTs as a key to unlock differentiated commercial experiences – so the idea that users will be able to access different experiences, products, services, environments, etc, based on the contents of their wallet. So for example I might log onto the Vans store and connect my wallet, and get a personalised shopping experience (the look of the store, colourways available to me, exclusive items, etc) based on the NFTs in my portfolio. Which may sound fanciful, but it feels like there’s something true in the way this appeals to people’s desires for both belonging and individuality. I don’t 100% believe in this, but for one of the first times in my extensive reading on this topic it feels like there’s some semblance of there there, if you see what I mean. Have a read, this is chewy.
- Pixy: this is basically a bit of advertorial for Snap’s new cameradrone, announced last week, but I think Snap’s experiments with hardware (and the fact that they have basically established themselves as THE premier commercial, consumer-facing AR layer) make it a particularly-interesting business. Also, this just looks really, really fun, and I say that as someone who has almost no interest whatsoever in filming themselves doing anything.
- A Year of GB News: In a week which saw the launch of another tediously-’provocative’ channel aimed at people who think that the BBC is a dangerously-progressive hotbed of pinko sentiment, it seems apt to feature this excellent story in the New Statesman which offers an overview of the first year of GB News, a channel which has for much of its life been nothing but a pink-hued punchline but which has against the odds managed to stagger through a whole 12 months of life and at least now isn’t the most risible broadcast station in the UK. This is great, in part from a schadenfreude-ish ‘let’s laugh at the awful people’ sort-of way, but also as a picture of the almighty headfcuk that launching a TV channel entails (not to mention the expense). Packed with fun little anecdotes and great quotes (I am a particular fan of “ “Well, b1tches, I’ve had my salary doubled, so this is on me!”, but you pick your own) , this is a very enjoyable read (as long as you don’t think too hard about what the channel is saying, or who to, or to what end).
- Tucker Carlson: The first in a series of three pieces by the NYT profiling Tucker Carlson, the Fox News host who’s basically pivoted to peddling full-on racefear to a scared portion of white America. If you’re not a North American resident you may not think this is worth reading, but I’d argue that it’s an important piece, not least in the context of the previous one on GB News – I’m not in any way suggesting that the UK channel is about to start punting full-on GREAT REPLACEMENT rhetoric onto the UK airwaves but, equally, it’s not beyond the bounds of possibility that it might do, and there are instructive lessons to be drawn from the way in which Carlson, Fox, the Republican Party and certain flavours of Big Money all work in concert to drive public opinion in particular directions in the US which you don’t have to look too hard to see happening, albeit at smaller scale, in the other anglo nations in which the lovable Murdoch dynasty have their hooks embedded into the media landscape. If nothing else, this offers a useful (and on occasion jawdropping) overview of some of the utterly-insane stuff that millions of Americans are getting fed every day.
- London’s Lost Ringways: Anyone who’s lived in London is aware that the M25 is a horrible motorway where horrible things (mainly traffic jams) happen. But what would London have been like had the plans for multiple ring motorways through the city ever come to fruition? ABSOLUTELY HORRIBLE is the main answer – this is a brilliantly-interesting look at how close the roads came to being built and the ways in which they would have changed the urban landscape if they had done. If you live in Hackney, just take a moment to imagine how bleak this would have rendered your existence.
- Cosmetic Influencers: On the apparently-growing trend for influencers on Insta and TikTok to be offered free cosmetic procedures to entice their followers into following suit, thereby neatly-sidestepping restrictions around directly advertising cosmetic procedures, and the extent to which this is ‘ok’ (it does not feel entirely ‘ok’). I appreciate that my attitude towards cosmetic surgery very much marks me down as of a previous generation, but I clicked through to a couple of the profiles of the kids in question here and scrolled back into the past to witness the transformations they have undergone and it’s clear to me that there are at least a few instances here where people are dealing with what look like…not insignificant self-image issues, and that possibly gifting them free treatments so that they can act as silica-filled living billboards for your lip clinic is perhaps not exactly ethically watertight.
- The Cumbox at 10: I think I can neatly divide my readership into two at this juncture – those of you who will see that headline and think ‘Ah, the cumbox! What a glorious meme that was! What great internet times we had!’ and those of you who will think ‘Jesus Christ, Matt, what the fcuk?’ and not want to click any further (and if you’re in the latter group, might I gently suggest that you’re reading the wrong newsletter?). Anyway, the cumbox! Emblematic of What Reddit Used To Be Like, and the insanity of the always-horny teenage boy, and the insane freeing nature of online anonymity, and how gross we all are, and, surprisingly, of how there was a period a decade ago when internet culture and ‘real’ life culture were not in fact the same thing, and how odd that feels now when everything exists everywhere on every level, on and offline, simultaneously. Anyway, CUMBOX! This is utterly disgusting, but still essential – but please, I beg you, do not click the links within the article unless you’ve got ready access to a very hot shower and possibly some bleach.
- Pop Culture Oligopoly: Or ‘how despite a world of theoretically-infinite choices, we are increasingly all gravitating towards the same stuff’ – this is an interesting exploration of the homogenisation of mainstream success over the past 10y, looking at film and music and games and coming to the broad conclusion that “In every corner of pop culture––movies, TV, music, books, and video games––a smaller and smaller cartel of superstars is claiming a larger and larger share of the market. What used to be winners-take-some has grown into winners-take-most and is now verging on winners-take-all.” What you make of this is up to you, but the author’s stance is clear: “We haven’t fully reckoned with what the cultural oligopoly might be doing to us. How much does it stunt our imaginations to play the same video games we were playing 30 years ago? What message does it send that one of the most popular songs in the 2010s was about how a 1970s rock star was really cool? How much does it dull our ambitions to watch 2021’s The Matrix: Resurrections, where the most interesting scene is just Neo watching the original Matrix from 1999? How inspiring is it to watch tiny variations on the same police procedurals and reality shows year after year? My parents grew up with the first Star Wars movie, which had the audacity to create an entire universe. My niece and nephews are growing up with the ninth Star Wars movie, which aspires to move merchandise. Subsisting entirely on cultural comfort food cannot make us thoughtful, creative, or courageous.”
- The Most Boring Era of Celebrity: Did you look at the pictures of the famouses from the Met Gala the other night? Did you…did you care? If you didn’t, that might be because, per this Refinery29 piece, we are living through a particularly dull age of celebrity. I can’t claim to be a close watcher of the gilded and the blessed, but I wonder how much of this is to do with the illusion of access-all-areas afforded by Insta and TikTok, and the removal of some of the illusion of difference that made celebrity special – or maybe, as this piece notes, it’s because all these fcuking people look the fcuking same, or because they’re all nepotism kids and therefore not inherently very interesting. Per one anonymous Twitter user quoted in this piece: “I love and respect how hailey bieber has zero vibes. Like she has no aura at all I want to study her.” Well quite.
- Growing The Short Kings: I may be ugly, skinny, bug-eyed and knock-kneed, with the muscle-tone of an elastic band and teeth that can charitably be described as ‘very English’, but I am at least TALL (fine, this increasingly makes me look like someone who’ll be auditioning for a role as latter-period Bill Burroughs, but I’ll take what I can get). I remember as a kid feeling a genuine pang of sorrow when I realised that Lee Jamieson, who at 13 was widely considered to be the cutest kid in school by all the girls, was not going to get any taller than about 5’4” and that he was as a result likely to have peaked in terms of hisattractiveness to the opposite sex around the time he was just getting the hang of w4nking – I just checked, and Lee appears to have dealt with this by getting so into bodybuilding that his Facebook photos depict a man as wide as he is tall, so, er, more power to you Lee, please don’t track me down and hit me. Of course, another option available to men who feel that their lack of verticality is a barrier to success and fulfilment in life is to have their legs broken and then surgically-extended, which sounds brutal but which can apparently add a good 3-4 inches to your height. This piece profiles some men undergoing the procedure and a doctor who’s making bank by being ‘The Leg Doctor’ on social media, and doesn’t (at least as far as I’m concerned) spend enough time on the why of the whole thing – I would also love to read a piece talking to women about this, and asking what it is that makes height the great guilt-free non-negotiable when it comes to deciding on a partner.
- Mechanical Watch: I think this is the third time I have featured one of Bartosz Ciechanowski’s illustrated, interactive explainer articles – this latest one takes on an exhaustive investigation into how mechanical watches work, from the winding mechanism to the springs to the dials, and OH MY GOD THIS IS SO GOOD. I would like someone to pay Bartosz lots of money to explain everything in the world like this – this person is SO GOOD at communicating these sorts of concepts, the illustrations are lovely and clear, and the interactivity is in each case perfect; enough to explain the concept, but not so much as to distract. Honestly, whether or not you care about learning the intricacies of watchmaking this is an object-lesson in how to create a clear and well-written explainer around a technical topic.
- Lamb Dressed as Mutton: Another essay from Vittles this week, this one on the halal butchery trade and its place within the UK meat production landscape – which I appreciate may not sound thrilling, but there’s loads in here about the history of food in the UK, and how there are quiet stories like this that tell wonderful tales of how multiculturalism changes systems, often for the better. I love this, not only in terms of what I learned about how the trade caters for muslims who want personally-slaughtered sheep with which to celebrate Eid, but also for the way it describes how modernity and tradition naturally coexist when it comes to culinary culture and food production.
- Moon Knight and the Meme: I know literally nothing about the TV show Moon Knight, and care even less, but this is a GREAT story and utterly charming – about how a man who was a meme made it into the TV show (well, almost). Honestly, it’s impossible to read this and not feel a little bit happier.
- In Pursuit of Chicken Rice: There are multiple ways in which you can read this piece, in which the author recounts his attempt to make an ‘authentic’ version of Hainanese Chicken Rice, a dish which in certain parts of the world is spoken of with near-religious reverence – depending on your point of view, this is either a ridiculous liberal ballet of awkwardness and oversensitivity, taking everything silly about cultural appropriation (or, more accurately, the fear of being seen to embody such a thing) to the nth degree; alternatively, it’s an attempt to ask and answer questions about what the phrase means, the extent to when and where it can be applied, and to whom, and to which it matters. I thought it was a great essay – a bit silly at times, fine, and there are definitely places where it feels like it veers slightly into liberal parody territory, but it comes from a good place and it teaches you loads about food and culture and place as you’re reading, which feels a good enough reason to recommend it to you.
- Every Bay Area House Party: A piece of short fiction describing the archetypes of people you’re likely to find at a certain type of rich, tech-adjacent person’s house party on the West Coast of the US in 2022. This, honestly, barely counts as satire – if you spend anytime reading or working around startup culture then much of this will ring very true. I think it’s written by someone who would describe themselves as a ‘rationalist’, which means that it obviously comes complete with a not-particularly-sharp dig at ‘cancel culture’, but overall it’s funny and sharp and made me laugh, and the party startiup idea is almost certainly in incubation somewhere.
- The Fat White Family Meet The Fall: The Fat White Family were for a brief period on everyone’s lips, embodying a certain brand of heavily-druggy post-Libertines artschool music and lionised by the press for their…uncompromising attitude to art. They made some decent-ish music but it all felt a bit secondary to the fact that they all obviously really, really liked taking drugs. There’s a book about the band coming out soon, from which this is an extract – here the band go to Glastonbury and meet The Fall and their herio Mark E Smith. It is EXACTLY as you would expect an account of a bunch of scuzzy musicians on a lot of drugs and high on the crest of a successwave to be, and it is an awful lot of fun; I was briefly at the very fringes of the tail end of the Camden indie era of the 00s, despite already being Too Old for it, and much of the vibe in this piece feels very familiar, and not necessarily in a good way – still, this is a lot of fun and you can almost taste the acrid drip at the back of your throat.
- My Mother Photographs Me in a Bath of Dead Squid: Finally this week, a brilliant piece of writing by Lars Horn in which they talk about being raised by their artist mother, the unique and occasionally-toxic bond that develops betwee a lone parent and a lone child, their gender, and the very peculiar feeling of being sealed in a full-body cast. This is mesmerically-good, and I would read the fcuk out of this were it a full-length memoir – seriously, click this one, it is very much worth it.
By Toni Hamel
AND NOW, MOVING PICTURES AND SOUNDS!:
- Last up in the videos this week, this is the new one from Manga, featuring P Money and Capo Lee, and it’s excellent as usual and I am reasonably-confident that I am currently the only person in Italy playing this right now and that as such I am a TRENDSETTER which is a rare and pleasant feeling for me and one which I will hold close and enjoy because THAT’S IT THAT’S YOUR LOT WE’RE ALL DONE AND DUSTED AND YOU CAN REST ASSURED THAT YOU HAVE COMPLETED THE INTERNET FOR ANOTHER WEEK AND CAN SPEND THE REST OF THE WEEKEND DOING MEATTHINGS IN MEATSPACE BUT BE SURE TO COME BACK NEXT WEEK FOR MORE OF THE SAME BECAUSE, WELL, WITHOUT YOU I AM NOTHING AND I CEASE TO EXIST I LOVE YOU I NEED YOU BYE!