So, er, The Bad Thing is happening.
I’ve spent 30-odd years dreading this exact state of affairs and now here we are. Three decades of me loudly supporting Anyone But England in pubs and at house parties (often at great personal risk to my health, let me point out – there was one particular night when England lost to France with a last-minute Zidane penalty in 2004 which nearly resulted in me having my teeth replaced with someone else’s fist) is now set to be roundly punished by the inevitable England victory on Sunday, and not just an England victory but one against MY MOTHERLAND.
I wish it wasn’t like this. I wish I could enjoy the experience – after all, my passport is English, I have lived my whole life in the country, my girlfriend is English, my friends are English, there’s something nice about a nation coming together to hope and dream and celebrate, and the team seem to be genuinely likeable young men who seem mercifully-undisturbed by the incessant English media need to make the football team a perfect fcuking analogue for the STATE OF THE NATION (please God can we stop? Literally noone else does this in the same way) – but, sorry, I can’t. I would rather lose a limb than have England win on Sunday – in fact, given it’s Italy they’re playing, make it two limbs (your choice, I’m not fussed).
Let this be a lesson to any parent who’s had a kid with someone from a different country – if you fcuk off and leave when they are small, it is ENTIRELY POSSIBLE that the parent you saddle with said kid will raise them to abhor the football team you support (in fairness, this was a masterful piece of post-abandonment trolling from my mum so fair play there).
Anyway, this is all by way of tedious preamble to the fact that this week’s Curios is written under the weight of some not-inconsiderable football fear. Can you smell it? I certainly can and it’s only Friday morning ffs.
Shall we all agree that, whatever happens on Sunday, we will never mention this again, ever? Eh? Oh.
I am Matt, this is Web Curios, and I promise you that however nervous you will be on Sunday it will be not one tenth of how truly unwell with tension I have been since Wednesday.
By Danielle McKinney
THE SECTION WHICH WONDERS HOW HARD IT WOULD BE TO CALL IN A BOMB SCARE AT WEMBLEY AND MAYBE JUST GET THE WHOLE THING CALLED OFF (BUT WHICH, FOR THE AVOIDANCE OF DOUBT AND ANY OVERZEALOUS POLICE INTEREST, HAS NO INTENTION WHATSOEVER OF DOING ANY SUCH THING), PT.1:
- SKP-S x Electric Cherry: So the way Curios works is that over the course of a week I chuck all the interesting stuff I see online into a Google doc, each link under the rough section headings which I tend to adhere to and with a one- or two-word description that acts as a sort of vague aide memoire for when it gets to Friday morning and I have to write the whole thing up. Except this is obviously very much at the mercy of Past Matt and his inclination (or otherwise) to write helpful notes at the point of discovery, leading occasionally to situations like this one where I have a link but I can’t for the life of me remember exactly what it is. So, er, going to have to sort-of guess this one a bit. I think SKP-S is a Chinese shop or fashion label or something; I also think that Electric Cherry is a musical duo; and I therefore surmise that this site is promoting a capsule collection created in collaboration between the two. JUST CALL ME SHERLOCK, MOTHERFCUKERS! Anyway, that’s really not important – what is important is how brilliantly fun/future/oddly-retro this web experience is – it displays a musical duo, keyboardist and vocalist, doing a performance of a (pretty good imho) electro-ish song in reasonably high-fidelity digitised render, while, er, sheep zoom past them towards . By clicking the little ‘Play’ button you can access different outfits in which you can dress the performers, who you’re able to manipulate with your mouse to see them at different angles to check out the clothes as they do their little miniature bop thing. Honestly, this cheered me up no end when I fired it up this morning – I promise you, whatever is going on in your life this will make you feel marginally better about it (also, if one of you who knows anything about China can confirm or deny my assumptions about what the everliving fcuk this in fact is, that would be lovely).
- Wiby: Wiby is primarily a search tool designed to point users at more obscure sites rather than necessarily the best ones – so a vanity search for Web Curios just now throws up this site, the personal homepage of one Matt Owen, rather than my own lovely works (not going to lie, small frisson of personal pride here at the idea that Curios is somehow ‘too popular’ for this, although that was quickly replaced with the sanguine truth that, regardless, no fcuker reads this really). Anyway, whilst that’s all well and good, and can be a potentially-useful way of getting yourself out of a Google rut should you ever need it, the real joy from this comes from its ‘take me to a random site’ functionality. Click ‘Surprise Me’ and Wiby will send you to a page picked at random from those it’s indexed – I just opened up 3 to see what it gave me, and was directed to, in order, the 1998 homepage for the Petawawa Legion Community Band (no, me neither), a conspiracy theory page all about one of the Twin Towers and asking the BIG QUESTIONS about fire and steel melting points (WAKE UP SHEEPLE, etc), and the website of the Obsolete Computer Museum. Basically, this is an incredible portal to all sorts of small, esoteric, niche-interest web projects and is therefore pretty much perfect – oh, and if you turn off safe search in the settings you can probably add a small ‘maybe it will be bongo!’ to your random website delivery mechanism (although I’ve played with this quite a lot and have seen nary a nipple, so I think you can feel reasonably confident using this at work). SO GOOD.
- Gucci Beloved Bounce: Another week, another luxury brand leaning in to a fancy-looking reskin of a old mobile game for reasons known only to itself. This time it’s Gucci, which has ripped off a particular genre of game whose name I can’t quite pinpoint but which I will basically describe as ‘click-hold-platformjump’ (catchy, isn’t it?) and which requires you to basically guide a microphone (why a microphone? Er, FASHION!!) as it jumps from cushion to cushion, occasionally landing next to handbags from the Gucci collection…no, I have literally no fcuking idea how this is supposed to lead to more handbag sales, but perhaps this is just part of the ‘luxury brands build visibility with kids to imprint upon them the vital importance of one day owning a 4-figure handbag’. Anyway, the main question here is ‘is this a fun way to waste some of the precious gift of life bestowed upon you by an unknown power?’ and the answer to that is a resounding YES, so WELL DONE, LUXURY GOODS-PEDDLERS! You’ve earned your peeled grapes and mountains of cocaine!
- Etherpoems: It’s not, I think, unreasonable to characterise crypto and the blockchain as ‘solutions currently in search of a problem’ – there’s at no point been a crypto-related project where I’ve looked and gone ‘yes! This could only possibly exist thanks to the tedious-and-yet-sort-of-exciting supermathematicalcompitationalcomplexity of THE BLOCKCHAIN!!!’. Will Etherpoems be that which changes my mind? Reader, sad to say IT WILL NOT! Still, I’m sure all the poets out there struggling to earn a crust will be gladdened to know that, thanks to this project, they can now put their verse ON THE BLOCKCHAIN! (I feel the term benefits from repeated capitalisation; it really captures the breathless future excitement of the movement, don’t you think?). “Etherpoems are minted fully on-chain through a “collective deployed” smart contract. Traditionally, only a reference to a datastore (usually IPFS) lives on-chain, but with Etherpoems, the full poem is stored on-chain and guaranteed to last as long as the Ethereum blockchain does, regardless of what happens to IPFS or any other datastore! Etherpoems is also the first “collective deployed“ contract. All proceeds from claiming Etherpoems and secondary sale royalties are split among all contributors trustlessly through blockchain technology.” Now, the royalties thing is obviously a red herring – as any poet currently writing will tell you, royalties on sales of 0 are still 0, after all – but there’s actually something interesting about the fact that the storage itself lives on-chain. I think that this was a project that has now finished, but there are still a few poems available to buy (using ETH, obvs) onsite should you want to invest – some of them, amusingly, were written by GPT-2, which strikes me as some pretty fcuking Olympian grift so WELL DONE that versifier. Still, if you buy one of these and it ends up selling for millions, please remember where you heard about them and chuck me a few quid, eh?
- TikTok Resumes: That’s ‘resumes’ as in ‘CVs’, fyi – yes, that’s right, you can now apply for jobs USING TIKTOK! This isn’t quite the awful idea it immediately sounds – there’s a sort of logic to the idea that if you’re recruiting for jobs that require people to make TikToks you might want them to make a TikTok as part of the recruitment process – and you can read some detail about how the whole thing will actually work in practice here. What intrigues me, though, is that as far as I can tell the applications have to be public posts to the platform, meaning…you’re showing everyone your job interview, basically. Which feels a bit weird – although a quick look at the #tiktokresume hashtag which needs to be included in posts using the service suggests that literally noone has attempted to apply for a job using this yet and instead the hashtag is being gamed by a bunch of fame-hungry people in their 20s trying to make their p1ss-poor ‘comedy’ sketches go viral (you know, I think the worst thing about TikTok to my mind is quite how much of it seems to be ‘the Fast Show as reinterpreted by people who would fit in on Love Island’, a combination of two things that are not really my thing). Honestly, though, should this become a permanent and international feature (at the moment it’s only open for US jobs, and only til the end of July) then I cannot WAIT for all the banks deciding that the way to appeal to kids is to make them fo POV cashier roleplay via TikTok as part of the application process.
- Silent Rocco: Look, noone likes mimes. It’s a fact – there’s something just inherently creepy and a bit…needy? about the whole discipline (is mime a ‘discipline’? How do you characterise it? ‘Pursuit’? See, it’s pointless mental digressions like these that mean I have to wake up at 6am to write this bstard thing). Still, that said, Rocco is a truly impressive performer and some of the stuff on his TikTok channel is honestly astonishing – one of those people with a degree of control over their limbs and body and musculature that makes me realise that I am basically about as coordinated as a daddly longlegs when compared to them. I mean, just look at this – mad.
- SpotiPod: An iPod skin through which you can run Spotify or Apple music – just connect the account and use the classic iPod interface to scroll through your tracks. This made me momentarily SO nostalgic for the iPod, a device I still miss (I passed an ‘old’ threshold at a certain point a few years back and whilst I know it’s perfectly possible to run music through a phone via the myriad streaming services available I have a genuine nostalgia for having music that I bought stored on a device that I own which I expected to keep for longer than the 18m phone lifecycle – yeah, yeah, I know, FCUK OFF GRANDAD etc).
- Zoo Photo: This is really rather lovely. The Georgian capital Tbilisi has a zoo, which zoo housed a papier mache’ sculpture of a horse – over the course of 50-odd years, the horse became (to quote the website) ‘a symbol of the ephemerality of childhood’ for several generations of kids and parents. “The photographer, Victor Sukiasov, who took numerous pictures of children on that horse, worked there for almost half a century, but as new affordable cameras appeared he had to retire in 2013. Unfortunately, the photographer’s archive didn’t survive and thousands, maybe even hundreds of thousands of films, were either lost or destroyed. However, the children’s portraits that were taken roughly between 1960 – 2013 can still be found in family albums.” This site collects images of kids and their families and said horse, presenting a beautiful photohistory of the latter half of the 20th Century and some of the early 21st in Georgia – whether or not you have any connection to the country, the images are a beautiful time machine and the nameless faces (and the hair and outfits accompanything them) are oddly-poignant.
- Open Puppies: Hit space for a new dog. No idea how many clips there are on here, but I lost a good ten minutes to this earlier in the week so there’s definitely enough to enable you to get a reasonable way into the doghole (so to speak).
- The Place-Based Carbon Calculator: This is interesting and potentially-useful if you’re doing campaigning on anything halfway environmentally-related – it basically offers an estimate of the per-person carbon footprint for the whole of the UK, broken down into areas roughly the size of 1500 people or so. Effectively this means you can make assessments as to how environmentally ‘good’ or bad specific parts of the country are – which, of course, means that you can use this data to justify specific targeting of messaging, or billboard activations in certain locations, etc. I really like the idea of aggressively hectoring residents of Hampstead and Highgate about their appalling environmental record in an attempt to sell them ‘green’ energy, for example, but I am sure you can come up with stuff less likely to alienate your potential customer base.
- Crony Connect: The only thing that irks me about this is its name – I wish that the English press, and by extension the country as a whole, wouldn’t bowdlerise ‘corruption’ by calling it ‘cronyism’, a word that somehow glosses over the reality of what giving contracts to your friends and family actually means (it means, to be clear, that you are corrupt). Still, this is a great project: “Crony Connect allows you to identify politically-connected individuals, using data from Companies House, the Electoral Commission and the MP’s Register of Financial Interests. How does it work? When you enter the name of an individual, Crony Connect looks for any companies linked to that individual in the Companies House database. Then it searches for the individual and any of their associated companies in the donations and financial interests databases.” Hugely useful for any journalists or researchers looking to dig into the upsettingly complex web of nested interests seemingly characterising so much of the ruling party’s activity in the UK over the course of the past few years (ha! And the rest, this sh1t is endemic).
- The Vredstein Experience: I like tires! You like tires! Who doesn’t like tires? NO FCUKER, THAT’S WHO? I imagine that that was basically the conversation at tyre company Vredstein as they signed off on this inexplicable digital monument-cum-museum-type-thing which exists solely to celebrate the MAJESTY OF TYRES! Navigate around the (admittedly quite nicely-rendered) museum space! Click on some tyres! Watch some videos! Fail to understand how this is in anyway better than a standard website which would have cost approximately ⅓ of the amount that this probably did! Enter and the kicking soundtrack starts, along with the exciting text…”WELCOME…TO…OUR NEW VISUAL IDENTITY!” GYAC lads you’re a tyre company and noone is quite as excited about this as you seem to be! Still, it’s nicely-built and it works, so if you have harboured a deep-seated but never-fulfilled dream to spend slightly longer than you’d practically want clicking around a digital museum of tyres then this will possibly be the zenith of your week.
- Moriel Schottlender: Moriel Schottlender is a software engineer; this is their personal website, which, brilliantly, lets the user toggle which era of webdesign they would like to see represented. So you can switch between, say, a Geocities-style version with banners and stuff, or one that looks like a bulletin board, or the 2012 version which is SO SAD – was webdesign really that boring a decade ago? Anyway, this is super and I love it, and quite want every single new website built from now on to mimic this functionality so if someone could please make that happen that would be great thanks.
- Art Spaces: As long-term readers may be aware, I am…sniffy about digital art galleries – I don’t see the point of the creation of sub-Myst like spaces which a viewer clunkily navigates to see flat representations of physical art stuck to the walls in jpeg form to be viewed in sterile dissatisfaction in-browser. Still, this is a GREAT tool by digital art gallery people Kunstmatrix which lets anyone spin out their own gallery with their own imagery with a minimal number of clicks – annoyingly if you want to make them public there’s a cost attached but, honestly, this is TOTALLY worth the money. I absolutely LOVE the idea of creating a virtual gallery of relationship pics to commemorate a past love, or using this as a way of displaying a lookbook, or, fcuk it, even a pitch, Why not? It’s silly and pointless but as long as you accept that it’s a slightly crap medium through which to display anything then it becomes rather fun, to my mind. If nothing else you could make some truly disturbing experiences with a little bit of imagination – I encourage you ALL to go and explore the depths of your psyche and show me what you come up with.
- A New Boston Dynamics Ad: Sorry, ‘Boston Dynamics x Hyundai’, to give the company its new, post-acquisition name. Anyway, I missed this last week but watch this and tell me that even with the addition of the K-Pop backing track (it’s BTS, right? I would imagine so given they were doing promo for the future-murder-dogs themselves a few weeks back) this isn’t hugely, terrifyingly sinister. I wonder whether we’ve passed the point of no return with the Boston Dynamics stuff – I don’t know whether it’s possible for this generation of dogbots to come across as anything other than terrifying precursors of a machine-dominated future thanks to Black Mirror and the meme industrial complex, but well done to the makers for continuing to attempt to sell them as ‘cute kinetic companions’ rather than ‘the last thing you’ll see before their titanium feet splinter your skull’.
- Flemish Scroller: This has attracted a lot of attention this week, and rightly so – SUCH a smart idea. Flemish Scroller is a project which uses AI to analyse the feed from the Belgian parliament and identifies those politicians who, rather than attentively engaging with the debate of the day in the chamber are instead scrolling through their phones, staring at whatever it is that Belgian politicians like to look at (DON’T GO THERE). Clever, pointed use of publicly-available tech, and a brilliant example of how many things can be hacked together from extant codepipes if you just have the imagination and the ingenuity – I feel quite strongly that, the English ‘sense of humour’ being what it is, we can only be a few weeks away from someone replicating this for the Mother of Parliaments but with the twist that it spots people picking their noses instead (seriously, someone make this, it would SHAKE WESTMINSTER TO ITS CORE).
- Goomics: Manu Cornet made headlines this week for their decision to leave Google after many years there working as a software engineer and, less officially, as the company’s ‘moral catoonist’. Not a title that I think Cornet ever actively pursued, but over his time at the company he published lots and lots of cartoons critiquing the company’s behaviour and its culture which effectively led to him being applauded as the company’s ‘conscience’ – there’s something quite interesting about the fact he was embraced by the senior management at the company, not least in terms of the extent to which allowing ‘clowns and cynics’ a bit of leeway within a business can act as a useful outlet for dissent whilst at the same time showing how COOL the bosses are, honest gov, Anyway, that era is over, but this website collects Cornet’s cartoons from over the years – seasoned Google watchers will find a lot to laugh at here.
- Blippp: Games For Crows is a development studio that makes odd, surreal and quite brilliant little titles, and this is a small art-toy that lets you make gorgeous pastel abstracts without even trying. Play around with it, it’s really rather fun and you almost can’t help but make something that looks rather cool.
THE SECTION WHICH WONDERS HOW HARD IT WOULD BE TO CALL IN A BOMB SCARE AT WEMBLEY AND MAYBE JUST GET THE WHOLE THING CALLED OFF (BUT WHICH, FOR THE AVOIDANCE OF DOUBT AND ANY OVERZEALOUS POLICE INTEREST, HAS NO INTENTION WHATSOEVER OF DOING ANY SUCH THING), PT.2:
- DES: This is all in German, a language I always found utterly terrifying, and so I can only half-way guess at what is going on here. As far as I can tell this is an architecture or engineering firm, but that’s not really important – what is important is that the website lets you navigate by moving a drone around a 3d environment, with various different landmarks representing different menu options which you select by flying up to them and look, fine, I appreciate that this breaks every single law of usability out there and is a truly hideously-inefficient way of accessing information but LOOK IT’S A TINY CG DRONE FFS! I want to see more of this sort of thing, please (he says, as though the bleated demands of some webmong move any needles whatsoever in the real world).
- Cool Walks: Thanks to Jade for sending this to me; cool walks is a really smart idea from Barcelona which uses data about the relative position of the sun to Barcelona’s streets to allow residents and visitors to calculate walking routes that enable them to stick to the shade during the city’s murderously-hot Summer months. Can someone make this for Rome, please, so that I might be able to actually leave the house between the hours of 10am and 5pm without being reduced to a small puddle of sweat and grease by the experience? SO ATTRACTIVE.
- Runway: Ok, this is a professional, paid-for service but there is a free option and so I feel justified including it here. Runway is a super-useful-looking video editor which allows for really quite powerful ML-assisted stuff like automatic greenscreening and persistent object removal and all those gubs, with the option to pay for access and get more HD exports and that sort of thing. For the majority of us who don’t need to do this sort of thing every day, though, the free version looks like it provides all the features you need to create something rather cool (or alternatively to batch-remove your ex from all videos featuring the both of you, either/or).
- Barefoot Is Legal: “People go barefoot for many reasons, not just comfort. Simply put, our members go barefoot for MEDICAL, CULTURAL, RELIGIOUS, SAFETY and HEALTH reasons. However, people are still bullied and discriminated against because they believe there are laws preventing them from going barefoot in public. There are no such laws. That is why we exist.” LET NOONE STOP YOUR BAREFOOT DREAMS! LET NOONE TREAD ON YOU! This is an American organisation (of course), but I see no reason why you shouldn’t embrace it and its philosophy and, why not, even join its Facebook Page? Be aware, though, that said Facebook Page appears (OF COURSE) to have become a culture wars battleground, at least if the hashtags being used to push back against the ANTI-BAREFOOT HATERS are anything to go by (are those who are against the idea of driving barefoot really best-described as ‘commies’? Did Marx opine about whether the foot stamping down on the working classes was shod or otherwise?).
- Swoon: Despite the fact that noone seems to like online dating platforms, that they seemingly make everyone who uses them jaded and miserable, and that every single person who has ever used one seems to have a litany of horror stories about their experience, they are also the most efficient way we currently have of finding people we can fit parts of inside ourselves and as such they are HERE TO STAY (or at least they are until we all evolve beyond physical reproduction). The imperfection of the current suite of apps is presumably why developers continue to experiment with new iterations on the formula, and why things like Swoon keep on cropping up – its gimmick is that it’s all voice-led, and that rather than using photos of yourself you instead get an avatar that’s based on your image so it roughly reflects your characteristics but doesn’t actually give away your looks. The makers claim that this leads to better, less-superficial connections, but I can’t help but think that listening to an infinite number of voicenotes in which someone attempts to paint themselves in an attractive light seems oddly-reminiscent of the answerphone dating services of the 1980s and 90s (in which users would record profiles of themselves that prospective daters could call up, listen to and then pay to contact), and that was, by all accounts, a legendarily-terrible way of attempting to get laid.
- PaintUp: Turn any sketch in this simple paint tool into a 3d model with a click of a button. This may not sound very exciting, but I promise you you’ll feel a very real frisson of slight horror the first time you experience the horrible face you scrawled as a 3d object you can move in virtual space. There’s a very real ‘Monster Engine’ vibe to this – I would really like the ability to buy 3d printed models of some of the more grotesque creations, ideally sold along with some sort of presentation stand.
- The Wellcome Photography Prize 2021: The Wellcome Prize always gives good photography: “In the shortlist below, 31 talented photographers share their personal views of three of the most urgent global health challenges: mental health, infectious disease and global heating. By bearing witness to these stories, we can all enrich our understanding – and strengthen our determination to find new solutions.” My personal favourite here is Dulcie Wagstaff’s shot depicting gardening in Winter, but these are all worthy potential winners (the overall winner is announced at the end of July,
- Telemelt: This is quite geeky, but very cool – Telemelt is a project which is designed to replicate the oldschool experience of playing videogames together at someone’s house, passing the controller upon each life lost and generally enjoying the shared experience of gaming in a group (whether the game itself is multiplayer or not). The project is a hack which requires a bit of work on the user’s end – you need game ROMs to make it work, which you need to store in a Dropbox folder and then upload to the site, but once that’s done you and friends can play on a shared URL with controller support and all the necessary bits and pieces to replicate game night circa 1988. I appreciate that the potential audience for this is quite small but, well, what else is Curios for if not EXACTLY THIS (that is a rhetorical question, please don’t attempt to answer it).
- Colorify: Chromatic analysis of your Spotify listening habits, based on album covers and artwork. It provides colour palettes for your most-listened-to singles, an overall palette for your taste, and a perfect way of really riling your partner when it comes to the next argument about what shade you should redo the kitchen in “No Gary, I really think it’s important that my longstanding obsession with Steps be reflected in the choice of marble for the countertops”, etc etc.
- Tweetflick: This is potentially SUPER-useful, particularly if you’re the sort of Twitter user who uses faves as a notebook or as a means of KEEPING RECEIPTS. Tweetflick lets you basically flag any tweets you like for later retrieval – just like ‘favourites’, but this lets you add keyword tagging and, even better, in-tweet copy search, meaning you can quickly run keyword pulls on all your stored Tweets at once. Which, to be clear, is just Twitter Advance Search pretty much, but it’s a nice quality of life update which might be quite useful (especially given how hard Twitter seems insistent on making its Advance Search product to access).
- Safe Beyond: God I love post-mortem technology, I really do. So bleak! So open to appalling misuse! Safe Beyond has apparently been around for YEARS, and I’m slightly sad that I have never come across it before – still, now that I know it exists my plans for my death are SO MUCH RICHER! The service promises to let you ‘create future digital messages for loved ones’ and ‘secure your digital legacy’ – which frankly isn’t anything particularly unique, but some of the features really appealed to me, not least the geo-tagged messages feature which seemingly lets you set stuff up to be delivered after your death when the intended recipient arrives in a certain physical location. Just imagine – you arrive in, I don’t know, Belize for your long-dreamed of holiday and you get pinged with a message from your now-dead ex who’s decided that this is the best moment to drop the revelation about the fact that actually there’s a secret they always wanted to tell you and you should probably sit down when you find a suitable treestump. Honestly, the potential for post-mortem trolling here is HUGE, and very appealing – also, the promo video features someone watching their kids play on a beach and thinking ‘I’m going to die one day, best record a message about how much I love them!’ which, fine, is sort-of poignant but also…LIVE IN THE MOMENT FFS! Anyway, this made me laugh quite a lot which possibly says more about me (all negative) than it does about the nice people behind the service.
- Nonce Finance: Two nations, divided by a common language. There is only one gag here, but it made me laugh a lot – the fact that ‘nonce’ is an accepted term in crypto is very, very funny to me (sorry).
- Virtual Kalimba: A Kalimba is, apparently, a xylophone-adjacent percussion instrument (please, noone feel the need to email me about the exact differences between a kalimba and a xylophone – I can’t bring myself to care) and this is a virtual version of one. There is nothing cool or exciting about this at all, but I am including it because I can’t stop thinking about how much I want to use this to repeatedly troll colleagues by using it as sonic punctuation for their most banal utterances on calls. “So if we could circle back on this later this week guys, ok?” “*inspirational Kalimba sounds*” – see? It is PERFECT, give it a go yourselves.
- The Most Amazing Football Pitch Locations In The World: A Twitter thread presenting some truly amazing photos of football pitches in incredible places. I can’t 100% guarantee the integrity of this one – there’s at least one in here that SCREAMS photoshop, and I haven’t got time to do the due diligence I’m afraid – but let’s suspend disbelief and enjoy a brief moment of FOOTBALL PURITY before my fearful shaking starts up again.
- Bucket List As A Service: This…this feels very silly. BLAAS (sorry, there’s no way I’m typing the full name again) is a platform which offers you COIN (in this specific instance $RGT, the token that at the heart of this is what’s being shilled) in exchange for doing challenges. Tweet you want to do the challenge – thereby giving visibility to the coin in question – get confirmation you’re signed up, provide proof that you’ve done it, earn COIN! There’s a menu of things that they will remunerate you for doing – some are already all gone, like ‘hold a sign shilling the coin in a photo in front of a landmark’, but there are still some GREAT DEALS left, like the ability to earn what is at present approximately $6000 for, er, naming your kid after the coin in question. This is so impressively stupid that it might in fact be brilliant (it is not brilliant – there is no way in hell that you will EVER be able to shift these coins, meaning you will be effectively whoring yourself to a bunch of cryptobros for free).
- Ventscape: A website which displays slowly-vanishing messages posted by visitors. Anyone can post a message, which will be immediately visible at the point of submission before slowly fading to nothingness. This is rather lovely – whenever I’ve checked in, I’ve seen no horror or nazis (Web Curios accepts no responsibility for whatever might show up when you visit, mind – caveat emptor and all that), and on occasions when there have been multiple visitors there’s been a vaguely-positive sort of community chat that briefly builds up around particular phrases or statements as they pass through. This is honestly gorgeous, and a beautiful piece of tiny webart (which might also be entirely blank when you land on it, of itself a slightly-wonderful element to the work itself).
- Premier League Shots: Amazing bit of statswork here – pick ANY player or selection of players over the past few years of the PL and get data on the shots they’ve made, where from, the XG of said shots, which foot they shot with…seriously, the interface here is a bit clunky, fine, but the information at your fingertips is VAST and will give you all the ammunition you need to make the case for why Foden/Grealish MUST START on Sunday oh god i have started thinking about it again make it stop make it stop.
- Gen X Or Not: The ONE question that will forever lay to rest the burning question ‘Am I GenX or not?’. Fwiw, I am very much GenX.
- Doodlebugs: This is 100% the hardest drawing game you will ever play, and the sort of thing whose slightly-kiddy design masks the fact that if you give this to a 4-year-old to play with it will reduce them to tears within approximately three minutes (I find this mental image a lot funnier than those of you with children will, I don’t doubt).
- Odd Infinitum: Finally this week, a very good but VERY HARD side-scrolling shoot-em-up in the pixellated style – this is a lot of fun, but MAN I died a lot. The sort of thing that is playable with keyboard but which I imagine would benefit significantly from a gamepad – still, either way this is a lot of fun and certainly more enjoyable than chewing your nails down to your knuckles as you wait for The Bad Thing to finally come to pass.
By Lisa Vaccino
THE CIRCUS OF TUMBLRS CONTINUES TO BE EMPTY AND WILL PROBABLY HAVE TO BE SHUT DOWN SOONISH IF MORE DON’T START SHOWING UP!
THE TROUGH OF (INSTA) FEEDS!
- Shop Glarse: Very non-traditional stained glass work by Esme Blegvad, available to buy – she takes commissions, too, and I reckon these are ace and would be a superb addition to any space you care to mention.
- Andrea Animates: Animation made from tiny bits of felt. SO CUTE! SO SMOL! Such incredible skill on display here, and the style manages to not feel twee or overly-cutesy despite the medium the artist is working in.
- Sincerely Yours: The last post here is from a couple of months ago, but I really hope that the project continues – Sincerely Yours is an account attached to a website of the same name, which exists to post old love letters than have been shared with the account’s owner. I find this sort of thing almost unbearably-poignant, and it scratches the same itch for me as ‘Found’ used to back in the day – do click through and read the few entries currently collected here, they are sweet and sad and beautiful and will make you imagine the stories and lives that sit behind them.
- Maritozzi: A hashtag, this, rather than a single account, but I discovered via Pietro Minto’s newsletter last weekend that the traditional Roman breakfast cake, the Maritozzo (basically a sweetened, leavened bun split and filled with slightly-overwhipped cream, and very much the breakfast of arterially-challenged champions) has become unaccountably super-fashionable in Japan; this hashtag collects images of various examples of the genre in the wild, all the way on the other side of the world. How in the name of Christ anyone can eat one of these for breakfast is beyond me, but they look GREAT.
- Swipes 4 Daddy: An account sharing the not-particularly-edifying interactions between older men and (what is at least being cosplayed as) a younger woman on Tinder. You can imagine the tone, but the selections the account posts are bleakly funny as long as you can get over the very real sadness of what’s going on.
LONG THINGS WHICH ARE LONG!:
- I Write The Songs: Or, as the subtitle would have it, ‘on algorithmic culture and the creation of coercive ‘fun’’. This is a good article, but it requires a relatively high degree of tolerance for the language of academia and critical theory in particular; still, if you can stomach the style then there’s a lot in here about the extent to which the algo-led feeds we’re presented determine our conceptions of the world and how we relate to /experience both it and ourselves. If you want a single-sentence precis, this is a good one: “The feed is just for you; you are the only reason for it appearing in just that way, and it accomplishes nothing beyond allowing you to enjoy your pivotal centrality to that closed loop.”
- The Shape of Techno-Moral Revolutions: Super-interesting read on the progress – invention, adoption, acceptance, etc – of technology in society, and how that maps to the concept of ‘techno-moral revolution’. This is really smart thinking and worth reading for anyone interested in the way in which technology becomes (or should become, or should not become) embedded in society: “One way to think about techno-moral paradigms is to use the idea of an ‘affordance’, which is popular in technological studies and behavioural ecology. The basic idea is that humans live in environments that afford them different possibilities for action (i.e. or, to put it another way, environments that contain different affordances). New technologies often generate new affordances. The world in which the automobile exists is a world with very different possibilities for action than the world in which it does not. Each of these new affordances generates a set of moral questions. Should we take advantage of the action possibility? Do we have an obligation to do so? Clusters of related technologies obviously generate long-lists of these questions. As we answer them, a new techno-moral paradigm emerges.”
- The Metaverse Primer: I have featured Matthew Ball’s writing in Curios several times over the past few years – this time the link takes you to a collection of his thinking, published over the past couple of weeks and effectively setting out a series of essays which introduce and discuss the concept of the metaverse as Ball sees it, exploring the theory behind the term and moving on to look at specific questions around how such a thing can, could and perhaps will develop and evolve. If you have any sort of skin in the ‘what will the future of human existence look like when mapped onto increasingly-sophisticated digital spaces?’ conversation then this should be required reading.
- Making Your Own CLIP-GAN: You may have seen an increase in the number of people sharing GAN-generated art this week, specifically art that uses CLIP to create images based on text prompts (so you can ask the machine to imagine you, say, ‘Spiderman but wearing a vest made of beans’ and it will go away and churn out what it thinks is an approximation of that very thing) – that’s thanks to this super primer, produced by someone whose name isn’t immediately apparent but who I am very grateful to. It looks complicated, but I promise that it’s an absolute piece of p1ss and you’ll be making the machine imagine ‘a stadium full of weeping Italians’ before I can say “WOULD MY FCUKING ID LET ME FORGET ABOUT THE SODDING FOOTBALL FOR ONE SECOND PLEASE???’
- Why Can’t We Be Friends: The second essay this week from Real Life magazine, and once again it’s good-but-heavy; this is an excellent series of reflections on the increasing ubiquity of parasocial relationships in all aspects of (online) life, It always feels like a bad thing to post the final para of a piece like this, but it’s worth reading back from this conclusion as the author, Brendan Mackie, makes a lot of excellent points about how our imbalance relationship with the people feeding the content machine works (and doesn’t work): “Many of us have learned to post content as though we were hosting one of the old personality shows of the 1950s, calculated to look like we’re providing one end of a friendly interaction. We look into the cameras, we talk to our audience directly, we make the gestures of friendship, so that the people observing us are cued into thinking we are responding to them and them alone. But we are responding to something else, a fantasy of how we should be or the image of ourselves reflected back to us on the screen. Parasocial media in itself is not the problem but the expression of deeper hunger for belonging amid structures that can’t sustain it, scrolling through tempting, evanescent, one-sided interactions that engage our attention while rarely delivering on the promise that we can be seen and known, as individuals, as friends.”
- Mad Men, Furious Women: If you work in advertising, you have read this by now (and if you haven’t, you really should); if you don’t work in advertising, though, you might not of done, and you really ought to. This is the massively-viral-in-adland essay published by strategist Zoe Scaman last weekend in which she shares her, and other women’s, experience of the sexism, harassment and assault prevalent in the ad industry. I don’t think this needs another man’s handwringing analysis, but a few quick points: a) I have never worked directly in advertising, but it was striking how much of this nonetheless felt familiar from generic media agencyland; b) I think if you can read this as a man without at the very least feeling ashamed at the things that you haven’t done to prevent this in the past, you’re probably not being honest with yourself; c) I have previous shared stories about at least two ex-colleagues in an attempt to prevent them from being hired again as a result of predatory behaviour, which isn’t a request for a medal so much as to note that sharing these stories can mean that sometimes the people responsible do suffer for their behaviour – but only if people actually do something about it.
- The Cocaine Supply Chain: As you all prepare to go ABSOLUTELY WILD on Sunday – sorry, I’m sure not all of you associate ‘big day at the football’ with ‘let’s get the gear in so we can drink for 9 hours straight’, but I’ve seen enough football in pubs in the UK to know that quite a lot of people do – it seems a timely moment to share this excellent piece of investigative journalism by Klodiana Lala at Balkan Insight on how Albania has become increasingly important in Europe’s cocaine trade, and how supply networks function in 2021.
- TikTok’s Catfish Problem: A good piece in Vox which at its heart makes the point that the real evolution of deepfakes into something scary and problematic was less the ‘fake news’ angle and more the everyday normalisation of filters and effects across major video platforms that means that anyone can easily tweak themselves in myriad visual ways to present however they like, and it’s this tricking-out or augmenting of one’s physique or physiognomy which is more interesting in terms of what is real or fake, and how we feel about said fakery. The most interesting thing in here to my mind is the initial, Mail-headline-baiting premise of the woman with the OnlyFans account who seemingly uses filters on her videos to look MUCH younger to the point of achieving a sort-of anime-lolita type-look; gross, fine, but what do we do with this sort of thing? It’s distasteful and icky, but is there actually anything morally wrong with producing pornography that looks like it might be minor-adjacent without in fact involving any minors at all (this was the subject of an excellent piece of theatre a few years back, called ‘The Nether’)?
- Great Jones and the Illusion of the Millennial Aesthetic: This piece could equally have been titled ‘Brand Is Everything’ or Everything Is Dropshipping’ – it recounts the drama that saw cookware retail company Great Jones have something of a moment in the spotlight last week as it all seemingly fell apart, and explains how actually companies (brands) don’t need to actually have staff or even really know how to do or make anything anymore if the style and vibe is right. Possibly one of the truest-reading things I’ve seen of late about how modern retail feels like it works, and the increased importance of brand building in 2021.
- Ethopian History: I loved this article – it talks about a new work of history by Verena Krebs, which looks at Ethopia and its relation to Europe from an Africa-centric perspective rather than a Euro-centric one, and by so doing uncovers all sorts of fascinating facts that demonstrate that actually (AGAIN) the way in which we think about global history might not in fact be 100% totally accurate and may (whodathunkit?!) been coloured by colonial assumptions and the rewriting of history through the lens of whiteness which occurred through much of the 19th Century. I particularly liked this line: “Europe, Krebs says, was for the Ethiopians a mysterious and perhaps even slightly barbaric land with an interesting history and, importantly, sacred stuff that Ethiopian kings could obtain.” Kings will be kings, irregardless of where their kingdom may be.
- Linguistic Phrenology: Or, to give it its full title, “Why Do Analysts Keep Talking Nonsense About Chinese Words?”. Thanks to Alex for this – it’s hugely interesting, particularly if you’ve any interest in the Chinese language itself, and explains why all the things that we often hear about the way in which Chinese words are constructed and what that means (“The word for ‘crisis’ in Chinese is the same as the word for ‘opportunity’!”, etc etc) is in fact almost always boll0cks.
- Wanghong: More China, this time from the increasingly-essential Chaoyang Traphouse newsletter (seriously, it’s so good) on the concept of ‘wanghong’, which can be sort of loosely defined as analogous to the Instagrammification of architecture we saw a lot of in the mid-00s (Museum of Ice Cream et al) but which is a little more…oh, look, I will leave it to them: “What differs from Instagramification is less the aesthetics, more the industry building up around these sites, the centrality of space and place in celebrity, and how space is being exploited for profit.” If you have any interest in urban culture and the evolution of the built environment, then this really is worth reading (possibly twice)
- An Oral History of Independence Day: It’s amazing how popular Independence Day continues to be as a film given the fact it’s almost entirely a piece of YEE-HAW GO USA!!!! propaganda, which I suppose is testament to the general sense of fun and momentum it manages to create – this oral history speaks to almost all the principles apart from Will Smith who was probably communing with the ghost of L Ron Hubbard when they called but who nonetheless comes across rather well from the associated anecdotes.
- The Eraser Men: Ever wondered why you never, ever see massive offensive graffiti daubed all over the roads during the Tour de France? It’s not, you may be disappointed to learn, anything to do with the French being better than everyone else – no, turns out that they love a crudely-drawn c0ck as much as the next manchild, and as such the Tour employs specialist anti-graffiti people to remove or edit the offending scrawls to render them TV-friendly. I particularly like the detail that they repurpose cartoon penises as butterflies – next time you see a lovely butterfly on the route, know that it’s only there because a man decided to attempt a rendering of a cartoon penis first. Ah, men!
- Leaving: An advice column in The Rumpus magazine, in which the Agony…Person responds to several readers’ letters about said readers’ desires to leave their partners. I wouldn’t normally link to life advice column,but each of the letters and the consolidated response at the end really struck me as being Good Advice of the sort that you don’t always see expressed in these things, and the overriding message – that it’s ok to leave if you don’t want to be somewhere, even if the other person has done nothing wrong – is I think an important one.
- Indian Legalese: On the wonderful linguistic stylings employed by lawyers in India. I don’t want to reproduce any of the copy here as it really does deserve to be read in its entirety – I promise you, though, that even philosophers have nothing on these people.
- Elite Vs Trump Supporters: I know, I know, who wants to read about That Man anymore? Still, I would make an exception for this article which is by Wallace Shawn, American actor and playwright and probably best known for playing Vizzini in The Princess Bride. Honestly, the writing style here is SO GOOD; I love the tone and the cadence and the rhythm of the whole thing, not to mention that the points that Shawn makes. There’s an almost fairytale quality to the prose that I promise works wonderfully – even if you’ve happily forgotten that That Man ever existed, I would urge you to read this as it’s not only a great piece of writing but also a remarkably perspicacious one.
- The Post-Cat Person Story: For the three of you who haven’t already read this this week, this is THAT followup to Cat Person (the massively-viral short that catapulted its author, Kristen Roupenian, to fame and a book deal and which, it turns out, was quite heavily based on a lot of personal details that Roupenian had been told (and subsequently…dug up) and which led to the author of this piece finding elements of their life and their past and their history suddenly turning up all over web in a piece of ‘fiction’ by someone they had never met. This is a fascinating story, and you will have your own opinion about the extent to which Roupenian was entitled to lift whole swathes of someone else’s experience with minimal alteration to base her tale around. Responses I’ve seen run the whole gamut, from ‘look, this is how fiction writers work and if you don’t understand that you’re nothing but a rube’ and ‘yeah, no, you don’t rip off someone else’s life wholesale without changing anything’ – I’m slightly more in the latter camp than the former (it’s just polite, no?), but you make your own call so you too can take part in the conversation over bottomless brunch this weekend (it is very much that sort of piece).
- My Apology: A short piece of fiction about writing an apology – this is very, very funny indeed (or at least I found it so; your mileage may vary).
- All The Right Words On Climate Have Already Been Said: Finally this week, the best and saddest and most-tired and angriest piece of writing I saw all week, this is by Sarah Miller and is a follow-up to the author’s story about climate change from a couple of years ago and, honestly, just read it it is SUPERB.
By Alice Neel
AND NOW, MOVING PICTURES AND SOUNDS!:
- I would have LOVED this when I was about 16, and to be honest I still love it 25 years hence. It’s called ‘We Cannot Resist’, it’s by a band called Lump, and the video features someone in a multicoloured ghillie suit which is in itself a reason to recommend it. Honestly though, this song BANGS (in a slightly fey manner).
- Chinese HipHop Corner! Finally this week, before I leave you to the preparation of bunting and the calling of The Man, have this quite remarkable artefact – to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party, it commissioned this frankly insane 15-minute long track by 100 Chinese rappers, all spitting state-approved verses about how great it is to be behind the great firewall. Look, I obviously understand NOTHING of what is being sung about here, but is it ok to say that…it’s sort of not terrible to listen to? Anyway, if you’ve ever been curious as to what rap-based propaganda for the Chinese state might sound like, wonder no more – and, on that note, THAT’S IT FOR THIS WEEK BYE I LOVE YOU BYE AND I AM SORRY IF THIS WEEK’S EDITION HAS OBVIOUSLY BEEN LABOURING UNDER THE LOOMING SHADOW OF FOOTBALLING APOCALYPSE I PROMISE I WILL GET OVER IT BY NEXT WEEK UNLESS OF COURSE I DON’T ANYWAY I HOPE YOU ALL HAVE ABSOLUTELY WONDERFUL WEEKENDS EXCEPT, OF COURSE, IN ONE VERY PARTICULAR RESPECT, AND THAT YOU KNOW THAT I LOVE YOU AND I MOSTLY WANT YOU TO BE HAPPY AND TAKE CARE BYE TAKE CARE BYE I LOVE YOU BYE!