Webcurios 08/03/24

Reading Time: 38 minutes



Sorry, once again I have to remind myself that not everyone reading this is from the UK, and therefore not everyone will have had the uniquely-unpleasant experience of having a succession of millionaires appear on television to tell you that actually, contrary to every conceivable visible and invisible metric, things ARE going well and getting better and you would have to be a fool or a communist or possibly one of them illegals from the small boats if you thought otherwise.

Still, the yanks get to watch one mad, useless old cnut lose to another, worse, mad, useless old cnut. WHAT A TIME TO BE ALIVE! Can someone living in a non-US/UK country and currently having a nice time drop me a line to remind me that there are other places in the world, and some of them even occasionally function in a way that doesn’t make you want to take a knife to your own viscera?

I am still Matt, this is still Web Curios, and you can rest assured that there is relatively little additional whinging and moaning from hereon in.

(PS – sorry about fcuking up the very first link last week; as a general rule, if they’re broken or wrong in the email, check the website a few hours later and I will probably have fixed it)

By Luke Chueh



  • Downpour: Our first link of the week is, honestly, something which for some of you might well be enough to keep you occupied for the whole weekend – Downpour (trailed previously in Curios at some point last year) is the just-released new app by V Buckenham who has been making interesting and fun digital…things for years, and who’s now released this genuinely wonderful app, available on iOS and Android, which is basically a small toolset for making beautiful, handmade little interactive experiences, whether games or little storybooks or…fcuk, my cripplingly-limited imagination means that I’m seemingly only capable of coming up with two potential usecases for this, but I believe in you and your creativity and I’m sure you’ll all be able to think of LOADS of really fun things you can do. You can get a feel for how easy it is to make things by watching this short video – but it really is as simple as ‘take a photo, assign clickability to elements of it, build ‘pages’ that you can navigate to (all stitched together from cameraroll pictures) and then publish it’, and the fact that it all effectively uses photos as the canvas means that it’s incredibly simple to make things and also allows for some lovely aesthetic flourishes – I think we’re going to see some really rather cute and interesting things built on this. Stuff like this really does make me wish I was ‘creative’ in some way, but turns out I’m really not – I see, I link, I fcuk off, basically – but I like to imagine that YOU, gentle reader, are a significantly more full, interesting and richly-textured human than I am and that you will flourish and thrive and make and build, so, er, get to it! Seriously though, this is potentially PERFECT for kids from about 8-10 up (CAVEAT: I am barren and know fcuk all about children), imho, so might be a nice thing to try with them should you have access to some.
  • Globe: I have to tell you, I fcuking *hate* having to start link descriptions with a slightly-pathetic “I’m not really sure what this is, or how exactly it works” but, er, I’m not really sure what this is or how exactly it works – I *think* it’s built on an LLM, or uses one in some fashion, but there’s not a whole lot of available information on the homepage and I can’t for the life of me remember where I found it…so what you’re going to have to put up with here is me basically making a series of half-ar$ed guesses about the form and function of this site which might turn out to be totally wrong. Ok? OK! ‘Globe’ is, as far as I can tell, a ‘shape of topic definer’ (oh god, this is going worse than I’d feared) – basically type in anyarea of interest or field of enquiry you can conceive of (“haberdashery”, say, or “taxidermy”, or “string theory”) and the site will build out a sort of corpus/taxonomy of concepts within that field, to effectively create a sort of framework of enquiry or ideas, or maybe more accurately a rough delineation of the parameters of the query. Er, does that make sense? I mean, it does to me, but I appreciate that that’s not necessarily a strong positive indicator. Anyway, I tried this for a few things that I have a bit of knowledge about, and it’s actually pretty good at giving a broad ‘these are the things that you might want to consider when thinking about x’ overview, and as such might be an interesting part of the planning or research process – regardless, I think there’s something interesting here and it might be worth signing up to keep updated on the project’s development.
  • The Election Tech Handbook 2024: I mean, we *think* we’re getting an election this year, but who knows? Despite his obvious lack of either talent or taste for the gig, Rishi seems strangely disinclined to press the ‘initiate electoral disembowelment’ button and so it’s still possible we’re going to have to wait til January to defenestrate this bunch of sorry cnuts (on which: the sad thing about the forthcoming Tory apocalypse is that, unlike in 1997, when you felt that for several of the outgoing MPs it was going to seriously fcuk up their lives which added no little joy to the schadenfreude, this time around all of the fcuks who are set to lose their seats also happen to be multimillionares, meaning their defenestration from the House will make the square root of fcuk-all difference to them, dammit) – still, whenever it happens we can guarantee that it will be VERY DIGITAL – which is why the nice people at Newspeak House have created this collaborative resource, collating all sorts of interesting and useful digital tools and projects around tracking and monitoring UK politics – if you have ANY interest at all in campaigning or activism or electoral/political data, you sort of need to bookmark this (and if your job involves research or planning, there are a bunch of genuinely useful datasources in here which you might find useful too).
  • The Audio Drama Directory: Audiobooks and dramas are BOOMING right now – although I have a sneaking suspicion that a significant portion of this boom is from people listening to what is basically werewolf bongo all the time – and so I imagine that lots of you might find this a useful resource, a new site which aims to catalogue and link out to all the various different online audio dramas currently being published. This is genre-and-topic neutral, and there is a LOT in there – click on the ‘tags’ page and you’ll get a better feel for the breadth and scope (and the amount of niche content – you want Warhammer audiodramas? YOU GOT THEM! There’s also nearly 1000 ‘explicit’ tags on-site, should you have run out of lynacthropic bodicerippers to titillate you), and it feels like there should be something for everyone on here if you spelunk hard enough.
  • Make Games From Static Images: Ok, fine, you can’t do this *now* – but you will be able to soon! Isn’t that exciting! Oh, come on, it’s a *bit* exciting – click the link and scroll down the (admittedly dull and technical) paper and look at the embedded screenshots which show how Google has prototyped an AI model that can basically look at a static image and turn it into a(n incredibly-rudimentary and very shonky) side-scrolling 2d platformer! This is very much a proof-of-concept-type thing at this stage, and you’re pretty unlikely to see it in the wild anytime soon, but it’s an impressive trick if nothing else.
  • Useful Things For LLM Wrangling: I’ve linked to Professor Ethan Mollick’s work in Curios more times than I can count over the past couple of years – he’s honestly one of the smartest and most-helpful people talking about practical uses of LLMs right now, and I am consistently amazed by his generosity – he shares so much information out of seemingly nothing more than a genuine desire to be helpful, which frankly is something we could all perhaps do a little more of (he says, like a pompous pr1ck – fcuk’s sake, Matt, you pious cnut). This is Mollick’s latest public-facing project – a directory of helpful tools and primers and prompts that anyone can use to help them do better and more useful work with LLMs – this is aimed primarily at teachers and educators who might want to integrate the tech into the classroom, but there’s also a lot of helpful information about general principles one ought to bear in mind when wrangling The Machine, and anyone who has to (or simply wants to) deal with this stuff should find something genuinely helpful in here. Oh, and this video (on trying to wrangle GPT to do a specific thing) is gently amusing but is also actually a pretty decent ‘this is how you make the machine do what you want it to, eventually) how-to.
  • The Ubu Web Archive: This is a bit sad. I remember finding Ubu Web back in the day when I worked in arts PR and started to get interested in digital work and practice in a semi-proper fashion, and stumbling across this genuinely amazing archive of writing and thinking and images and videos and sounds, all just seemingly…put there, by person or persons unknown, for anyone to access and enjoy…To me it’s been emblematic of a certain idea of ‘what the web can be’ – it’s messy and not in any way shiny, but it’s born of genuine interest and passion and it’s a truly astonishing resource. If you’re not familiar, “Founded in 1996, UbuWeb is a pirate shadow library consisting of hundreds of thousands of freely downloadable avant-garde artifacts…The site is filled with the detritus and ephemera of great artists better known for other things—the music of Jean Dubuffet, the poetry of Dan Graham, the hip-hop of Jean-Michel Basquiat, the punk rock of Martin Kippenberger, the films of John Lennon, the radio plays of Ulrike Meinhof, the symphonies of Hanne Darboven, the country music of Julian Schnabel—most of which were originally put out in tiny editions, were critically ignored, and quickly vanished. However, the web provides the perfect place to restage these works. With video, sound, and text remaining more faithful to the original experience than, say, painting or sculpture, Ubu proposes a different sort of revisionist art history based on the peripheries of artistic production rather than on the perceived, hyped, or market-based center.” I found out this morning that the site is now mothballed and will exist only as an archive – and for how long? It feels quite important that an institution take this on and preserve it in perpetuity.
  • Swayy: It feels like we’re on the cusp of doing ‘mapping and meeting irl via apps’ again, or trying to – the noises about Insta copying the Snap Map feature aren’t going away, and there have been a few ‘share your location with your friends!’ startups floating around in 2024 – Swayy is the latest iteration of this idea, but with the twist that you’re not sharing your ACTUAL location, but your FUTURE location, effectively advertising to a select list of people that “I will be in this location at roughly this time, should you want to come and worship at my feet” – or, entirely more accurately, “should you want to come and pick up for the weekend” because COME ON THIS IS LITERALLY THE PERFECT APP FOR DEALERS and I refuse to believe that that isn’t something that the team behind it is 100% aware of. Anway, the team behind this are apparently based in Slough, and therefore I wish them well because noone deserves a failed business on top of having to live in fcuking Slough.
  • The NASA TTRPG: Hats off to NASA – I think this is a genuinely great little bit of marketing which makes perfect sense given the organisation and the sorts of people it is likely to want to attract/recruit – the US space agency has launched its very first ROLE PLAYING CAMPAIGN, which you can download for free and play with your friends should you so desire! “A dark mystery has settled over the city of Aldastron on the rogue planet of Exlaris. Researchers dedicated to studying the cosmos have disappeared, and the Hubble Space Telescope has vanished from Earth’s timeline. Only an ambitious crew of adventurers can uncover what was lost. Are you up to the challenge? This adventure is designed for a party of 4-7 level 7-10 characters and is easily adaptable for your preferred tabletop role-playing game (TTRPG) system. NASA’s first TTRPG adventure invites you to take on a classic villain (while also using and learning science skills!) as you overcome challenges and embark on an exciting quest to unlock more knowledge about our universe. Download your game documents below and get ready to explore Exlaris!” Which all sounds lovely, and I particularly like the fact it’s system-agnostic and so ensures the broadest possible audience – obviously I’ve not delved into this and so can’t 100% promise you that it’s not basically US space-imperialist propaganda but, well, let’s give it the benefit of the doubt.
  • Stillgram: I don’t think that this app is *intended* to be sinister, but I have been thinking about it on-and-off for a few days now and there’s something about it that I find genuinely-unsettling. Stillgram is an AI-powered photo editing app that exists to do one thing and one thing only – remove any and all people from photographs, leaving only the scenery and getting rid of all the unpleasant, limb-y, meaty messiness. Want to create the illusion that you were able to visit the Trevi Fountain ENTIRELY ALONE? GREAT! Except what it actually does is, as far as I can tell, just turn everything into an incredibly-eerie, “28 Days Later”-style postapocalypse – actually it might be quite fun to go through every single photo you’ve ever posted online and edit them with this to remove all the humans and see whether anyone ‘reaches out’ to see if you’re ok.
  • LefseTime: I was utterly charmed by this website, mainly because I have a slight *thing* for very obscure, incredibly niche national culinary traditions but also because it assumes a degree of knowledge on the part of the visitor – “IT’S LEFSE TIME!” declares the URL and the homepage, but does the website at any point seem inclined to explain what the everliving fcuk a ‘lefse’ actually is, or whether ‘lefse time’ is cause for celebration or abject fear? DOES IT BOLL0CKS! Thanks, though, to my SUPERIOR POWERS OF DEDUCTIVE REASONING, I have been able to infer that a ‘lefse’ is a type of scandinavian pancake made with potatoes or potato flour, and that they are eaten…on special occasions (WHEN? I WANT TO KNOW!! WHY ARE YOU WITHHOLDING THE LEFSE KNOWLEDGE?), and that for reasons I am once again unable to infer, they are VERY IMPORTANT in terms of heritage and identity to a presumably-small-but-passionate coterie of North Americans, probably in the Midwest. I think I am hitting something of a fatigue wall here at 7:59am, because I just clicked on the FAQ page and had a slightly-teary laughing fit at “The edges of my Lefse are crispy, what am I doing wrong?” – IT’S ALL ABOUT THE LEFSE! Oh God, actually crying again, going to have to move on here otherwise this will never get written.
  • Riyadh Season: A website advertising Saudi as a winter travel destination – this is both as shiny and as utterly empty as you would expect it to be, but I thought it worth highlighting because of what I thought was the…interesting aesthetic/editorial decision to have a whole segment of the site devoted to sports entertainments which a) features a representation of a colosseum or amphitheatrical arena, which struck me as curious both from a sort of cultural/historic point of view, and also…punchy for a regime which regularly executes people it doesn’t like; and b) features Cristiano Ronaldo as a weird golden robot effigy which, again, is sort of perfectly-awful. Amusingly, the webwork here isn’t even very good – SPEND MORE, MBS! SPEND MORE!
  • Iris: I only found this this morning, so apologies for the slightly-cursory writeup, but this is…ODD, and also it turns out is by the bloke who found fame this week for being ‘the man in the boob top’ (you know what, if you have no idea what this is referring to then WELL DONE YOU – congratulations, you’re doing better at life than I am and you should feel very proud, but…what are you doing reading Web Curios? You’re obviously better than this) – Iris is…a digital platform for artists? An artwork in and of itself? A fever dream by a rich moron who evidently has more money than sense and is almost-certainly not averse to ‘journeys of psychedelic discovery’? WHO KNOWS, but you certainly won’t get much more of an idea by clicking through to the website, which takes the…unique UX decision to present the vision and purpose of the whole thing as a series of videos in which the founder, “Princess Momo Arnesson, also known as Patrik Patrique Monique Arnesson” (no, really) expounds on his vision for…some sort of revolutionary art platform, with all the charisma of Warhol on Quaaludes. This is WEIRD – but also, you should be aware that the site also wants to use your camera and mic, which means you might have the same slightly uncomfortable experience as I did about 35 seconds ago when I heard what I presume was Arnesson saying “hello? Hello?” to me through the site. Not sure I’m logging on again.
  • Quick AI Images: This is called ‘Qualia’ – honestly, I have no clue whatsoever what this is built on or what model it’s using, but it is VERY quick and I like the fact that it spins out a large number of variants from a single prompt, and, honestly, for quick scamps and storyboarding and that sort of thing this is really useful and you should bookmark it.
  • Enzo’s Legacy: This is a gorgeous little project website, built by one Casper Kessels, which celebrates the car design genius of Enzo Ferrari – I think I might have featured a previous project of his in here a few years ago, on reflection – and presents a timeline of all the cars he ever designed along with information and images of each. Obviously you need to be a car (and ideally a ferrari) lover to get the most out of this, but it’s worth a quick look even as a non-obsessive as MAN did Enzo design a metric fcuktonne of vehicles.
  • Cities Moving: Via Giuseppe, this is a lovely project and a really nice, clever bit of datavisualisation – “To quantify the motorisation of urban mobility, we model the number of kilometres travelled by different modes of transport in a city by aggregating active mobility, public transport and cars. Our findings suggest that although public transport is more prominent in large cities, it is insufficient to reduce the distance travelled by car users within the city and, ultimately, their emissions. With the model share data for 794 cities across over 61 countries, the visualizations below allow to compare the proportion of journeys to work in different countries, regions, income groups, and population sizes. In the end, it also allows to explore all the cities on the map.” Potentially useful for some of you, but, even if not, this is both interesting and a really good piece of infodesign.
  • The Weird Wide Webring: Webrings! A term which will mean literally NOTHING to anyone under 40! Webrings, for the children among you (or alternatively those who had better things to do with their lives than spend any of it online in the 1990s) was the term given to loose, thematically-linked collections of websites or webpages which would all agree to link to each other in a mutually-reinforcing daisychain of support and love (/circlejerk of self-promotion, depending on your perception and degree of cynicism) and basically was the sort of digital/cultural precursor to the weird, self-perpetuating ouroboros that was ‘mummy bloggers’ in the 00s – anyway, this Page simply links out to a bunch of small, interesting, odd digital projects that the curators enjoy, no more, no less. BRING BACK LINKY ONLINE COMMUNITIES.
  • XOXO 2024: XOXO is one of the OLDSCHOOL DIGITAL MEETUPS, a proper bastion of a certain type of web ideal and ethos, and it’s coming back this year – held in Portland because, well, that’s where Andy who organises it lives but also because I don’t think there is anywhere in the world more redolent of this sort of thing than Portland. Anyway, there are limited details about the event other than the dates (August), but I am including it because a) I think it’s the sort of thing that many of you might be interested in; and b) Andy’s built a wonderful clicker game Easter Egg into the site, which made me SO HAPPY when I found it – honestly, what is your excuse for not putting small, silly toys into every website you make, just for fun? YOU HAVE NO EXCUSE, DO YOU? DO YOU?????

By Maïté Jane



  • The Mumbai Metaverse: I was a bit conflicted about including this one, to be honest – I am trying to include more ‘look, this is brilliant!’ links and fewer ‘oh good look what the morons have spunked six figures on’ diatribes, and I have on at least one occasion been contacted by a dev who claimed to work on something that I’ve given a kicking to, and, honestly, that didn’t feel great – but then I thought about it a bit and I figured actually, no, fcukit, this is not only genuinely terrible but it’s also a piece of political comms and it was launched by a local politician in one of India’s major cities and therefore it is an ABSOLUTELY legitimate target for scorn because, let’s be clear, this is FCUCKING RISIBLE. Click the link, and marvel – at the graphics, at the speed of the site, at the new and hitherto-unimagined redefinition of ‘metaverse’ as ‘a webpage’, at the idea that the VR elements of this are EVER going to be built…but the very best bit, the very pinnacle, is when you click into the ‘games’ section and you realise that someone’s literally just dumped in a shovelware mobile phone game, dropped onto the website for reasons known only to the devs, in a genuinely staggering example of ‘will this do? No? Oh, sorry’. India has exceptionally talented designers and developers, but seemingly none of them were consulted in the creation of this; it…it doesn’t feel like a GREAT use of the city of Mumbai’s budget, put it that way.
  • The 88×31 Archive: Would you like a collection of literally thousands of those small, glittery little buttons you used to see all over Geocities and the like? Would you like to be able to download them to do with WHATEVER YOU PLEASE? Yes, of course you would – I personally quite like the idea of using this dataset to train a VERY SPECIFIC and remarkably-pointless AI which is capable only of producing small, sparkly badges, but can do so about an infinite range of topics.
  • Title Drops: This is far, far better than it ought to be – Film Drops is a website/project whose sole apparent aim is to record and document the exact points in a film’s runtime when the title of the film is spoken out loud in dialogue. That’s it. Want to know at what point in Raging Bull someone says the words “Raging Bull”? Well sorry, I can’t help you, the site doesn’t actually mention that particular one – but there are loads of others, and this is both an interesting Pudding-style bit of dataanalysis and fiddling, and also just a really nice bit of webwork; the UX/UI for ‘scrolling’ through the films is really satisfying and something I’ve not seen done before, so WELL DONE designperson.
  • Simply News: I’m presenting this largely without judgment – the thing is, I may not like it but it really does feel inevitable that stuff like this is, to a large extent, the future of ‘news’. Simply News is an AI-powered news aggregation project which basically outsources the whole process of working out what is interesting that day, what to say about it and then publishing the content to The Machine as a series of themed podcasts, start to finish (or so they would have you believe – I am not quite certain that the tech here’s good enough to let this run entirely autonomously yet). The ‘how’ bit is interesting, at least the characterisation of the different ‘Agents’ the process employs: “Simply News works by coordinating multiple AI-agents to produce a cohesive, news-focused podcast across many distinct topics every day. Each agent is responsible for a different part of this process. For example, we have agents which perform the following functions: The Sorter: Scans a vast array of news sources and filters the articles based on relevance and significance to the podcast category. The Pitcher: Crafts a compelling pitch for each sorted article, taking into account the narrative angle presented in the article. The Judge: Evaluates the pitches and makes an editorial decision about which should be covered. The Scripter: Drafts an engaging script for the articles selected by the Judge, ensuring clarity and precision for the listening.” I have had the ‘Politics’ version playing for a few minutes, and while it’s incredibly bland it’s…God, I fcuking HATE saying this, but it’s…fine. It’s fine, and as we all know, fine is good enough. This is coming, and I really wish it wasn’t. But it is.
  • Homes & Studios: A lovely little project collecting information and photos about the homes and studios of various contemporary(ish) artists – this is very much a labour of love, and they invite contributions from anyone able to help them build out the info in the collection. I now REALLY want to visit the Villa Aalto in Helsinki.
  • The Endangered Language Alliance: I should have known, but didn’t, that New York is the most linguistically-diverse city in the world. The ELA is “a non-profit dedicated to documenting Indigenous, minority, and endangered languages, supporting linguistic diversity in New York City and beyond”, and the website details some of the projects they’re currently undertaken to preserve and record languages as diverse as regional dialectical Italian and Bukhori (which I just learned is a SouthWest Iranian language spoken by Jewish people from the region). This is SO interesting, I would love to know if there’s a similar initiative in London (which, yes, I could Google, but if anyone knows and would like to just tell me that would be great thanks).
  • Send: This is literally just a money transfer platform – sorry, nothing particularly exciting about it – but I *really* like the webdesign here, and as far as I can tell it is secure and cheap, and might be useful to any of you who need to ship cash to Europe, the US or Africa.
  • A Star Wars Auction: Is there really anyone left in the world who likes Star Wars enough to buy Star Wars memorabilia who does not already own ALL THE FCUKING THINGS? Can we maybe have a new story, please? NO MORE FCUKING STAR WARS DEAR GOD. Sorry, but it’s been here my whole fcuking life and IT’S NOT EVEN GOOD. Ahem. Anyway, look, I appreciate that I am not necessarily representative of the wider world in my opinion here and that there may be several of you who want nothing more from life than the chance to bid on Harrison Ford’s ACTUAL COKE STRAW from the set of Empire (NB – I am yet to check, but I’m pretty certain that’s not in fact one of the lots here) – so here, a link to this frankly MASSIVE auction of Star Wars props and memorabilia taking place in the US next week, in which you can expect to pay a cool million bucks for a light-up model of C3PO’s head (in fairness there’s a bunch of other film stuff in here too, like Indiana Jones’ leather jacket from Raiders, so it’s actually worth having a bit of a dig despite my tedious and all-too-predictable anti Star Wars screed).
  • The Organic Software Directory: This feels like A Good Thing – a list of programs that confirm to the broad definition of ‘organic software’, here explained as follows: “The term was coined by @pketh in 2023 in his blog post “In Search of Organic Software”. TL;DR1: Businesses change when they take VC money. Certainly, there were already terms like “Indie” and “Bootstrapped”, but what do they really mean? The “organic” label for software means something specific: Organic Software is software that… 1. Has no external pressure (eg. from funding sources) to chase funding rounds, grow unsustainably, or to get acquired. 2. Has a clear pricing page, discloses their sources of funding, and sources of revenue. 3. Doesn’t make majority revenue from selling user data to third parties” Which frankly sounds like a good set of principles to live by – this is a small, but updated and maintained, list of tools which conform to the ethos, covering website builders and notetaking apps and all sorts of things inbetween (it includes Are.na and mmm.page, to give you an idea of the vibe).
  • FloppyKick: I didn’t realise, until reading this article earlier this week, that there was a thriving (well, in a small way) experimental music scene worldwide, making music and sharing it on floppy discs – I can’t imagine there are THAT many of you who are foaming at the mouth in anticipation of being able to drop (for example) 3 Euros on a floppy disc, emailed to you from Hungary, featuring a single track of ‘experimental noise’ entitled ‘Contagious Orgasm’ which lasts for exactly 30 seconds, but JUST IN CASE I’ll leave this here for you. I don’t feel a need to ever hear this music, but I am very glad that it exists and that people are making it.
  • Walden Pond: Via my friend Simon comes this lovely little project which I think will appeal to a few of you – this is basically ‘Pocket, but instead of reading the articles on the Tube you can instead get them all printed and sent to you as a physical magazine each month, for the genuinely astonishingly low price of a tenner including packing and postage (the price goes up to 14 quid for the 4-hour long version featuring LOADS of articles, which I think seems entirely reasonable)’. I honestly think this is a brilliant concept – not the first time I’ve seen something vaguely like this, but definitely the first time it hasn’t felt like someone was trying to get rich off it or make a PROPER BUSINESS; this instead just feels like a nice hobby project that only wants to cover it’s own ar$e, moneywise (but obviously if the creators happen to read this and feel like I’m misrepresenting either their ambition or their rapaciously capitalistic natures then do feel free to write in and I will happily correct the online record).
  • Death By Numbers: Would you like a dataset covering details of deaths in London between about 1600 and 1750? Would you like to be able to download that for whatever weird (look, fine, whatever, but you can see why I might think that) reason you so choose? GREAT! This is probably a bit niche, but obviously of huge interest to historians and anyone wanting to write a novel set in the 17th or 18thC in which the causes of death are REALLY accurate – I am enjoying scrolling through the tags and noting that ‘headache’ is listed as a potentially fatal condition, as is ‘horseshoehead’, which I really really hope just means ‘was twatted in the head by a horse’.
  • The 2XL Archive: I had genuinely never heard of this before, but perhaps it’s a North America-only thing – anyway, apparently “2-XL was an educational toy robot by Mego from 1978-1981 and re-released by Tiger from 1992-1995. Games originally came on 8-track tapes and later on cassettes during the re-release. Pressing 2-XL’s buttons would change the track, creating a choose your own adventure style path that made it seem as if the toy robot was coming to life.” This website has painstakingly collected and uploaded an amazing collection of the tapes that were packaged with the toy, even going so far as to code in the interactivity bits so you can, should you so desire, replicate the GENUINE EARLY-90s CHILDHOOD EXPERIENCE of what I presume was a pretty rich suburban kid – this is very much something which will mainly appeal to anyone who remembers the original, I think, but there’s something curious about the tech which I get the impression a few of you might find worth digging into.
  • The Run: Did you know Montblanc made perfumes? I certainly didn’t – to be honest I had totally forgotten the company existed, which I imagine will pain any executives reading this deeply; SORRY, FACELESS PEN EXECUTIVES – and I was equally baffled to discover they also make watches and a bunch of other non-pen stuff too. Anyway, perfumes – The Run is a perfectly-serviceable little browsergame which is presumably designed to make you…er…want to buy some sort of biro-themed stinkwater, I presume, via the medium of making you guide a ball down a track at speed. This is actually pretty fun and a not-terrible way of passing the time while you wait for the kettle to boil, or for that idiot to do that thing (why does the idiot always take so long to do the thing?), but I remain utterly confused as to why this game – which, to be clear, features a ROLLING BALL, exactly the sort of ROLLING BALL you get in a BALLPOINT PEN – links to the perfume range rather than the FCUKING BALLPOINT PENS. Come on guys, EMBODY THE BRAND.
  • Prairie Culture: This is a TikTok channel which, according to the bio, is sharing ‘Mongol cuisine and horseback culture’ and honestly it’s great. Although I confess to being possibly not *quite* carnivorous enough to sit and chow down with these people – the (what I presume were) sheep testicles do look pretty good, though, which isn’t honestly a phrase I had ever imagined committing to digital page.
  • Suck Up: This is a link to an actual game that you have to pay for – sorry! – but it’s here more as a ‘how curious!’ link than as a ‘play this’ recommendation. Suck Up is a really interesting attempt to integrated LLMs into gameplay in a way that makes sense and ‘works’ – now I’ve not played this, so I can’t tell you to what extent it’s a winning mechanic, but I have watched some videos of the gameplay and I think there’s the kernel of something genuinely impressive and fun in here. The idea is, basically, that you play as a vampire and you have to persuade the various villagers in the game to let you into their houses so that you can exsanguinate them in typical drac fashion – the LLM integration comes in the dialogue with the NPCs, who are all GPT-or-similar-powered and as such will interact with you in natural language conversation. From the footage I’ve seen this is…imperfect, but it’s also evidently fun and interesting and surprising in a way that games so rarely manage to be; equally, LLMs are still stylistically vapid and as such there’s something of a paucity of style to some of the interactions, but this is one of the first times I’ve looked at this stuff and thought ‘actually, yes, this makes sense and might one day actually be good’. BONUS CONTENT: you can read more about this genre of experimental gameplay here, if you like.
  • AA Roads: Are…are roads HAVING A MOMENT? I ask only as I swear I’ve seen an uptick in tarmacadam-focused content over the past six months, and now here’s another road-obsessive’s website (genuinely had no idea ‘road obsessives’ was anything other than an unfunny throwaway gag, and yet here we are) – AA Roads! “Our mission is to provide the most comprehensive coverage of roads and highways online. Featured throughout our site are photo guides, highway history, project news, maps and other resources. A variety of topics on AARoads aids in trip planning and research while providing the latest information on an assortment of subjects covering roads across the United States.” I have literally NO IDEA who this is for, but, er, here! WHY ARE ALL THESE PEOPLE TAKING PHOTOS OF ROADS AND POSTING THEM ONLINE?
  • Tangleword: I have to confess that I got annoyed with this game because, er, I didn’t really understand it at first and as such it made me feel both thick and resentful (I am nothing if not a good loser). Still, you might get on with it better than I do – it’s the very opposite of intuitive, though, so you’ll probably want to read the instructions (or don’t! See if I care!).
  • Matt Round’s Flash Games Archive: Friend of Curios Matt Round has recently got, er, round to updating some of the old Flash games that he made years ago so that they now work in modern browsers – and you can play a few of them here. Janey Thompson’s Marathon made me laugh out loud – Matt, should you read this, I genuinely think we should offer a cash prize to anyone who can prove completion.
  • A Text Adventure: Finally this week, I *think* this is very old and has been resurrected, but I can’t for the life of me remember where the fcuk I found it and there’s no information on the site. BUT! That doesn’t matter! What DOES matter is that this is BRILLIANT – I don’t want to spoil anything, but it’s very likely that your first playthrough will end in failure, but that that failure will totally change your perception of the game. This is really smart, really nicely-made and well-written, gently-amusing and really worth an hour of your time while you wait for that same bloody idiot to do the thing.

By Lee Madgwick



  • Supper Mario Broth: Slightly astounded that this hasn’t been in Curios before, but apparently not – this is a Super Mario-themed (the title, however, is not a typo) Tumblr curated by a VERY OBSESSIVE Mario fan. You want Mario trivia and minutiae and facts? ARE YOU SURE, THIS MAN HAS A LOT OF THEM.



  • Naive Yearly: Kris, who writes the Naive Weekly newsletter which I link to most weeks, ran a conference in Copenhagen last year called Naive Yearly – a day which brought together a bunch of people who make and work at the edges of what he terms ‘the small, poetic web’, creating small web experiences and pieces of digital art and craft which exist orthogonally to the big platforms and mass media of the majority of the web. I happened to be there too, despite embodying literally none of the above-defined ideals and being about as creative as mince, and it was honestly lovely – fascinating talks about fascinating topics by fascinating people, and all of it genuinely hopeful and positive and optimistic about what the web is and what it can be, and how people can use it in interesting ways to make things and define themselves. Kris has now creates a small website to hold some thoughts about the day, some notes from the speakers and some details on their talks, and I honestly can’t recommend this enough – every single one of the people here listed has something interesting to say about ‘digital’ (in the broadest sense), and I promise you there is something to inspire and delight each and every one of you in here. If nothing else, read Kris’s essay about the landing page, which I think is a lovely evocation of the spirit he’s exploring in his weekly newsletter and through the talks and thinking here collected – honestly, I am a miserable cynic (it may not be apparent from the joyful, lighthearted in-house style employed at Curios, but I am!) and generally tend to hate everyone and everything, and like any proper GenXer am allergic to sincerity, but despite this and despite the fact that I spent not-insignificant portions of the day feeling a little bit like death at the rave, I STILL felt inspired and excited by everything I’d heard – which makes me think that YOU, nameless, faceless stranger who’s probably marginally less of a miserable husk than me, might really enjoy it.
  • Is Claude Conscious?: This week Anthropic, the people behind the ‘Claude’ AI, released a bunch of new models – and in playing with them, people are once again getting overexcited and frothy and saying silly things about consciousness and The Machine. Maybe I’m being unfair – I suppose the author here isn’t TECHNICALLY saying that they believe that The Machine is in fact self-aware and ‘wants to live’, just letting you, the reader, infer that if you like – but I think it’s important to point out here that NO THESE MACHINES CANNOT AT PRESENT THINK. Still, it’s interesting to read the transcripts of conversations in which Claude does a reasonably convincing job of sounding a lot like the sort of sentient AI that must have been written up millions of times in the reams of low-quality AI self-publishes scifi that’s almost-certainly included in the training set – BECAUSE THAT’S WHAT’S HAPPENING HERE. If you’re interested in this stuff, this is a REALLY interesting paper exploring exactly the question of ‘ok, what might we meaningfully want to say when we talk about ‘consciousness’ in the context of the current and coming wave of machines’ – it’s a PROPER PHILOSOPHY PAPER, and as such it might be a bit of a struggle if you’re not used to the conventions of the discipline, but I think it does a very good job of outlining questions around what consciousness ‘is’, and how we might talk about new versions of it that we’re almost certainly going to encounter at some point in the not-too-distant.
  • We Haven’t Been Capitalisming Hard Enough: I really like the title of this piece, by Tobias Revell, in which he argues that we should become better at spotting the lie and incoherence at the heart of the continued claim that we’re fcuking things up simply because we’re holding back the invisible hand in some way, and that the only way to succeed is to TURN CAPITALISM UP TO 11. To quote, “If you point out that AI isn’t actually meeting any of these promises and is hurting a bunch of people along the way, it is turned into an excuse for more, faster AI. Effective accelerationists who are tend to lurk at the forefront of the technology and money discussion will gleefully profess that fuelling the worst excesses of capitalisms is a great idea because actually it will lead to all these things they’ve been promising: That really, the problem isn’t that technology developed and deployed through capitalistic mechanisms will always fail to fulfil its promises as longs as the motivation is shareholder profit, but that it’s only with more, harder, faster capitalism that these promises can be fulfilled.”
  • Generative AI and the Future of New York: This is a really interesting report by Mckinsey, which I’ve been surprised hasn’t been picked up more widely – in it, the consultancy does a bunch of modelling work to predict the potential impact on the economy and labour market that we can expect to see, based on the current trajectory of progress, from increased adoption and integration of generative AI into the global economy. Bear in mind, this is *Mckinsey*, a company with a very strong vested interest in making this stuff look as positive and ‘BETTER FUTURE’ as possible because that’s how then make loads of money being the people who advise on exactly how to implement it and how to then sack all the people you no longer need…and even Mckinsey is predicting an at-best 100k positive impact on the jobs market, and even THAT is based on an utterly-empty statement about ‘700k new jobs arising in new fields enabled by AI’ (which, obviously, we can’t POSSIBLY envisage, but, equally obviously, DEFINITELY WILL HAPPEN). When even the consultants whose living depends on juicing this stuff and selling the most positive vision of it as possible are struggling to build the ‘no, don’t worry, the jobs will be fine!’ narrative then perhaps the rest of us ought to worry.
  • Finding Food In Gaza: The images of starving, dying kids coming out of Gaza in the past week have been horrific – this piece from a few week’s back in the New Yorker tells of one family’s struggle, along with others, to stay fed in the months following Hamas’ attack on Israel and the subsequent bombardments and what-increasingly-looks-like-attempted-genocide of the civilian population of the entirety of Gaza. As I said right at the start of this, I’m not really touching this issue in Curios because, honestly, there’s enough of it everywhere else, but this really struck me, both because of what’s happening and because of the writing which is excellent.
  • Amazon’s Big Secret: I found this piece, all about Amazon’s not-entirely-transparent financials and business structure and how a significant proportion of the company’s insane finances might in fact result from some good, old-fashioned market manipulation: “in amazon’s case, the FTC lawsuit suggests that the company’s financial disclosures effectively conceal a major source of profits: its third-party marketplace, which connects buyers with outside sellers. Third-party transactions represent about 60 percent of Amazon’s sales volume. The company acts as a middleman, matching vendors with shoppers and providing logistics to get the product from one to the other. The FTC alleges that, within this third-party market, Amazon imposes exorbitant fees on the sellers who rely on its site to reach customers, fees well in excess of what it costs Amazon to provide those services, leading to big profits. How big? That’s redacted.” Fwiw, I’ve long maintained that of all the planet-fcuking big tech companies of the past 20 years, it’s Amazon that unsettles me the most – this does little to disabuse me of the notion that it’s the bogeyman.
  • What Your Ape Bought You: Ah, Bored Apes! You briefly zeitgeisty jpegs, with your mutant strains and your ape juice and your plausible allegations of weird, fashy undertones to the whole thing! Imagine, for a second, that you’d been left holding one of these monuments to human idiocy when the carousel of hype finally stopped – what, do you think, would you *do* with it? Well, you may not recall but back in the day when people were briefly forced to take Yuga Labs seriously as a business the company came out with some guff about creating an NFT/blockchain based metarversal experienced called The Otherside, which would be underpinned by APE LORE and would concur all sorts of exclusive benefits to Ape holders, whose NFTs would somehow come to life in the digital third space – there was a lot of rubbish talked (pretty sure not by me, but I’m now too scared to check) about the potential for real/digital crossover economics and the beginnings of a real-to-virtual-goods pipeline…and last week, Yuga Labs opened up The Otherside for the first time, to let lucky Ape owners get their first taste of the glorious digital future, and…oh, look, just click the link and enjoy, it’s DELICIOUS.
  • Welcome The GenA Influencers: Or, maybe, don’t! Hot on the heels of the recent piece about the unsurprising fact that there are perverts on the internet who really enjoy it when parents put glamour shots of their kids on Insta in the hope of earning out a few creator pennies (otherwise known as PIMPING YOUR CHILDREN FFS) comes this piece, about how a whole new generation of people who should never have spawned are playing dress-up with their kids for a potential audience of millions on TikTok, again in the hope of cashing out a grand or so when their progeny hits the magical million view marker. I don’t really know what to say about this – if people still haven’t learned after THREE FCUKING GENERATIONS of this stuff that ‘putting photos of your kids on the public internet is not necessarily a good idea, and ignoring that fact for the sake of a few quid makes you an actively bad parent’ then I think maybe we’re beyond help.
  • The Post-Universal TikTok Musical Universe: I think I mentioned the other week that I thought there was a non-zero possibility that TikTok was going to gradually move away from actual songs and instead pivot to AI-generated music as the sound currency of choice – this piece makes a not-dissimilar point, arguing that, taken out of context in a three-second loop, what difference does it make anyway? Which may not exactly cheer your soul, but, equally, it sort-of makes sense.
  • Don’t Overestimate Your Attractiveness When Traveling To Colombia: Ok, fine, not the technical title of the piece, but I did find the story here – about people (MEN!) getting absolutely rinsed in Medellin and Bogota by women who match with them on Tinder and – SURPRISE! – turn out to be more interested in the contents of the wallet than that of their pants. I will never cease to be amused by the magic that happens when a particular type of – not usually traditionally attractive – man travels to a foreign country and thinks that his paunch, sunburn and lack of any linguistic ability whatsoever will render him inexplicably irresistible to the local talent. If the women chirpsing you on the apps in this notoriously-criminal city are significantly hotter than the ones you match with at home then, yes, it IS entirely possible that you’ve simply stumbled across a hitherto-unimagined enclave of tubby fetishists – but, let’s be honest, it’s fcuking unlikely.
  • Dune and Magic D1ck Theory: Obviously I haven’t seen Dune (I tried reading the books as a kid and fcuk me they were bad), but I know the story and very much enjoyed this essay which looks at the narrative from the perspective of the classic ‘magic d1ck’ theory of the heroic bildungsroman, and how Dune to an extent subverts that.
  • The TikTok Spam Industrial Complex: I do wonder what the rise in popularity of ‘pyramid schemes and MLM stuff and selling bullsh1t training courses to morons’ says about Where We Are Now, and why it is that so many of us are so happy to earn money in ways that are quite obviously exploitative of the stupid and the desperate. Anyway! That’s not really what this is about (except also it is) – it’s ACTUALLY about the various different ways in which people are currently deluding themselves they can get rich via making AI-generated dreck and chucking it on TikTok in the hope of hitting the viral jackpot and earning a grand per million views, and how other, smarter people are lying about how much success they’re having doing exactly this, and selling tutorial courses on how YOU TOO CAN DO IT to moronic rubes and cashing in. This is MULTI-LEVEL depressing – the fact that, regardless of whether it actually works as a way of earning money, people are doing this RIGHT NOW and flooding platforms and the web with SO MUCH RUBBISH, and it is not going to get better; the fact that, despite the fact that 99% of this stuff won’t work at all, I am equally certain that 1% of it *will* – because people already spend time consuming content that isn’t vastly *better* than this; the fact that so many kids are so fcuking hustlepilled that the idea of ‘passive income earned from 10 minutes of AI-wrangling’ is a genuine aspiration…honestly, this story is probably the best microcosm of ‘where the creator economy is, and is heading’ I’ve seen in ages. More brilliant work by 404 Media.
  • The Art and History of Lettering Comics: This is an ACTUAL PROPER BOOK – useful and instructive for those of you who really, really want to learn about the art and history of lettering comics, probably less so for everyone else.
  • Adapting American Psycho: I think I’ve read American Psycho a dozen or so times (I appreciate that makes me sound like a psychopath, but if it’s any consolation I have read LOADS of books that many times,most of them less…upsetting, and I almost always skip the really horrible bits because once was probably enough), the first time when I had just bought it at the airport aged about 14 before getting on a flight to Italy (and having the genuinely miserable experience of the woman sitting next to me reading over my shoulder and, as the flight and the book went on, moving further and further away from me so that by the end she was practically hanging into the aisle in an attempt to get away from me); my English teacher at college took the (on reflection, STAGGERINGLY-inappropriate) step of asking my then-girlfriend if I was ‘normal’ in bed, because she knew I liked the book; I saw the film at the cinema in the week of its opening, unfortunately with that same girlfriend and my mum (not, on reflection, a good idea, and one I wish I hadn;t just recalled quite so vividly) – basically I have previous with the book, and the film, and so this account by Director Mary Harron, about her experience adapting it for the screen, pleased me immensely. The closing lines, in particular, are a joy: “People are always asking me about whether the movie’s ‘real’ or not. I would say there’s a point when he starts to put a kitten into the ATM. I think you can say that after that things are not so real.”
  • Striking Drivers: A good piece in Vittles about the current strikes among the delivery driver community in London, how and why they started, how they’re being organised, and why, sadly, in an attritional battle like this it’s likely that the VC money will hold firm longer than the drivers will. Tip your deliverypeople, please.
  • Blotter Art: “The Institute of Illegal Images (III) is housed in a dilapidated shotgun Victorian in San Francisco’s Mission District, which also happens to be the home of a gentleman named Mark McCloud. The shades are always drawn; the stairs are rotting; the door is peppered with stickers declaring various subcultural affiliations: “Acid Baby Jesus,” “Haight Street Art Center,” “I’m Still Voting for Zappa.” As in many buildings from that era, at least in this city, the first floor parlor has high ceilings, whose walls are packed salon-style with the core holdings of the institute: a few hundred mounted and framed examples of LSD blotter.” I loved this, about the art printed on tabs of acid (or sheets of tabs) in the heyday of the psychedelic movement (and still latterly – I have vague memories of being given a sheet of smiley-faced tabs in the 90s, but thankfully no memory of taking the things) and the tab as a carrier of culture. Other than pills which are still subject to idiosyncratic visual branding – I had one which was the shape and colour of a can of heineken a few years ago, which was somewhat surprising – are any other drugs subject to this degree of creativity in their packaging? I don’t count the increasingly-preposterous trend of calling weed things like “Croquembouche Gravadlax”.
  • Me, My Selfies and I: I really enjoyed this essay, partly because it’s something I can’t empathise with AT ALL and therefore it describes feelings that are utterly unknown to me. Erika Thorkelson writes about the experience of ageing in an era where one has such an intimate relationship with one’s own face, seen through so many images, tweaked and optimised and HD and EVERPRESENT, and how the concept of the self-portrait, and the generational obsession for people hitting 40 about now of taking them, has changed her relationship to her own face and how she feels about it…I think, other than for official purposes, I have taken a grand total of one selfie in my life (hated it), I own no photos of myself and I don’t look in the mirror, ever, unless I absolutely have to (I close my eyes at the hairdressers, I’m ashamed to admit) and so this is utterly unimaginable to me – I have no picture of what I look like in my head, and I am fine with that, but I appreciate this is possibly not entirely normal.
  • Mike Read’s Heritage Chart: Ok, this probably won’t mean much to any non-UK people, but MY GOD did I love this – Pete Paphides writes about his new obsession, the genuinely-weird-sounding TV programme that is Mike Read’s Heritage Chart Show. Never heard of it? No, neither had I, but let this opening paragraph draw you in – I promise you that the rest of the piece amply lives up to this: “A couple of weeks ago, the UK’s only chart-based music show celebrated its hundredth episode, and yet, there’s every chance you’ve never heard of it. That’s because, in order to watch it live, you’d have to be seated in front of your TV at 3am on Monday morning. Furthermore, you won’t find it on a music channel. It’s not on any of our terrestrial stations. Mike Read’s Heritage Chart Show is, in some ways, an aberration on the schedule of vintage movie channel Talking Pictures. In another sense though, it’s a perfect fit among Talking Pictures’ carefully curated menu of Ealing comedies, monochrome sagas of wartime derring-do, old episodes of 70s daytime staple Crown Court and, on one memorable occasion, a 1954 documentary about the Shippams Fish Paste factory.”
  • Recycling: Georgie Newson writes in the LRB about going to the recycling centre and how basically it taught her that recycling is largely boll0cks. Oh, ok, fine, not ‘boll0cks’, but very much edging into ‘bandage on an axewound’ territory, and not even a particularly large or well-tied bandage – oh look, turns out that the actual solution to the problems we’re facing might actually just be ‘buy less fcuking stuff’, whodathunkit?
  • Ajamu X: I;ve been seeing lots of positive chat about Jason Okundaye’s new book, Revolutionary Acts, about black queer culture in the UK, and this extract printed in GQ, in which he talks to and writes about Ajamu X, a photographer and artist and activist who’s been a pioneering voice in these spaces for years, is brilliant – really interesting history that I (unsurprisingly) know very little about.
  • Coyote vs Acme: Allegedly the full plot summary of the now-oublietted Roger Rabbit-like film that asked ‘what would happen if Wil E Coyote attempted to sue ACME for making really sh1t gadgets?’ – I obviously have no idea at all whether this is real, but, fcukit, it READS like it’s real, and it sounds GREAT and while you will enjoy reading this a lot you will also be left feeling a TINY bit sad that you probably never will.
  • Just The Edges: Tattoos and abuse and infidelity in this short short story by Molly Wadzeck Kraus.
  • London 2039: Back to the White Pube, really one of my favourite places for interesting writing write now, whether about art or otherwise, for this excellent bit of…short fiction/social commentary/angry shouting, about London and gentrification and art and power and money and, oddly, being a cat. This is GREAT.
  • Proper Country: Ralf Webb writes in Granta about going to the country and living with his parents for a bit, and the young/old urban/rural urbane/staid modern/antiquated divides that he encountered – this is great, funny and true and pleasingly self-aware and then I got to the end and saw how young Ralf is and I got a bit annoyed and jealous. It’s still great though.
  • The Adolescents: Our final longread of the week comes from The Fence – a short story by Madeline Brettingham which is about middle-aged marriage and infidelity and relationships and all that jazz, and it is in parts VERY funny but also really quite beautifully poignant too, and I think it’s a lovely piece to read with a cup of tea so why not put the kettle on?

By Butternut Collage