Webcurios 08/04/22

Reading Time: 38 minutes

Hello! Hello! Hi!

Well I had a lovely week off, not least because so doing meant that I got to avoid both The Slap and April Fools (but mainly because I got to see my girlfriend and have conversations longer than 30 seconds at a time). As such, I like to think I’ve returned to the coalface (no, that’s not right…spaffface? No, that’s definitely not right either and I promise I will never type it again) with a renewed sense of hope and enthusiasm, but let’s see how long that lasts shall we?

As is customary after a post-hiatus Curios, this one is particularly full, bulging at what one might loosely term ‘the seams’ with a lumpy, heterogenous and unpleasantly-textured smorgasbord of stuff – so obviously the best thing do do is to shove your face in and see what sticks to it.

I am still Matt, this is still Web Curios, and you are, I imagine, so grateful to have me back that you couldn’t possibly find adequate words to express that gratitude and as such won’t.

By Jeff Mermelstein



  • The Place 2: Long-term readers will know that I have long held a special place in my heart for the original iteration of Reddit’s ‘Place’ experiment, originally launched on April Fool’s day 2017 as a massive canvas which any Redditor could alter one pixel of every few minutes and which ended up being a truly glorious testament to the collaborative endeavour of the web. Last week Reddit brought it back on its 5th anniversary, and, whilst the project is now over again with the canvas having finally been locked, clicking the link takes you to the final work which you can xoom around and explore to your heart’s content (there’s a pleasing timelapse of its evolution linked right on the homepage, should you want one). SO SO WONDERFUL, and, if you’re feeling a touch Pollyanna-ish, a wonderful testament to what can be achieved when a bunch of strangers collaborate together to create something (the cynic in me might argue that it’s easy when the stakes are as low as ‘make some nice pixelart’, and the barriers to this sort of wonderful cooperation become significantly higher when there’s something more important at stake like, I don’t know, the heat death of the planet, but let’s tell that cynic to fcuk off for a second, shall we?). There’s SO MUCH in here, and it’s really worth zooming in to have a look at the various communities and interests represented – the QR code is a particularly-masterful touch, imho, as is the complete absence (that I can see, at least) of anything hateful. WELL DONE, REDDIT! This is a bit of an explainer about the experiment, should you want one, whilst this piece from VICE explains how Twitch streamers and Discord channels helped coordinate the process (and also touches on the fact that the web is JUST A BUNCH OF CULTS BUMPING UP AGAINST EACH OTHER, which obviously is an argument I am here for all day).
  • Dall-E 2: You remember Dall-E, right? OpenAI’s cutely-named image generation AI toy which lets you generate pictures based on text prompts or sketches? Well just over a year on from the unveiling of the original, the company this week unveiled its successor and FCUK ME is this some impressive kit. You can’t, to be clear, play with it yet – access is via a gated waitlist, which unless you’re someone with skin in the AI image-generation game I wouldn’t bet on accessing anytime soon – but the link takes you to the announcement post which lets you take a look at some examples of the machine’s work and, well, Christ alive. Not the first link in this week’s Curios to basically say ‘if you make money mocking up images in photshop (NO I WILL NOT CAPITALISE THAT WORD OR ADD THE ™, ADOBE, YOU FCUKS, WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO ABOUT IT?) then you might want to consider retraining quicksmart’, but certainly the one that says that most loudly – the quality of the outputs here, and demonstrated in this thread in which an OpenAI staffer uses the kit to create images from his mates’ Twitter bios, is astonishing. Disappointingly, if unsurprisingly, Dall-E will have its ability to create anything too horrific or disgusting or ‘sexy’ nerfed by the devs, meaning that you’re going to want to find alternative tools should you wish to create, say, a neverending parade of clownbongo, but this does rather feel like a next-level iteration of some already-quite-exciting stuff. Oh, and here’s some more stuff generated by another project called MidJourney – basically, if your main source of income is ‘shopping images into being then you are so, so fcuked. Sorry, I don’t make the rules.
  • Proverbs: Whilst we wait to get access to Dall-E 2, then, let’s look at some of the other things going on in the ‘let’s make machines imagine things for us and hang the consequences!’ realm – here’s a new Shardcore project in which he’s fed a bunch (5,000-ish, in fact) of proverbs into a CLIP-powered AI and asked it to visualise them; here you can read a bit about the project, and then go click-crazy to see what the machines make of such historic bromides as ‘an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth’ (horrible), or ‘Don’t get mad, get even’ (sinister). I quite like the fact that these are still quite shonky around the edges – it feels rather like this is the last iteration of this stuff that will throw out this particular flavour of edge-case wrongness, before all the jagged bits get smoothed out and we’re no longer able to produce anything this unsettling without jailbreaking the code (there’s something slightly sad about the fact that the versions of this that will become publicly-available will all inevitably have their imaginations cuffed to a PG-13 rating, though I can obviously see the rationale behind the decision not to unleash an infinite number of bongo-imagining imagebots on an unsuspecting planet).
  • Mass.Black: Yes, I know, NFT art is BORING AND RUBBISH. I do think this one is quite interesting, though, as far as these things go. Murat Pak is very much one of the whales in the current scene, with a personal crypto pile running into the millions which he’s made from being an early-entrant into the NFT art scene and (some might argue) very savvy about how to play the market. To his credit, though, there’s a lot of conceptually-chewy stuff that sits behind the work – this project, the first phase of which will end at the end of April, is effectively a sort of…lottery/game/treasurehunt, in which you can buy in to acquire ‘matter’ tokens, which can then merge with each other to create other sorts of tokens, which confer different benefits and, at each tier, become more scarce, the whole of which is wrapped up in the HIGH CONCEPT of a work which shifts and mutates depending on the number of people participating in it. Which, to be clear, is just ‘YOUR APES CAN MUTATE AND BECOME TOXIC APES!!!’, just with less cartoon frippery and bad illustration – I do, though, find that there’s something fascinating about the ways in which the nature of the ‘thing’ that you are buying can be used to change and evolve the work post-purchase. This is still, at heart, a Ponzi-ish grift (sorry, but), but at least it’s putting the effort in.
  • System: I am slightly agog and a bit confused (plus ca change, but). “System is a free, open, and living public resource that aims to explain how anything in the world is connected to everything else. Today, System comprises thousands of relationships between hundreds of topics, and counting. As the world becomes increasingly complex and interdependent, our vision is to statistically relate everything as one system. We believe that seeing the whole system will help us all make better decisions — at home, at work, and as a society…The statistical evidence on System is retrieved from open data, open machine learning models, and scientific papers, and added by a community of scientists and systems thinkers. This information is then organized and visualized with all the supporting data by its side. In the near future, anyone will be able to contribute evidence of relationships to System using a variety of tools. We are actively working on ways — both human and machine-driven — to ensure the quality of information on System. For this first public release (v1.0-beta), the determination of what datasets, models, and papers statistics are retrieved from currently falls to members of our team and to users who are beta testing the tools we’ve built to contribute to System.” So…what, a unified taxonomy of everything? A relational database of ALL KNOWN CONCEPTS? On the one hand, pull the other one mate this has got bells on it; on the other, WHAT an interesting idea! There are…flaws in this model, obviously, not least the fact that its inference modeling obviously needs some work (the strong correlation it seems to think exists between ‘armed conflict’ and ‘vaccinations’ is not currently a thing, though there’s always the bleak possibility that this is in fact so sophisticated that it’s predicting the future), but the ambition here is quite incredible and you can very much see the potential just by clicking around. It’s been a while since I’ve been excited about a knowledge graph (and isn’t that just the saddest phrase in the world? OH MY LIFE!), but this really is interesting.
  • Judas Priest’s Guide To Heavy Metal: A quick change of pace here, with this lightly-interactive animated(ish) musical comic, charting the story of SEMINAL midlands noise-monkeys Judas Priest through illustration and a bit of light AI image transfer, and RIFFS and DRUMS and LICKS. You get some band interviews, you get some guitar instructionals, and you get a LOT of headbanging music over the top of it – I think this was part of a promo for the tour that the band did last year, so it’s not SUPER-new, but, fcukit, neither are Judas Priest themselves so it’s probably ok. Er, \m/!!
  • Snack Data: I have literally no idea what this is or why it exists. Exactly a decade old this month, Snack Data is, er, a bunch of rudimentary pixelart drawings of a bunch of seemingly-random foodstuffs (snacks, if you will!) which, when clicked on, take you to a small iterm description. That’s it. The ‘about’ page doesn’t seem to exist, the associated Twitter account last posted in 2016, and I have literally no idea what compelled the person who made this to compile hundreds of these into one place, with descriptions such as “Donut: Also known as ‘doughnut’. It is basically a fried ring of dough. It’s served mostly in America and shops that open very early and close in the early afternoon. ‘Donut shops’ as they are known, almost exclusively sell donut. Finding a plain donut may prove difficult, as it is normally covered by other foods, such a glaze and sprinkle.Donut tastes great. ‘You can’t eat just one!’ as the popular donut quip goes. It is sweet and soft. It tastes best soon after it is prepared, but not too soon after, because then it’s way too hot.” WHY DOES THIS EXIST? WHY DID SOMEONE SPEND A NOT-INCONSIDERABLE NUMBER OF HOURS OF THE EXISTENCE GRANTED THEM BY A MYSTERIOUS AND UNKNOWABLE COSMIC FORCE CREATING THIS BAFFLING COLLECTION OF POOR-QUALITY IMAGES OF FOODSTUFFS? God the web is wonderful.
  • Plaintext Sports: A webpage which does nothing other than display latest sports scores (it’s a US site, so obviously it’s all their sports, meaning it’s packed full of meaningless stats like “CHL 276 – MYY 922! GO PITUITARIES”, but you can get the idea) in super-simple html. Which, obviously, I imagine is of pretty much no use to you at all unless you’re a fan of North American sports and have a really poor wifi connection, but it made me think that there’s a definite niche for this sort of thing – a single-serving website that presents useful live information in the simplest, most stripped-back manner possible. A live saturday afternoon football (the real football, not the fake sort with the padding and the interminable ad breaks) scores page like this, for example, with everything simple and clean and graphics-free, could be a proper useful thing. Basically what I’m saying here is ‘let’s kick back against the whole concept of the metaverse by instead insisting on making websites which are nothing but ASCII TAKE THAT ZUCKERBERG!’.
  • Disinformation on Twitter: An interesting project by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, which takes various datasets provided by Twitter through its Information Operations Archive and analyses them to present analysis of the spread of misinformation campaigns of various provenance across the platform. You can look back at campaigns from Saudi, Spain, Thailand, Iran, Venezuela and other places, seeing which accounts were most active, which links were spread, how the campaign developed…whilst this is all historical rather than live information, it’s a fascinating look at how analysis of Twitter datasets can contribute to deeper understanding of The Way Disinformation Works on the platform. The ‘media gallery’ section under each campaign breakdown is particularly-interesting to me in terms of the visual language of modern digital political propaganda (I don’t suppose any of you know of any recent-ish academic studies into the changing visual vernacular of state propaganda, do you?).
  • Her Campus Labs: I’ve said this here before, I think, but near the top of my list of ‘companies I never, ever want to work with again because they are all mad corporate zombies who haven’t so much drunk the Kool Aid as been embalmed in it’ is Procter & Gamble (a company so brainwashy that employees of its Cincinnati campus were referred to by locals as ‘Proctoids’ for their less-than-wholly-human demeanour). Still, much as I might personally hate the business (seriously, I went through a period of deliberately seeking out and buying Unilever alternatives at the supermarket, so bitter and scarred was I by that fcuking client – stick it to the man, Matt! YEAH!), you can’t argue that it is very good at making money, partly through its (legitimately impressive) R&D endeavours. This caught my eye this week, along those lines – P&G has basically funded an R&D skunkworks to catch promising new innovation early in the process and so get its lovely patent-y claws into it as soon as possible: “Her Campus Labs and P&G Ventures are looking for the next generation of women innovators with products they want to bring to life. Top nominees will have the opportunity to pitch and workshop their ideas with P&G Ventures executives” – in case it’s not clear from the name, the focus here is on female-led innovation (the INSIGHT (dear God STOP WITH THAT FCUKING WORD) underpinning the project is the underrepresentation of women in STEM in the US workforce). This is smart, as you’d expect, although there’s something slightly-bleak about the idea of massive companies buying up IP earlier and earlier in its lifecycle and hoovering up innovation as a means of maintaining competitive advantage. Still, if you have an amazing idea for, say, environmentally-friendly toothpaste then this might be of interest.
  • Playhouse: TIKTOK, BUT FOR PROPERTY! I mean, that’s literally it – Playhouse is a new property app whose gimmick is an INFINITE (not infinite – there will not be enough properties on here to keep you amused for more than 15m, tops) scroll of property listings bongo which you can snoop through to your heart’s content, with the added joy of being able to play a basic ‘higher or lower?’ guessing game based on the values of the various mansions and maisonettes you’re presented with. The app theoretically makes money from people clicking through and requesting more info about the listings in question, which, lol, that’s not a viable business model, lads, but wevs. Aside from anything else, if you can’t see anything lightly-dystopian about a world in which tired wageslaves crash out in bed at the end of a long day delivering groceries for minimum wage, relaxing by swiping mindlessly through videos of houses they will never be able to afford whilst guessing numbly at the exact unattainable sum they would need to achieve the dream being dangled before their drooping lids then you’re probably reading the wrong newsletterblogtypething.
  • Clay: Back in the weird period of time when, for various professional reasons, I had to spend more time than was strictly healthy thinking about Milo Yiannopoulos, I remember reading a blogpost he’d written about how he used a spreadsheet to classify everyone he met based on a number of different criteria through which he evaluated their ‘usefulness’ and overall worth as a potential friendship candidate…Jesus, Business Insider paid for that piece, turns out. Anyway, that elicited the general “My God Milo, you’re so awful!” reaction that he craved, and that was that – now, 8 years on, what was a sociopathic affectation used for attention clicks by a sociopath is now a VIABLE PRODUCT. Clay is a piece of software which does exactly what Milo’s spreadsheet did, but with more bells and whistles. Keep track of everyone you know in one database! Track their likes and loves and profits and losses and births and deaths and hopes and dreams, for knowledge is power and power is competitive advantage and competitive advantage is everything and CRUSH IT! CRUSH IT EVERY DAY!!!! Ahem. Sorry, I forgot myself and thought I was on LinkedIn for a second. Anyway, this is horrible and I hate it – particularly enjoyed the blurb at the bottom where it suggests that the software is used by high-powered people at all sorts of shiny big companies (Disney! Apple! Nike! TYPE-A CITY!!!!!), and goes on to say that it’s the secret of really thoughtful leaders – er, no, sorry, thoughtfulness is caring enough to remember stuff about people yourself, not, in fact, ‘using a spreadsheet and almost certainly a personal assistant in order to perform the superficial job of ‘giving a fcuk’ without in fact actually having to do so at all’.
  • Pangur: Ooh, this is really interesting if a bit tricky to understand. “Pangur is a visual programming language for working with text in real time”, goes the slightly-minimal description, but, honestly, that doesn’t even begin. My hamfisted attempt to explain it would go something like this – “Imagine, right, Yahoo Pipes, but instead of hooking together different webpages and processes, you’re hooking together fragments of text with rules and what are effectively logic gates and things, in order to create programs out of language which generate poetry and prose in a weird, centaur-ish man/machine hybrid way” – but you’d probably be none the wiser as to what the fcuk that actually means. I suggest you click the link, check out the examples and the ‘About’ page, and see if you can get your head round it – I think the potential here for generative word art, and all sorts of other stuff besides, is huge.
  • The Tweet DAO: Back to the silly NFT projects for a second now, with The Tweet DAO – a Decentralised Autonomous Organisation whose sole thing is that membership (governed by token ownership, natch) gives one the opportunity to Tweet from the Twitter account owned by said DAO. Which, based on current prices for said tokens, means that you are paying £1500 to Tweet from an account that has approximately 12k followers. That…that doesn’t seem like a great deal, does it? Still, the feed is worth a follow, if only to see what sort of gems of wisdom people who can afford to drop that sort of money for the right to Tweet feel like sharing. Let’s take a look, shall we? “sometimes when i sit down on the toilet my balls get tightly squeezed between my thighs that it feels like they may burst out of my scrotum. its amazing how strong that hairy membrane is <3”. Oh.
  • Metavoice: The world’s first voice-changing NFTs!!! Metavoice promises to be a game-changing voice-alteration product which lets users change their vocal stylings in realtime whilst preserving the emotion and nuance of the original speech – of course, there aren’t any actual examples of how the tech will work in practice or how good it is (there’s a concept video, but I don’t quite believe it), or any good explanation of why the shuddering fcuk this needs to have anything to do with NFTs whatsoever (seriously, there is no discernible technical reason why this needs have anything to do with the blockchain, is there?), but why let that stop you getting involved? Although actually I did do a bit more digging just now and there’s a whole bit on the site about how one of the potential use-cases for the software was ‘stopping people making fun of your voice on YouTube videos or on Discord channels’ which is honestly a bit heartbreaking and makes me feel slightly-bad about my initial skepticism. Er, sorry.
  • Liquid Marketplace: This is basically the whole web3cryptoNFTethos in one website, imho. “OWN EVERYTHING!!!” screams the homepage – yes, that’s right, the one main problem with everything right now is the lack of an ability to apply ownership structures and the eventual rule of the market to ANYTHING YOU CAN IMAGINE! This is a company with a very specific idea – to whit, that there are enough morons out there who will want to pay money to buy a fractionalised NFT of a real ‘collectible’ as an investment opportunity. Are there? Probably, is the sad answer. Anyway, should you ever want the ability to bid to own a fractional quantity of, say, a rare Pokemon card, the real version of which is DEFINITELY being held in a secure vault somewhere, then here’s your chance! Exactly how this ‘ownership’ will play out, exactly how value will be maintained, and exactly how this will be prevented from turning into a massive bunfight over when to sell and who to, remains to be seen, but in the meantime there are definitely a few people who will get very rich out of this before it all falls apart (unfortunately, one of them will be Logan Paul).
  • Powerful Images: Or, to give this Twitter account its full name, ‘Images With Too Much Power’. They’re not lying.
  • Thoren Bradley: I don’t tend to post stuff in Curios that could reasonably fall under the heading of ‘thirst traps’, but I will make an exception for the TikTok account of one Thoren Bradley, a man whose videos consist solely of him chopping massive logs of wood in some sort of sylvan North American setting, whilst being all handsome and lightly-sweat-dappled and coming out with some truly filthy-sounding commentary while he does so. I am very much not target audience for this guy’s (admittedly self-evident) charms, and even I found myself getting a touch flustered as he growled ‘spread for me’ at a particularly-recalcitrant log.
  • Back of your Hand: This is brilliant and utterly-fiendish – a game where you point the map at an area you think you know well, and which then proceeds to utterly destroy that early confidence by asking you to pick out specific streets and places on the map and (I presume) laughs at you as you totally fail to find them. This is really hard, or at least it is for me – I have a theory that this is more difficult if you don’t drive, as you don’t tend to need to remember street names in the same way (or don’t have them drummed into you by the satnav every time you try and find a parking space). Trust me, you will enjoy this but also hate it a bit.

By Rozenn Le Gall



  • The International Housing Observatory: Want to be able to compare the exact extent to which your ability to afford a home has been fcuked by the vicissitudes of the markets in a variety of different countries around the world? GO FOR YOUR LIFE! This is really interesting, if, inevitably, a bit discouraging – it’s particularly-striking, to me at least, to compare the impact of the 2008 financial crisis on average house prices in, say, Greece or Spain or Italy vs the UK and US. Still, at least be glad you don’t live in Colombia.
  • Braille Scanner: An iOS app which lets you scan any braille on any piece of real-world paper and translate said braille to English. I am personally fascinated by braille – I once had a half-dream of getting a braille tattoo on my inner wrist with subdermal implants to make it legible to a blind person, but I have since realised that I am probably Not That Sort Of Person (although I still quite like the idea of having ‘it doesn’t matter’ in dots and dashes on my person somewhere, should someone fancy designing that up for me).
  • British Politics: A newish Twitter account whose full title is “insane moments in British politics” and which offers up a feed of images detailing some of the more…idiosyncratic visual reminders of those times in which UK politicians have done odd sh1t on camera. Includes such wonderful moments as ‘George Galloway being a cat on Big Brother’ and ‘Boris Johnson flattens Japanese child during touch rugby game’, which will either be funny in a sort of ‘oh lol look at those wacky brits’ way, or miserable in a sort of ‘oh god this really is the country in which I live and my God we actually vote for these people’ way depending on where you’re from and how you’re feeling. Sample post: “In a Blue Peter interview, Margaret Thatcher claims that there are two wings to the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, one of which is ‘very reasonable’ and should play a part in any future government (1988)”. SO BRITISH LOL!
  • The Streetnames of Gothenberg: Via Giuseppe Sollazzo, this is a charming blogpost looking at the way in which streets in Gothenberg, Sweden, are named and clustered, and showing you the different areas of the city in which you will find streets named after music and musicians, or dances, or constellations, or, er, milk products. I now want to go on a walking tour of its lactose-themed avenues.
  • Tokyo Portfolio: Ostensibly this is AN Other Tokyo property website, where you can browse apartments in the Japanese capital. Except someone has had a lot of fun with the listings descriptions here – every single one is a slightly-odd little short story vignette type thing. Scroll down the page a bit and immerse yourself in prose such as this: “You wake up after a long night of imbibing on your friend’s tequila and dancing to remixes of that song you know but couldn’t remember. You head over to your fridge and take out a half-drunken bottle of Pocari and down the other half before you slosh over to the bathroom to repent for your sins the from the night before. Heading out, you trip and fall face flat on the floor. Hitting the floor you see them — Frank Sinatra’s blue eyes staring at you from the jacket of the record leaning against the wall. After standing up, you pick up the album and put it on the turntable. The needle hits the grooves and you hear the first track: “That’s Life.””. I mean, fcuk knows what that description has to do with a two-bedroom apartment in Shinjuku, but, well, who cares?! This is superb, and an excellent example of how creative copy makes great PR (he said, like he knows what the fcuk he’s talking about – I don’t, to be clear).
  • Spotifictional: A website which collects the musical outputs of fictional bands and singers from popular films and TV shows. Want to check out every single recording of Wyld Stallions from Bill & Ted?  Or Josie & The Pussycats? OH GOOD! This is a work-in-progress, and the site owners are taking submissions for other fictional bands they should add to the archives – I love this, and hope that Spotify doesn’t decide to slap a needless copyright cease&desist on them for the liberal use of aesthetically-adjacent branding.
  • Sewage in Rivers: Spring is very much, er, springing here in Rome, which is currently enjoying an approximately three-week window between it being ‘a bit too cold to go out without a coat’ and ‘so hot that your face literally melts as soon as you step outside’. Presuming that the UK is also going to have its annual four days of watery sunshine sometime soon, and presuming that at least some of you might want to use said days of watery sunshine to visit the coast and maybe have a paddle, you might want to check out this website first, which has just been updated with new data about exactly where around the country’s glorious coastline has seen sewage dumped into the sea, just in case you’d prefer your paddle to be uninterrupted by floating browns. You can draw your own conclusions from this, but if I were to give you one piece of advice based on a cursory browse of the data it would be ‘DO NOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES GO SWIMMING IN THE CANALS AND RIVERS AROUND MANCHESTER’. Which, if you’ve ever been to Manchester, you probably knew already tbh.
  • Musclewiki: I am increasingly aware that my attitude towards my ageing and increasingly-fcuked physicality (to whit: “I am not convinced I want to optimise my meat prison for longevity if I’m totally honest with you”) is neither healthy or advisable or indeed that common, and so to that end I present to you the MUSCLE WIKI, a really useful resource which lets you select particular muscles you wish to focus on developing or strengthening and then presents you with a selection of suggested exercises and workouts for that purpose. You can toggle between exercises designed for male and female bodies, and between different types of desired routine (stretches, barbells, etc), and if you’re the sort of person who REALLY wants to make their glutes pop (is that a thing?) then you might find this helpful.
  • End Corporate Profiteering: I mean, LOL! Like a website is going to do that! Still, if you fancy getting a dose of righteous anticapitalist rage into your system then this website, which neatly outlines the number of corporations (in the US, but many of these are multinationals and so basically EVERYWHERE) have been quietly increasing prices so as to protect profit margins over the course of the pandemic. Your regular reminder that the ceaseless pursuit of shareholder value is fundamentally-incompatible with the pursuit of wider social good in the vast majority of cases!
  • Tell Me What To Read: This is GREAT – a Gdocs sheet, compiled over what looks to be a period of multiple years, which collects reading recommendations received by someone called Molly – titles, authors, the recommender’s notes on why the title is worth reading, and occasionally Molly’s thoughts on the title in question. I LOVE THIS – a really beautiful collection of personal recommendations and reasons for them, a list of books to explore just because other people have loved them and think you should too, and a slice of totally-homespun internet. Right at the bottom of the sheet there’s a link to a submission form for a new version of the project, should you wish to tell the mysterious Molly about a book you’ve loved that you think everyone else should read too.
  • Brain Space: Before you click the link, read the description: “Beginning April 2nd and running through April 8th, brain.space will conduct a first-of-its-kind brain activity experiment in the International Space Station using its proprietary EEG-enabled headset, as operated by the astronauts of Axiom-1 (AX-1)…the brain.space headset will record and analyze neurological activity of crewmembers in order to determine whether results obtained in microgravity are different from those achieved on the ground.” Pretty exciting, right? Now click the link and look at the helmet. IT LOOKS LIKE A PROP FROM BLAKE’S 7 LOL! (NB – for the children and the foreign among you, Blake’s 7 is an old tv scifi show from the UK whose special effects were…of its time, shall we say). Not to cast any doubt on the scientific chops of the people behind this, or the nature of the experiment (after all, studying the neurological effects of what prolonged time spend in 0g does to people seems like important work), but, well, wouldn’t you try and make your groundbreaking kit look a bit less like something that was made by Blue Peter presenters out of egg cartons? I am aware that this is a cripplingly-shallow assessment of what I don’t doubt is some pretty cutting-edge science (although, equally, I remain unconvinced about the sensitivity of stuff like this, and thus its utility – neuromarketing, anyone?), but, honestly, aesthetics matter (a bit).
  • Joseph Machines: You may have seen one of the videos from this TikTok account doing the rounds of Twitter in the past week or so – you know, the clip of the guy being fed by conveyor belt with a bunch of Rube Goldberg-y machines combining to get food into his face via increasingly-ridiculous means (the hairdryer/salad thing is genuinely inspired) – but this is the whole feed. Excellent domestic inventor ridiculousness.
  • The Library of Short Stories: You can never have too many websites which compile and share out-of-copyright fiction for anyone to enjoy – which is good, because here’s another one. This collects all sorts of short stories across various genres – you have your classic Conan Doyle, and Lovecraft (caveat lector – ol’HP was, in case you’re not aware, a fairly appalling racist and antisemite), and Dickens and Poe and some Asimov…if you want a bookmark to return to for a quick 15m burst of classic literature (and HP Lovecraft), this is worth a look.
  • The Satellite Map: I find the increasing proliferation of satellites to be utterly fascinating – how does it all work? I mean, I know that space is REALLY REALLY BIG, right, but even with that caveat, is there a reasonable limit to the amount of metal we can chuck up into orbit without it becoming an issue? I presume someone somewhere is thinking about this (I hope someone somewhere is thinking about this) I ask mainly because, based on this ‘live’ map of SpaceX, it’s getting pretty crowded up there. I can’t wait for the moment we need to launch something species-significant into orbit only to learn that we can’t because space is full up with, I don’t know, GPS trackers.
  • Asterank: One of the little-discussed (or at least, I don’t see it discussed that often) elements of the recent resurgence in interest in space exploration, particularly from the plutocrat class, is that its in large part a massive race to stake a claim on resources. There’s a body of thinking which believes that there is untold wealth to be extracted from asteroids, which in many cases contain all the sorts of rare elements we increasingly depend on for tech and which will make someone VERY RICH should they be the first to be able to stake a claim on, say, cobalt extraction on XSV-66599. This website offers speculative (and, I am pretty sure, largely-fictitious) assessments of the potential mining value of various known asteroids. “The overwhelming majority of asteroids have no spectral classification and are missing other important data attributes. Without full information it is impossible to fully estimate the true value of an asteroid or the cost of mining it. Asterank applies accurate, up-to-date information from world markets and scientific papers. To ensure realistic estimates, data from meteorites on Earth and known reference asteroids heavily influence our calculations.” So if you have dreams of riches unimaginable even to Croesus, start speculating about which of these multi-billion dollar spacelumps you’re going to attempt to race Elon and Jeff to (you will lose).
  • The Library of Juggling: Possibly unfairly, I tend to lump juggling alongside ‘doing magic tricks’, ‘negging’ and ‘wearing hats’ as the sort of thing which PUA-types are enamoured of. Still, maybe I’m wrong and there’s a whole cast of people who enjoy juggling as a pure pursuit rather than because of its perceived ability to charm potential partners into letting you touch their mucus membranes. If you or anyone you know is interested in learning how to keep multiple things in the air at the same time – compelling description, eh? – then this could be of use. “The Library of Juggling is an attempt to list all of the popular (and perhaps not so popular) juggling tricks in one organized place. Despite the growing popularity of juggling, few websites are dedicated to collecting and archiving the various patterns that are being performed. Most jugglers are familiar with iconic tricks such as the Cascade and Shower, but what about Romeo’s Revenge or the 531 Mills Mess? The goal of this website is to guarantee that the tricks currently circulating around the internet and at juggling conventions are found, animated, and catalogued for the world to see. It is a daunting task, but for the sake of jugglers everywhere it must be done.” I love that last line – it imbues the whole project with a (fine, perhaps not entirely warranted) sense of import and gravitas.
  • The Perimeter: “The Perimeter is a photography project by Quintin Lake based on walking 11,000km around the coast of Britain in sections. The journey started on 17th April 2015 and was completed on 15th September 2020. All photos will be edited by the end of 2022.” The walk is over, but photographs from Lake’s journey are now being uploaded to this site, and it’s SO LOVELY. I am feeling quite a lot of homesick nostalgia at the moment – OH GREY ISLAND OF PLAGUE, HOW DO I MISS THEE? – so perhaps my judgement is coloured slightly by nostalgia, but these are a wonderful set of images which properly capture the diverse beauty of Britain’s coastal communities and the breadth of landscape they contain. Gorgeous.
  • New Tab With MOMA: Yes, fine, this is very much a harkback to ‘ideas that were cool and novel a decade ago but which noone has really thought of since’, but I don’t care. Install this Chrome extension and every time you open a new tab you’ll be presented with a different work from the collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Now that there are various versions of this from various museums, it might be nice to have a ‘one extension to rule them all’-type fix which hacks them all together in one extension – can someone sort that for me please? No? Fcuk’s sake, what is the point of you?
  • The Box Office Game: I had made a personal vow not to include any more Worlde knockoffs, but this one is fun enough for me to relent slightly. The Box Office Game asks you to name the films based on limited information – their relative position in the box office charts on a particular date, their distributor, their total gross income…you can buy additional clues such as lead actors, genre, etc, with the goal being to guess all six films whilst accruing as many points as possible. Even as someone who is pretty much the diametric opposite of a cinephile, this was surprisingly-compelling – and if you like this, you might also like Actorle, which uses similar mechanics to get you to try and find the name of the lead actor in a variety of films. Oh, and seeing as we’re doing Worlde clones again, I may as well chuck in Cloudle too – guess the weather forecast for the next 5 days in specific cities. FUN FOR ALL THE FAMILY!
  • Explordle: This merits its own entry, though, as despite what it’s name might suggest it’s not actually a Wordle clone at all. Instead, this game presents you with a videoclip shot in first person, walking you around a particular place – the game is to guess the town or city you’re walking around. This is pretty easy imho – a rudimentary grasp of language will help you in 90% of cases based on street signage, etc – but it’s SO NICE to just flit around the world like this. Honestly, I lost a good 20 minutes to this one earlier in the week – it’s like those ‘imagine you could leave the house!’ simulators from Lockdown One except lightly-ludic, and it’s a lot more fun than you’d think, honest.
  • Idle Breakout: What if Breakout were a clicker game? Is a question you have almost-certainly never asked yourself, but which this game (from last week’s B3ta newsletter THANKS ROB!) answers in surprisingly-compelling fashion. Starts off slow, but once you start getting into buying balls this quickly becomes an absolute timesink and absolutely the sort of thing you should keep open in a tab all day while you wait for all the stupid people you work with to get on with whatever it is that they actually do.
  • Tetrageddon: Finally this week, Tetrageddon. I really don’t want to tell you too much about this, other than to STRONGLY ADVISE that you click the original link and just keep exploring. This is pretty much perfect in every way and I recommend it unreservedly, even if I don’t really understand what the fcuk is going on at any point (although after about five minutes or so it started to click for me – excuse the slight pun). PERFECT CURIO!

By  David Fullerton




  • Roman Robroek: Robroek is a photographer who travels the world taking images of abandoned places – his images came to my attention because of a recent series he’s done on abandoned churches in rural Italy, but his whole feed is worth a look; I know ‘look, abandoned building!’ photos are a bit ten-a-penny these days, but these are more interesting than most imho.
  • Gore Krampus: Very much a MOOD, this Insta feed, a dizzying parade of cleancore and post-vaporwave and anxiety aesthetics, I like this because it neatly-captures that very modern concept of ‘vibe’ without at any point giving me enough context to adequately describe what said ‘vibe’ might be. Tell you what, when the DALL-E2 stuff starts becoming mainstream, these sorts of things will get properly weird.
  • Germanien Wolf 0457: Ok, so I don’t speak German and therefore can’t be totally certain that this isn’t something awful – I don’t think it is, but obviously if I have mistaken linked to anything appalling then let me know and I will obviously get rid. As far as I can tell, this is the account of a german man who posts nothing but vaguely-inspirational spangly memes (in German) interspersed with terrible food photography, and, honestly, I can’t see how seeing this crop up in your feed couldn’t improve your day by at least 35%.


  • How Kyiv Withstood Russia: I am including this not because you need me to feed you warpieces, but because this is a truly stellar example of digital journalism and storytelling – I was going to caption it ‘Warfall’, and then thought ‘no, Matt, even by your standards that is too miserably-glib for words’ and so I didn’t. Still, it does very much feel like a step-change in what you can do in the now-classic ‘scrolling storytelling with parallax graphics and stuff’ – this is reportage delivered in a way that is almost-perfectly suited to the medium, and the mix of scrolling animation, copy, video and audio is extremely powerful. I tend to look upon overdesigned webpages with a mix of bafflement (who thought this would make the reader experience better? And who decided it was worth the money?) and anger (why will noone ever let ME produce anything this pointlessly-overengineered?), but this one’s just great.
  • WarTourists: I found this piece in the LRB a useful counterpoint to the various accounts of BRAVE INDIVIDUALS heading to the front to LEND A HAND – a salutory reminder that turning up in a warzone without any real idea of what the point of you is beyond ‘helping’, and with no knowledge of any useful languages, might not in fact be the game-changing level of assistance you might have thought it was when setting off with your knapsack and travel charger. “I make my way to the station each day past a man playing a wooden flute, and push through a crowd of American evangelicals trying to hand out postcards with cartoon drawings of rainbows and castles. When English-speaking volunteers arrive at the station they tend to be directed to me. I ask about their language abilities, and find out if they have a car or minibus. If it transpires, as it often does, that they speak only English and do not have transport, I wonder what has made them come all this way instead of donating the hundreds of pounds it has cost them to one of the relief funds. What do they have to offer that is worth their taking up a bed desperately needed by a displaced person?” Well, quite.
  • Laurie Penny on The Sexual Revolution: …is, I realise, the sort of headline which will cause a fair number of people to automatically scroll past whilst muttering. Penny is, I appreciate, not a universally-adored figure, but I found this interview with her (on publication of her new book titled ‘Sexual Revolution’) to be a really interesting tour around a wide range of interlocking concepts, from modern capital to power dynamics to gender relations to owndership structures to The Creator Economy…obviously you will hate this if your politics don’t tend generally towards the pinko lefty end of the spectrum (but also, MAN must you be hatereading this whole newsletter!), but if you can get on board with the general thrust of this (that capital, power and sex are all tied up like some sort of horrifically-toothy ratking, basically) then you will find this a properly-fascinating and discursive read (and that counts even if Penny makes your teeth itch, as a rule).
  • Metaverse Fashion Week: This isn’t a particular stellar piece of writing, I concede, but it’s worth including – in part because I find the luxury industry’s headlong rush to embrace the (still entirely inchoate) idea of ‘the metaverse’ utterly fascinating, and in part because this is a writeup in Vogue which really ought to be cheerleading like billyo and which despite that can only seem to muster a half-hearted sense of baffled ‘well, I guess this is the future!’ about the whole thing. As with all this stuff, anyone who’s been in the ‘digital-ish advermarketingpr’ space for a decade or more will feel a VERY strong sense of deja vu at all of this stuff.
  • Metaverse and Money: On the one hand, this is really quite depressing – a Citibank white paper all about the different ways in which massive businesses can start setting themselves up to control the future means of digital production via the not-really-currently-a-thing fever dream that is THE METAVERSE! On the other, it’s a legitimately-useful overview of themes and concepts, admittedly as-written by a bunch of people who have dust (admittedly it’s probably platinum dust, but it’s still dust nonetheless) where their souls should be. Still, if you’re in the horrible position of having to talk to major banks about their ‘metaverse strategy’ then a) I don’t actually pity you, because you are making the future worse; and b) you could probably do with reading this. You cnut.
  • Dorsey vs Andreesen: Or ‘why the future of the supposedly-decentralised web seems to in fact boil down to a p1ssing contest between a bunch of rich men, and why that probably oughtn’t surprise anyone’. This is a piece in The Information, which means it’s by definition less tech-sceptical than I would ordinarily wish, but it’s a good overview of the ‘fight’ (it’s not a fight – it’s an attention-magnet, and there will be no losers other than those of us who weren’t already billionaires to start with) between Jack Dorsey and VC Mark Andreesen over crypto and web3, and WHAT IT ALL MEANS. What it all means, as far as I can tell, is a bunfight between competing gangs of rich people about how to keep being rich, and indeed richer, in the future, but perhaps you’ll see something here that I don’t.
  • Worldcoin: I have just checked and I seemingly haven’t featured Worldcoin in Curios before – perhaps I first came across it during The Dark Time of Hiatus. Worldcoin, for those of you unaware, is a project which is offering cryptotokens to people in exchange for scanning their irises, with the vague promise of some sort of crypto-based universal basic income to come at some indeterminate point in the future. I have known about this project for ages because one of the agencies I work with was approached by them about a year ago when looking for PR support, and I was asked to ‘look over the deck’ and offer my opinion as to whether it was something they should pursue. I have just looked up my response, and it was thus: “It triggers every bullsh1t-detector I have – it may be a ‘real’ thing, but I am yet to meet anything in the crypto space that doesn’t feel like it’s trying to rip someone off somewhere, and this is no different. I don’t doubt there might be some money behind this, but it feels like A Bad Thing imho – also, there are already TOO MANY bullshit crypto projects out there for more than a handful of them to succeed in the medium term. Do not touch this.” Anyway, this article details how the whole thing is going – it may not surprise you to learn that the answer is ‘not great’, with the people in the developing world who have been hired to scan the eyeballs complaining of late- or non-payment, reports of people being flat-out lied to as the company attempts to scan their eyeballs, and a whole load of confusion as to what the fcuk the point of this all is. There’s been a lot of money poured into this, which worries me that it might be brute-forced into becoming A Thing – there is literally no way in which ‘let us scan your unique retinal ID in exchange for magic beans’ doesn’t sound like something BIBLICALLY (I mean that literally) evil, though.
  • The Managers of Axie: Axie Inifinity (see Curios passim – you know, that ‘play to earn’ crypto game that people got frothy about at the end of 2021 before a bit of more considered investigation revealed that, yes, it’s a fcuking MLM scheme by any other name!) has had a rough few weeks, what with the massive hack, and now this excellent article on VICE which lifts the lid on how the managerial class within the games ecosystem effectively runs…I mean, digital slave farms is an overstatement, but there’s definitely something sweatshoppy about the relationships being forged between ‘employer’ and employee here. This is an excellent piece to read if you’re curious as to whether the concept of ‘play to earn’ can usher in a whole new era of freedom from the drudgery of work and instead lead us towards the promise lands where we just get paid to have fun (spoiler: at least as presently conceived of, it very much cannot).
  • Digital Contact Lenses: This is, fine, basically a PR puff-piece for this company which makes smart contact lenses, but, also, FCUK ME THE FUTURE! I don’t care how prototypical these are, the people behind them talk a good game, and this made me genuinely excited about tech for the first time in a little while, which has to be a good thing (it doesn’t, obviously; if we’ve learned anything over the past few decades it is that ‘getting excited about new tech’ tends to be nothing other than the precursor to ‘the inevitable comedown when the hitherto-uninvestigated negative externalities of said new tech become crushingly apparent post-launch).
  • The Mums of TikTok: Ok, fine, ‘moms’. Another article which will give you strong ‘been here before’ vibes if you’ve been in the comms game for a while, this is all about the rise in TikTok parents – specifically, ‘the mums offering the real, unfiltered reality of parenting as a performance packaged up for social media!’, which is an article I think I have read approximately nine different platform-led variations on since we all fell for the Great Mummy Blogger Scam of 2008 (remember when we thought that mummy bloggers were an actual thing, rather than the same 300 women all commenting and linking to each others’ blogposts to scam free trips to Legoland? GOOD TIMES!). This one maintains that TikTok is DIFFERENT because it’s REAL and, well, a) literally noone with any braincells believes this, surely?’; and b) ‘real’ is its own category of performance, anyway, especially on TikTok.
  • The Toxic TikTok Fandom of William White: Many years ago I picked up a second hand copy of the Angels From Hell quartet of novels, a series of potboilers from the 1970s which imagine a future Britain in which social order has collapsed and the Hell’s Angels are an outlaw band of hardcore survivors, standing up against the nefarious forces of the state, the filth, and, er, a lot of seemingly-glam-rock-inspired rival gangs of camply-murderous youth. The novels are frankly terrible, and full of language and opinions that are very much Of Their Time, but they do contain the odd bit of strangely-prescient commentary – in the second book, our ‘heroes’ (the Angels, obvs) are booked as security (hi, Altamont!) for a tour by a pair of bands, one aimed at teenagers and the other aimed at middle-aged women (‘middies’, in the novel’s sub-Kubrickian vernacular), of which obviously the middle-aged are the most violent and bloodthirsty of the two fan sets. Anyway, that’s by way of terrible and overlong introduction to this piece, which reminded me a LOT of the ‘middies’ – it tells the story of handsome young man William White, who has built up a dedicated fanbase of middle-aged women who are DEVOTED to him, to the point of sending him a lot of money, and the article basically wonders (but not too hard)…’is this ok, or is this actually unpleasantly-exploitative?’. What do YOU think?
  • Online Shopping In The Pacific: A really interesting look at how small operators are running hyperlocal Amazon analogues in the South Pacific, using a network of boats and small planes to keep islanders in places like French Polynesia stocked up on all the mod cons they could possibly desire (or at least all the mod cons that can reasonably shipped to French Polynesia on a seaplane).
  • The Empire of the Golden Triangle: Many, many years ago, when working in videogames PR, I had an EXCELLENT client – honestly, my favourite ever and a man for whom ‘there’s no such thing as bad publicity’ may well have been coined. I did, though, have one slightly-awkward moment with him, when we went for lunch after he’d been on holiday. “Where did you go?”, I asked curiously, and over food he explained to me that he’d been to visit his dad who worked in Laos as a ‘fixer’ at a casino. “What does that mean?” wondered I, naively. “Well,” said my client, “it basically means that when you have real high-rollers at the casino – we’re talking people who spend tens of millions in a few days – you want to do anything you can to keep them at your establishment, so you hire people like my dad who basically sort them out with literally anything they want to keep them there.” You don’t necessarily want to know the answers to these questions, but I couldn’t help but ask “So, er, when you say anything…?”. The answer was, apparently, anything. “Yeah, you know, drugs, prostitutes, guns, basically any weapons they might want to play with, tanks, victims, children”. It was quite hard to carry on that conversation after that point. Anyway, ANOTHER overlong and unasked-for preamble to this article which is all about Chinese interests in Laos and specifically a man called Zhao Wei, a shadowy figure who’s effectively been acting as frontiersman for the Chinese state for a few decades now. A fascinating look at regional geopolitics (or, more accurately, georealpolitik) and a salutary reminder that there is SO MUCH weird and terrible stuff happening all over the world that we don’t know about at all (and an even more salutary reminder that, if you’re really worried about people trafficking and paedos, there are probably better places to look than Disneyland).
  • The Power of the Still: Leaving aside the fact that this feels quite a lot like a PR puffpiece for the Dog Western (sorry, can’t be bothered to check its title), it’s also a wonderful essay about the role of the on-set photographer in documenting the filmmaking process, and how shots you take with a camera are necessarily different in feel to stills taken from the finished film. I think being ‘official behind the scenes photographer’ for a film sounds like a truly incredible job, and I am now even more bitter than I was previously about my utter lack of anything resembling a photographer’s eye.
  • Please Like Me: I don’t normally link to the Onion, but this, on Elon Musk, made me laugh lots.
  • Possible, Plausible and Just Futures for Civil Society: Ok, you will have to forgive me here but the best explanation I can possibly give you of what this is is by pasting their own words: “What might a future hold in which belonging, care and repair are central tenets of innovation and institution building? The outcomes of the Civil Society Foresight pilot show what world world-building can look like outside of the market and the state. They bring to life possible, plausible and just futures that are rooted in the human and planetary potential of community, connection, and wellbeing. This report is a guide to how those futures were created. Using the practice of relational foresight outlined in A Constellation of Possible Futures, we worked with civil society thinkers and doers to develop three new imaginaries for 2036, fifteen years into the future. The imaginaries are described at the end of this report, and are brought to life online with artefacts from these possible futures. They are intense distillations of complex concepts and they may seem surprising at first, but they are no different in their scale of ambition to flying cars or life on Mars or brain-to-brain communication devices; the only difference is that there is plenty of social and cultural permission for innovators to dream differently about technology, but little permission for most of us to dream differently about social relations. These imaginaries touch on fear, spirituality and love — topics that rarely arise in patent applications.” This is VERY conceptual and not-a-little-wnky, fine, but it’s also really interesting, and as a series of frameworks for conceiving of future social development might be a useful set of lenses to peer through. Even if not, the ideas here are interesting enough to warrant reading for fun – I was particularly taken with the idea of everyone getting the opportunity to spend two months in a cave after they are 18 as a sort of societal-reset moment. SIGN ME UP FOR CAVELYF, basically.
  • Quantum Influencers: I don’t normally include hatchetjobs of books I’ve not read, but this takedown by Adam Mars-Jones of the book ‘When We Cease to Understand the World’ (a series of essays about the great questions of modern physics and chemistry, with a vaguely-fictional – or at least narrativeflourish-y – veneer) is delivered with such relish that it’s worth reading even if (like me) you haven’t read the source material. Mars-Jones sprinkles enough erudition throughout the kicking to make you feel like you’re learning while you wince- the real joy here is watching the stylistic pretensions of the author get dismantled one-by-one.
  • Life Advice from Chess Hustlers: When I lived in Washington DC I use to spend occasional mornings watching the chess guys hustle in Dupont Circle (thankfully I was self-aware enough to realise with terrifying precision exactly how humiliated I would have been had I stepped up) – this piece is about similar guys in NYC, and presents a series of interviews with habitual chess players about the game, the hustle, why they play and what wisdom they feel they have to impart to the reader. This is fcuking great, and I would love to watch a documentary about these people and how and why they play.
  • NFTinis, Skirt Sets, and Cognitive Dissonance: This is at once a truly awful article and an absolutely great one – Jordan Richmann writes about his experience of being in New York and Milan for fashion weeks, whilst Russia invaded Ukraine. This is just dizzying – the parties! The fashion! The drugs and the silliness and the seriousness and the self-awareness and the complete lack thereof! It’s like Glamorama, but real! It’s ‘what the prevailing voice of BEING ONLINE in 2022 is like, but in article form’! It’s perhaps the best and worst thing I have read all year, and I love it unreservedly and I think you will too.
  • Nineteen: Mark Wallace writes movingly in The Rumpus about their experience of addiction and self-harm and being young and growing up and and and and. This is uncommonly-good prose imho.
  • How Nobel Candidate Javier Marías Became King of a Caribbean Island Because of a Novel: It’s important, I think, that you see the full title of the last article in this week’s longreads, because the whole piece really is that majestic. Honestly, this is SUCH a great story – it has everything, spies, history, obsession, mystery and a reclusive and mysterious author who may or may not be an international man of mystery. This is from Ted Gioa’s excellent newsletter, and is possibly my favourite story of the year (as distinct from ‘favourite article’, should you care) – I promise you you will DEVOUR this.

By Adrian Sayago