Webcurios 11/11/22

Reading Time: 32 minutes

Many years ago – I think it was 2012 – I was unexpectedly approached on LinkedIn about a job at Twitter (they were looking for someone to run their comms in the UK and Europe, suggesting someone somewhere was very much having a laugh when they suggested me). I had several interviews in London, and was even flown out to San Francisco (economy class, though) for a final interview with a bunch of important people including their then head of legal and even Biz Stone. I didn’t get the job, mainly because of the fact that I was woefully unqualified and definitely not a safe pair of hands (there may also have been an embarrassing moment when the head of legal pulled up a Tweet I had sent to Sir Martin Sorrell asking about the whereabouts of my ‘fcuking bonus’ that they seemed to think indicated ‘poor professional judgement’, the dullards), and it’s a good thing that I didn’t because I would have been fcuking terrible at it, not least because back then I was even less worried about such piddling niceties as ‘not going out for a three hour lunch’ and ‘being sober on the job’ than I am now (and trust me, I still don’t really care that much).

I still, though, don’t think I would have made as much of a pig’s ear of that gig as Elon seems to be making of the whole company.

Anyway, I’ve spent too long this week being forced to pay attention to, and think about, that fcuking man, so let’s stop there and get on with this week’s links which I promise will continue to work even if Twitter suddenly dies at some point in the mid-afternoon.

I am still Matt, this is still Web Curios, and you are inexplicably still reading this self-evidently phoned-in introduction for reasons that, frankly, escape me.

By Charles Burns



  • The Tweet Museum: It does rather have the feel of the last days over at Twitter right now – the only good thing about this (unless of course you’re of the general opinion that Twitter is a cancer and should be excised from society) is that one hopes it may prove to be a nail, however small, in the coffin of the idea of ‘Musk as intellectual ubermensch’. Should you be in the process of dealing with the tough realities of your (ok, fine, my) favourite timesink potentially going to the great server in the sky, you may be comforted slightly by this website where a person known only as ‘Ian’ is collecting screencaps of THE BEST TWEETS EVER to preserve for posterity (or, more likely, as long as he can be bothered to pay for the domain). This is…look, it’s an uncomfortable admission but I think I can probably admit here to the fact that I spend more time online than is probably strictly healthy (I went to a thing last night that was basically about ‘weird sh1t on the internet’ and I already knew everything, which felt quite wrong) and that as a result a significant proportion of the tweets here captured feel like ACTUAL CULTURAL ARTEFACTS. The King’s Hand! A cat in a yurt! God, I’m getting preemptive nostalgia just typing this stuff. Click this link, scroll the ‘exhibits’, and weep internally for all that we are almost certainly about to lose thanks to one pr1ck’s hubris/desire to usher in a new politico-financial world order (delete as applicable).
  • Twittoons: I’ve mentioned this here before, but don’t think I ever linked to the site – Twittoons is where former Twitter employee (as of a week or so ago) Manu Cornet hosts their satirical cartoons about the company, which they produced throughout their year working there as a reflection on the weirdness of the place and its role in the global politicomediaclusterfcuk. As you can imagine, Cornet has…opinions on the Musk situation. This is half-funny and half just sort of…sad, to be honest.
  • Who Blue?: You know what it’s like when you launch something, right? SO MUCH WORK and stress and horror and fear and everything being glued together with string and sellotape, and when you launch it and it works NOONE EVER KNOWS just how rickety and close-to-collapse everything was behind the scenes. Except this week, with the launch (or, more accurately, attempted launch) of the revamped Twitter Blue subscription project, which has demonstrated exactly how every website and business is just one billionaire’s brainfart away from total collapse at any given moment. At the time of writing, the whole subscription product has apparently vanished from the app – whether that means it’s been canned or whether something has just fallen over in the back end is unknown, and I’m pretty sure that Elon doesn’t quite know either – but, should it ever return, this Chrome plugin will apparently help you distinguish between people whose blue ticks were ‘earned’ (LOL) through professional competence or general notoriety vs the FILTHY ARRIVISTES who bought them. Except according to Elon, all legacy blue ticks will be sunsetted anyway, so who knows whether this will work in 48h. Or indeed if the website it’s meant to work with will make it through the next six months. INTERESTING TIMES! Oh, and here’s another extension which will apparently level the Twitter playing field by unverifying everyone, just in case you fancy such a thing.
  • Visualising Stable Diffusion: There’s something interesting in the fact that every single thing you can imagine seeing as an image can in theory be mapped in latent space, the idea that the sum of visual imagination is also, basically, maths (or it’s intensely creepy and makes the world feel unpleasantly-deterministic; take your pick) – this is a visualisation of the Stable Diffusion-generated images that have been included in the search set for prompt database Krea, and it’s sort-of wonderful; the standard view is a constellation of datapoints with each being an image, their relative position being determined by the elements they share. So basically this is a GALAXY of AI-created pictures which you can zoom around and explore a bit, and it’s in part a wonderful window into all the things that people have asked the machines to imagine as well as being an interesting taxonomical exercise in how the machine ‘thinks’ of the images. I think everything in here is SFW, but please don’t come blaming me if you end up in one of the seamier arms of the AI hentai galaxy.
  • Amazing AI Camera Thingy: I appreciate that even by my standards that is a…shonky descriptor, but I honestly have no idea how one might describe this in a single sentence. Er…ok, so imagine that you have taken a video of something? Are you imagining that? GOOD. Now imagine that the camera movements that you undertook whilst filming that something can be transposed to a video of ANY OTHER digital thing – so, for example, you could take a particularly well-executed tracking shot and apply it to a digital object in digital space. And yes, I know that that’s a fcuking horrific description that barely makes any sense, but YOU try putting the future into words and see how you get on. Honestly, this is so interesting – I don’t have the first idea of how this works, but the potential executions are fascinating. I really like the idea (for example) of taking a single 30s camera movement and challenging people to create scenes that use that shot in interesting ways, or the (admittedly slightly-fanciful) idea of being able to take iconic directorial styles and transpose them onto other works. It’s a real shame we’re all in the process of killing ourselves at a species level, because some of this future stuff really is fascinating.
  • Draw Things: OK, so this is iOS-only and so I confess to not actually having tried it out, but various people online have spoken glowingly about this and so I feel reasonably-safe recommending it – it’s basically AN Other AI image-generation toy (I presume based on Stable Diffusion) but it’s an app and non-browser-based and therefore might be slightly less clunky than the mobile web interfaces for Dall-E and the rest. Web Curios obviously takes no responsibility whatsoever for any appalling things that may happen (but which probably won’t, honest!) to your mobile device as a result of installing this.
  • Hublot Loves Football: I have never gotten the impression that Zuckerberg and Musk are friends, but I can only imagine the degree of gratitude that the Meta CEO feels towards the squarial-faced emerald scion this week; it speaks to journalism’s Twitter sickness that the loss of 11,000 jobs at one of the most significant companies in modern human history has been largely ignored, comparatively-speaking, in favour of endless column inches about WHAT WILL HAPPEN TO THE BIRD SITE. Still, let’s take a moment to pour one out for the many thousands of people who have just been sacrificed to the Great Metaversal Revolution – and, while we’re here, shall we check in on how that’s going? GREAT! Hublot make watches – look, my arms are thin and my wrists are very breakable, and I could barely lift a luxury timepiece, don’t ask me any more about Hublot – and are sponsors of the World Cup, and have decided to ACTIVATE THAT SPONSORSHIP by, er, entering the metaverse! Do you know what that means? THAT’S RIGHT THEY HAVE BUILT A MISERABLE, SH1TTY LITTLE 3D EXPERIENCE!! What does the World Cup mean to you? Schumacher/Battiston? Fabio Grosso? Or the ability to ‘explore’ a poorly-rendered CG football stadium in painfully-slow detail, and possibly the chance to stand next to a heavily-pixelated image of a FIFA ambassador? If you answered ‘give me the CG, daddy!’ then WOW will you enjoy this – honestly, even by the standards of p1ss-poor ‘metaverse’ rubbish this is particularly poor, from the low-quality graphics to the fact that it’s just so…big and empty (I like to imagine that this was a deliberate design choice by the team to artificially juice the dwelltime statistics) and there is simply nothing to do and nowhere to go and no sense that anyone involved in the project had ever experienced football (or sport, or joy, or the touch of another human being). Perhaps worst of all – certainly from the point of view of the idiot brand moron who signed off on the spend and the partnership with ‘metaverse destination’ Spatial for the delivery – is that, beyond the name, I have no fcuking clue whatsoever what this has to do with selling overpriced timepieces to beefy-wristed time enthusiasts.Spectacularly sad and pointless – not unlike the World Cup itself (yes I am bitter that Italy didn’t qualify, what of it?).
  • The Metaverse Festival: Did you spend Sunday morning desperately refreshing the Glastonbury page and hoping against hope that you were one of the lucky ones? Or did you instead consider waking up and then think ‘no, fcuk it, I do not ever need to go camping again and there is no way in hell I am ever forking out for a luxury yurt and so I will leave it to the children’? If the former, well done you and I hope you got lucky; if the latter, then perhaps you would rather check out the Metaverse Festival (lol!), taking place THIS WEEKEND and featuring actual proper people that you may have heard of, like Metallica and Bjork. It’s taking place in Decentraland, which basically means that the experience will be like listening to a poorly-encoded MP3 through someone else’s iPod headphones from two rooms away while a bunch of poorly-dressed sub-Roblox avatars teabag each other with energetic abandon, but, well, BJORK!
  • The Universal Poem: This has been going for a few years now but I only stumbled across it this week – Universal Poem is, er, literally that, an ongoing work of collaborative poetry that has been written by hundreds (thousands?) of strangers from across the world over the past couple of years. This is, fine, a bit of a mess, unsurprisingly, but there’s also something lovely about the slightly infinite corpse-ish nature of the exercise. For reasons I don’t quite understand, submissions in Spanish vastly outweigh those in other languages (there’s a map of where contributions have come from and the UK is only on about 60-odd lines, which is frankly embarrassing) and as such your ability to appreciate the content of the poem will in part depend on your ability to parse lines such as “¡Érase el hombre malo de la Pradera!”, but there’s something genuinely wonderful about the fact that this is slowly growing day-by-day a strangers around the globe drop in to add lines to it.
  • A Gift From Ukraine: ARE YOU FEELING FESTIVE YET YOU CNUTS? No, me neither – it turns out that one’s desire to revel in the idea of cosy, festive warmth is somewhat muted when the reality of existence for many is less ‘chestnuts on an open fire’ and more ‘soft, vulnerable flesh pressed against a burning brazier’ – but I appreciate that it might not be possible for you to totally ignore this year’s festival of conspicuous consumption and that, as such, you may be in the market for presents and things like that. A Gift From Ukraine is a service set up by a family of Ukrainians currently living in the UK, offering Ukrainian products and pro-Ukrainian merchandise for sale, with proceeds going to charity – this looks and feels legit and like A Good Thing, but obviously I apologise in advance if in fact this is just a scam run by a man called Tony from an industrial estate in Harlow.
  • The Wordcraft Writers’ Workshop: This is interesting – Google recently published the results of an experiment it ran with its LAMDA text AI (you know, the one that the engineer thought was Jesus – Christ, was that only this year?) and a collection of authors which the company invited to explore co-creation with the machine; this website collects the essays that they wrote. There’s a full description on the site, but this is a helpful summary: “Wordcraft is a tool built by researchers at Google PAIR for writing stories with AI. The application is powered by LaMDA, one of the latest generation of large language models. At its core, LaMDA is a simple machine — it’s trained to predict the most likely next word given a textual prompt. But because the model is so large and has been trained on a massive amount of text, it’s able to learn higher-level concepts. It also demonstrates a fascinating emergent capability often referred to as in-context learning. By carefully designing input prompts, the model can be instructed to perform an incredibly wide range of tasks. However this process (often referred to as prompt engineering) is finicky and difficult even for experienced practitioners. We built Wordcraft with the goal of exploring how far we could push this technique through a carefully crafted user interface, and to empower writers by giving them access to these state-of-the-art tools.” Honestly, this made me feel a bit…funny – these are real writers, several of whom I have actually heard of, and reading a few of these stories I had literally no idea at all whether I was reading words penned by person or by machine or by a collaborating pair…and that’s the point, I suppose. I would have been interested to read accompanying short essays by each author about their experience of the creative process, being demanding, but this is SUCH a fascinating experiment with some hugely-impressive outputs.
  • Are You Pressworthy?: Many years ago in the UK there was a particularly bleak summer for child abductions, which saw a young woman called Millie Dowler go missing and then, a relatively short while later, a pair of twins called Holly and Jessica. As is, inevitably, the way of these things, the latter disappearance totally overshadowed the former (after all, there were two of them!), and I remember stumbling across a website (this must have been, without checking…2003?) which riffed on this fact (in admittedly hugely tasteless fashion) by selling tshirts which read, in small letters across the front, “where the fcuk is Millie?”. Anyway, I was reminded of that by this website, which uses real data about the amount of press coverage devoted to various missing person cases to make the point that who you are, and what you look like, makes a significant difference to the amount of media attention you’re likely to get around your disappearance. Are you a non-white male? Don’t get expect a tabloid campaign to find you, basically. This is a nicely-made little site which communicates its central message powerfully.
  • Passive Cooking: I don’t normally feature PR stunts that are…good, but I very much enjoyed this bit of work by Italian pasta wonks Barilla (fun fact: the theme tune to the Barilla ads in Italy is so hard-wired into the psyche of every Italian that merely humming the first 10 notes can reduce even hardened expats to tears) which plays on the fact that domestic gas prices are horrific and that as a result even doing simple things like boiling a pan of water might feel a bit of the extravagant side – the site basically gives you instructions on how to cook pasta using the ‘soak in just-boiled water much like you would with rice’ method, rather than the ‘keep on a rolling boil for 10m’ method. Which, I confess, made me instinctively recoil, because no Italian has EVER cooked pasta like this, but which actually seems like a pretty smart idea and probably won’t end with an inedible plate of floury collagen. I particularly like the way the idea expands – yes, fine, at its most basic it’s just a list of different cooking times for different types of pasta, but there’s also an ACTUAL PASTA-SOAKING BASKET DEVICE that you can 3d print should you have the means, which feels like a nice extension. Oh, ok, if I’m being cynical it’s perhaps a touch awards-baity, but in general this feels…good! How odd to be positive for a change!
  • The Spaceshipper: A Twitter account sharing stuff relating to spaceships – fictional ones, in the main – from drawings to videos to film stills. Another of those occasional Curios links that feel like they should be catnip to a certain type of middle-aged man.
  • Locals: On the one hand, this is ANOTHER FCUKING APP, and it’s ANOTHER FCUKING THING where the ‘insight’ behind it is that ‘people are lonely in the modern  world!’ which is, honestly, a statement of such crushingly obvious banality that I want anyone using it in the future to be cast into some sort of eternal oubliette so they can realise the true meaning of solitude and suffering; on the other, maybe you will find it useful. Locals – currently live in London and LA, “Locals.org creates a safe environment for people who want to meet new people, have fun, learn new things, feed their souls with emotions and build meaningful connections”, which, as far as I can tell, seems to mean that you can browse events that have been created by other people to find things that you want to do and people you want to do them with, and create your own for other people to find. Which does sort of beg the question as to why you can’t just use one of the myriad other social platforms for the same purpose, and exactly what it is that Locals brings to the table besides a nice design and some VC money – although, as far as I can tell, there’s a degree of vetting to the community and so you’re perhaps less likely to get a sweaty-palmed wrongman turning up at your whist drive than you might be if you used Facebook for the same purpose.
  • The Magical Pantry:I am not entirely sure how it happened, but if you go to the US then you will discover that Kerrygold butter is some sort of hipster product, trading on its IRISH GRASSINESS rather than being, as it is in London, what you buy in the cornershop in desperation when you realise the Lurpak’s gone rancid. Which perhaps explains why they’ve gone to the trouble of creating this rather swish site which presents a series of gently-interactive stories which double up as simple recipes – choose the story you want to ‘read’ and you’ll be guided through an (admittedly nicely-illustrated) tale with a light ‘BE KIND YOU FCUK’ moral which also doubles as a guide to cooking various buttery treats. This is aimed at kids, obviously – although show me a child who would be interested in cooking or eating a broccoli and potato gratin and I will show you a fcuking changeling – but there’s a general ‘read along as a family’ vibe, with the ability to print out the stories and keep them should you desire. This is…quite good, in a small sort of way, and I was particularly impressed by the fact that it lives at the very top of the homepage of the Kerrygold US site – if you’re going to make this sort of stuff, after all, you might as well tell people about it.
  • Pizza Flicks: Do you want a YouTube channel collecting a vast quantity of old films and TV episodes from the 1930s, 40s and 50s? YES YOU DO! There is basically a motherlode of kitsch here, and if you’re undecided as to whether to click then let me just tell you that this contains several films by the great Ed Wood, widely acknowledged as one of the least-competent directors ever to grace Hollywood and whose Plan 9 From Outer Space is still to this day one of the most incredible (and I mean that literally) examples of the cinematic art you will ever see.
  • Apple Rankings: A site which exists solely to rank the world’s apple varieties by quality, and to give you an honest-if-subjective opinion as to the strengths and weaknesses of various different cultivars. Which, ok, may not sound like loads of fun, but it’s elevated by the quality of the writing which has the air of being written by someone to whom apples have done a great but unspecified harm and who bears grudges. Witness this description of the Fuji, an apple which I don’t think quite deservces the following scathing review: “it has the taste of used sponge water and the consistency of the dirty leftovers it cleaned. This mushy, rough-skinned, Japanese experiment gone awry is perfect for anyone who enjoys the taste of an apple that feels like it’s already been eaten by someone else.” If you’ve ever wanted to read several thousand words of someone just basically beating the everliving textual sh1t out of some otherwise-blameless fruit then you will LOVE this.
  • Social Justice Kittens 2023: IT’S THAT TIME OF YEAR AGAIN! The Social Justice Kittens calendar returns again, juxtaposing lovely photos of kittens (and puppies!) with some of the more batsh1t examples of Tumblr-speak from the corners of the web, juxtaposed with some very cute animals. This is, as ever, a delight – my personal favourite from the 2023 selection is I think the little guy captioned with “Calling yourself a free thinker means you want to be free to think bad thoughts”, but, well, choose your fighter!

By Caleb Hahne Quintana



  • Bubbles: A tiny webtoy that lets you blow bubbles. Move the fan! Move the spike! Watch the bubbles! I don’t know what it says about my current state of mind that I am hugely tempted to do nothing more for the rest of the day than stare at this and cry slowly, but probably nothing good.
  • IA Presenter: I tend to try not to feature too much stuff in Curios that’s directly-related to the tedious realities of the dayjob – you’re here for a good time, not a timesheet! – but occasionally stuff lurches across my radar that looks genuinely quite useful. So it is with AI Presenter, a tool for helping you make slideshows but which does so by seeking to change the way in which you think about said slideshows – so starting with the content and copy rather than slides, and encouraging the user to think about what they are trying to say before getting to the ‘putting it on slides’ bit. This is in closed beta, but you can apply for access, and if you’re the sort of person who starts work on something by just writing into a document to get ideas of structure and themes then you’re already doing what this is trying to teach you – but, on the other hand, if you’re stuck in a working environment in which you’re surrounded by morons who can’t do anything other than put things in fcuking PPT then you may find this a helpful way of retraining their slide-addled minds.
  • DMV Bot: One of the ‘fun’ things about California is the fact that anyone can theoretically have anything they want as a license plate (space permitting) – except, of course, you can’t have anything as it’s America and people might get offended to the point of firearm-assisted homicide if you were to emblazon something as controversial as, I don’t know, ‘free healthcare at the point of delivery’ on your vehicle. This is a Twitter account which shares real-life examples of applications received by the California DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles? Probably) in 2015-16, and whether they were approved for use or not along with the reason for the judgement – so, for example, I now know that someone tried and failed to get ‘HUF4RTD’ as their license plate and it was rejected because, and I quote, “It clearly reads ‘Who Farted’”. This is glorious.
  • Metaphor Search: Via Shardcore, this is an interesting idea seeking to apply some of the same sort of techniques used in generative AI to deliver results. “It’s a new type of search engine, built from scratch, and we’d love for you to try it. Search today looks largely like search 20 years ago. Search engines do a reasonable job at returning results that match the literal content of your query but often fail to understand your real goal. The effect is that even for simple questions, it’s often quite easy to get lost in a sea of irrelevant results. Metaphor is a search engine that understands language – in the form of prompts – so you can type what you’re looking for in all the expressive and creative ways you can think of. The model that powers Metaphor is trained using a form of self-supervised learning, the same paradigm behind models like Stable Diffusion and GPT-3. Stable Diffusion tries to generate images based on their captions, GPT-3 tries to predict the next word based on the previous ones, and the model behind Metaphor tries to predict the next link on a webpage based on all the words that come before it.” I;ve yet to have a proper play, but a cursory examination suggests that you can find some rather cool stuff with this – a search for “a website featuring great links”, for example, magically pulled up a few of my favourite link repositories which strikes me as a good sign. One to keep an eye on and maybe bookmark.
  • Crowd: Ooh, this is *such* a smart idea and one which definitely has some interesting applications that I haven’t quite managed to think of yet but which someone as clever as YOU will definitely be able to work out. The blurb is as follows: “This website is a small experiment, where each visit to the page deteriorates the main image. Every 400 visitors a reset button appears on the bottom, which can be used to restore the image back to its original quality. You could see this website as a metaphor for the effects of tourism, how humanity affects nature, or how meme quality degrades over time as they are shared.” What might you use a degrading website for? An image that only reveals itself to the nth visitor to a page, containing a secret message or instructions (START THE KILLING) or some sort of clue? THE POSSIBILITIES ARE ENDLESS! At the very least I quite like the idea of a site that has an inbuilt shelf-life, degrading to the point of unreadability after a certain number of visitors and lost forever.
  • The HappyToast Tarot Deck: You may know HappyToast from other parts of the internet – he’s been making drawings online for years, and I first discovered his stuff through B3ta back in the day. He’s launched a Kickstarter to crowdfund a tarot deck he’s designed, with cards featuring descriptions of the meanings of all the arcana, and if you’re in the market for something that’s simultaneously a bit occult and a nice example of a singular artistic style then you could do worse than check this out (also, it’s already funded so there’s no risk of disappointment. Apart from from your eventual apocalyptic reading itself).
  • Die In The Game: Ok, so this isn’t technically  a thing so much as a proof-of-concept idea for a thing – still, it’s upsetting and a bit horrifying and so probably fits in well here. “If you die in the game, you die in real life” is a protoypical VR headset designed to deliver that exact experience – the device is inspired by manga/anime Sword Art Online, which features as part of its plot a scenario in which a bunch of gamers are trapped in a VR title which, if they die in-game, will kill them in meatspace too. Hence this model, which imagines what such a device might look like and how it might function, which in this case involves having a bunch of explosive devices attached to the headband of the headset, primed to go off should the user die in-game. “I used three of the explosive charge modules I usually use for a different project, tying them to a narrow-band photosensor that can detect when the screen flashes red at a specific frequency, making game-over integration on the part of the developer very easy.  When an appropriate game-over screen is displayed, the charges fire, instantly destroying the brain of the user.” I am genuinely fascinated to see which game is the first to offer a real permadeath mode using this kit – obviously this is sort-of a joke, but, well, I can also totally imagine a streamer eventually upping the ante to the point where this seems like the natural logical progression from emotes and subscriber drives.
  • TinyTV: I don’t generally feature links to things that are just ‘stuff you can buy’, but given Christmas is approaching I feel I can make a small exception for cool stuff like this. Admittedly it’s not cheap – £75 is a fair old whack – but the TinyTV is SO CUTE, and basically acts as a VERY SMOL monitor for whatever you want to play on it. “The TinyTV® DIY Kit assembles easily in less than 5 minutes with no soldering or special tools required. Load your own videos, movies, and TV shows easily using our TSVconverter – a free tool to convert any MP4 file. Then load the files onto the included MicroSD card, sit back, relax, and enjoy hours of entertainment! The TinyTV DIY Kit is 3D printed, has a rechargeable battery, 4 push-buttons, and an ON/OFF switch and it also comes with the Tiny Remote, so you can easily change channels, power on or off, and adjust the volume.” Look, if you’re not charmed by the idea of a tiny telly with its own, working, tiny remote control, you’re probably beyond help. I am now half-tempted to get one of these and a pair of hamsters in order to create a series of cosy, rodent-based domestic dioramas, and you might well be too after clicking the link.
  • Mad Heidi: I also don’t tend to feature links to forthcoming films, but this looks so…idiosyncratic that I thought I would make an exception (also, it will be available to stream for free on this website on release, so it basically counts as a Curio). This has been a 5-year labour of love, from a spoof movie poster created in 2017 through to the crowdfunded final film set to launch in a few short weeks. What’s it about? I am glad you asked: “In a dystopian Switzerland that has fallen under the fascist rule of an evil cheese tyrant, Heidi lives the pure and simple life in the Swiss Alps. Grandfather Alpöhi does his best to protect Heidi, but her yearning for freedom soon gets her into trouble with the dictator’s henchmen. The innocent girl transforms herself into a kick-ass female fighting force who sets out to liberate the country from the insane cheese fascists.” I mean, look, I think it’s unlikely that this is going to be anything other than a…knockabout romp, and I do wonder how long you can reasonably sustain a gag which at its heart is basically ‘Heidi, but with GUNS!’, and (whilst I’m maybe being unfair to the makers here) this does have rather a strong whiff of ‘could descend into late-nigh-Channel-5-softcore-at-any-moment’ about it, but at the same time it’s nice that the gag has reached its final evolution. Unlikely to trouble the Academy in the 2023 awards season, but perhaps worth a watch in the festive perineum.
  • Physics Interactives: A bunch of little physics toys and explainers designed to teach you the basic principles of a few of the building blocks of the universe, or alternatively to let you press a few buttons and pull a few levers and scratch your head in blinking incomprehension at the ensuing movements. These look shonky, fine, but I promise you are surprisingly fun – I just lost three minutes attempting to save a dog from a rampaging alien being via the medium of simple physics puzzles, if you want an idea of the degree of concentration I’m bringing to Curios this week.
  • Dril Tracy: A little Twitter project which uses AI to identify dialogue in panels of the Dick Tracy comic and replace said dialogue with Dril tweets. Which is, obviously, sort-of pointless, which, obviously, makes it sort-of perfect.
  • Fashion Adviser AI: I have no idea whatsoever what this is built on – I presume GPT-3 or a variant thereof – but I am very taken with the idea of letting this (frankly a bit shonky) website determine my fashion choices for the foreseeable future. Why not let it determine your wardrobe choices for the next week? Ask the website any fashion-related question you like and it will attempt to advise you – recent questions asked of it include “what matches with blue trousers?” and “what colours can I wear with fuschia?”, although it was sadly incapable of answering my desperate cry for help around “how to look halfway fashionable when you haven’t bought any new clothes for approximately a decade”.
  • Feed Anus To Matt Hancock: Just in case you don’t think he’s being asked to eat enough animal protein of dubious origin during his jungle experience, here’s a simple mobile game in which you try and stuff as many kangaroo testes and dingo ovaries into his mouth as possible within a time limit. Briefly, on the Hancock thing – one of the things that people seem to underestimate about politicians is how fcuking weird they are. You know how weird they come across in general in TV appearances? That’s NOTHING compared to how weird they are in day-to-day life. Watching politicians being ‘normal’ is honestly one of the most unsettling experiences its possible to have outside of the occult, and it’s this that I think will make Hancock’s experience in the jungle so unpleasant for him – it’s not just the fact that he presided over the pandemic sh1tshow, it’s not the hypocrisy and whiff of corruption and the incompetence and the unrepentance and the hubris, it’s the fact that none of the other people in there will like him because, as a politician, he’s basically only on nodding terms with the basic tenets of ‘being a human being’.
  • Cactus Sim: Be a cactus! It’s not wildly exciting, fine, but it very much feels like an accurate representation of the spiny flora existence.
  • Teenyshire: Ooh, this is fun – a daily game (NOTHING TO DO WITH WORDLE I PROMISE) in which you are challenged each day to come up with the optimal placement of certain tiles; each can be placed with certain restrictions, and wins points based on certain criteria, and your challenge each day it to place them so as to get the highest score you can. This is a lovely, gentle little puzzle which you may find a nice addition to your daily ‘just one more frivolous website before I return to the grinding horror of my dayjob’ routine.
  • The CSS Puzzle Box: Last up in this week’s selection of random frivolities is this excellent little game – you know when you were a teenager and one of your mates had this incredible stash box that was from India or Tibet or somewhere and which looked like it was impregnable but which could, when manipulated in a very specific series of ways, be opened to reveal your very own personal stash of plastic-laden soapbar? Well it’s one of those, except a) digital; and b) to the best of my knowledge without the bonus of a poorly-weighed lump of petrol-y resin to reward you at the end. This is really very fun but also quite hard (which is why I was grateful for the fact that there were hints). I would like more of this stuff baked into websites – wouldn’t it be ace if clicking on seven very specific pixels on an ostensibly-boring corporate website took you to a secret easter egg-filled backend, for example? Yes it would. MAKE IT HAPPEN, CODEMONGS!

By Murray Fredericks



  • Falgaia: I know pixel art feels a little like ‘stuff from the internet of a decade ago’, but I still rather like it and this is some high-quality work with impressive technical chops.
  • Tapefan: OK, fine, not actually a Tumblr, but it feels like it fits here. The website of a person who really, really likes cassette tapes, so much so that they maintain this page on which they document the various designs of the cassettes themselves and of the blank-ish sleeves they come packaged in. Or at least I presume what this is about – it’s all in Japanese, though, so apologise to the curator if I in fact minsterpreting their life’s passion.


  •  Peter Fredricksen: Fredricksen makes embroidered artworks, often of details of individual frames from cartoons, and whilst that description makes it sound frankly terrible, I promise you that in fact it is good. No really, it is.
  • SW Gouge: The Insta account of a woman who photographs horses. If you like horses, you will like this (and even if you don’t, frankly, the photos are lovely).
  • Julia Lillard: The bio to Julia Lillard’s Insta page reads ‘surreal digital collage’ and, honestly, that’s pretty much exactly right. This is some GREAT work.
  • Filter Drops: An new-ish Insta feed posting examples of Insta filters and general AR/XR work; worth a look and a follow if you’re interested in seeing what people are making with this tech at present.


  • Jack & Elon: I’m sorry to once again lead this section with stuff about That Fcuking Man (as an aside, it’s genuinely distressing to me that this is the second time in the relatively short lifespan of Web Curios that I have had cause to apply that nickname to someone – noone should ever have to deal with more than one ‘That Fcuking Man’ in one lifetime, surely?), but, well, I do think that his purchase of Twitter is quite a big deal, whether because of the increasingly-likely fact that he is singlehandedly going to tank a business in a matter of what feels like weeks, or, if you take the central tenet of this slightly-conspiracy-ish blogpost seriously, because he’s using it as a means of bringing about a new world order. Look, to be clear, I am not saying that I buy into everything outlined in this post – which effectively suggests that the Musk/Twitter deal was effectively a step in the creation of a ‘multipolar power’ world and the global adoption of web3 ancd crypto – but, equally, I’m not saying I don’t believe any of it. If you happened to listen to Musk’s chat with advertisers the other day – which I did, and fcuk me do I wish I hadn’t – then you might have caught a fleeting mention of the possibility of using crypto to turn Twitter into some sort of universal FS product which, yes, fine, may well be just the latest example of Elon SPEEKING HIZ BRANES but which may equally be a sign that not all of the stuff set out here is entirely batsh1t.
  • How To Build A Winning Paid Membership Model: I feel I need to apologise again here for introducing a link to the corporate blog of VC nightmares Andreesen Horowitz, but in my defence this is a really smart piece of writing which neaty articulates all the ways in which one might go about establishing a functional, successful, mechanically-viable paid membership model, and why (parenthetically) none of what Twitter has done so far fits within that framework. I mean, yes, ok, a lot of this is also slightly bleak, in particular the relentless drive to incorporate game mechanics to incentivise member engagement and drive value to subscribers (which reads not-dissimarly from Adrian Hon’s excellent satirical Twitter thread on this from last week), but it’s also not stupid, and I still believe that if there’s a future for NFTs that it might come as part of this sort of paid membership structure for digital services.
  • Bring Back Forums: I can only concur. I spent a significant proportion of 2002-4 lurking on a range of forums and they were fucking GREAT – a combination of interesting chat, deep knowledge, terrible sh1tposting and a real sense of community, all happening at a manageable pace, with the best examples featuring decent moderation and a shared understanding of where the lines and boundaries were. Honestly, it’s a genuine shame to me that forum architecture has died off so much – I wonder to what extent that was facilitated by Google killing off the specific ‘search forums’ functionality way back in the day (and whether it’s recent decision to at least partially reinstate it will reverse that trend in any meaningful sense). This gave me a very real pang of nostalgia for Something Awful, and Popbitch (although, fine, that wasn’t technically a forum), and the days when B3ta was a bit more lively, and as soon as I’m done writing this I’m off to see whether Liphook’s still live (if you know, you know).
  • Theses on the Techlash: I very much enjoyed this piece, which examines what we mean when we talk about the ‘techlash’ and the extent to which said techlash is only ever partial because we understand that we are sort-of trapped within the machine and, perhaps, have developed a relationship with it so symbiotic that we couldn’t free ourselves if we wanted to and if we tried. I was thinking about this in the context of ‘how generally fcuked everything feels and how everyone seems to be slightly on the edge all the time, like they might start laughing hysterically and then never, ever stop’ the other day, and I wonder whether there’s a part of that that’s due to the creeping knowledge that we exist within systems that we have built to serve us which no longer serve us at all, and which instead seem to be doing us harm, and whether in fact it’s that disconnect and incongruity that causes the disaffection and wider sense of ‘this is all going wrong’ – the gap between what we have promised ourselves and the reality of the outcomes, and the poisoned space it leaves.
  • How The Tories Broke Neoliberalism: I think the title here’s potentially a bit optimistic to be honest (come back to me and say that when we’ve gone a decade without any fcuker citing Hayek as an inspiration or economic role model), but I otherwise enjoyed this piece setting out some of the reasons why the neoliberal project (and particularly the Trussian apotheosis thereof) floundered so badly. There’s lots of interesting analysis in here, but this paragraph in particular struck me as both fascinating and true, and made me wonder at the ‘why’ of the disconnect here outlined: “And yet, 40 years of neoliberalism have not bred a selfish “me” generation: we are surrounded by major illustrations of voluntary action, including large formal and informal protest movements; young people care seriously about climate change and biodiversity; it has become a cliché that the Covid lockdowns showed the depths of resources of neighbourly care possessed by societies around the world. But there is a general disconnect between this rich civil society and political communication. For a brief moment, it seemed that the pandemic would turn the direction of public political discourse in a collective direction, but the moment passed without significant change.”
  • AI Selfies: A post by Matt Haughey explaining how he played around with AI-generated self portraits, from training a model to generating the pictures. This is both a decent how-to guide on generating these things yourself rather than through a dedicated ‘AI portraits’ portal (which leads to more flexibility in outputs), but also a nice look at how incredibly good this stuff is. If I had a kid I imagine it would be really rather lovely to use this stuff to create a series of images of them embodying different scenarios and archetypes, and it would be a fun creative exercise to enjoy with them (as long as you don’t think too hard about where the images of said kid are going, and what they are going to be used for, and whether or not it’s ethical to effectively be handing their face to the infinite vision machines in exchange for a few pretty pictures).
  • Technique as Self-Service: This is quite system-y, but in an interesting way – a short post (oddly on the blog of Stripe Partners) about how it might be useful to think about tools such as Stable Diffusion in terms of their relation to the user, and the difference between ‘craftspeople’, ‘users’ and ‘technicians’ when it comes to making use of tools. This is quite wonk-y, fine, but it’s also a smart framework within which to think about any products and services you might be developing or selling, or indeed the people you might be attempting to sell them to.
  • The WeChat Apology Letters: On the one hand, this reads quite a lot like a joke; on the other, there’s not really anything that funny about it. Users of WeChat in China who get locked out of their accounts for perceived infractions are, apparently, occasionally required to demonstrate their contrition to the business in writing: “WeChat accounts are so essential to people’s social and professional lives that users, after getting banned, are willing to go to great lengths to retrieve them. In some cases, the app asks users for handwritten apologies before unlocking their accounts, and the users have complied.” So people pen self-flagellatory missives apologising to Big App for having dared to contravene its Ts&Cs in the hope that their access will be returned and they can do things like, I don’t know, leave the house and pay for groceries. You may laugh, but if you read this and don’t think ‘Yep, Elon would totally get off on people having to write him begging letters to get their ticks back’ then I, once again, have a bridge to sell you.
  • Qatar: Are you excited about the World Cup? No, me neither, and it’s not just because I appear to have lost the ability to feel joy about anything. It’s hard to get enthused about a tournament which better than even the mooted SuperLeague embodies the Mammonic insanity of modern football, and that’s without getting into the unique relationship that the Qatari regime has with human rights. With all that said – and with the knowledge that this is in part PR for Qatar in the classic sportswashing sense – I did find this series of essays and photographs, by Qataris and Qatari residents, about their lives and the national relationship with football and their hopes for the tournament, interesting and vaguely-hopeful (although, equally, I felt a bit uncomfortable about the number of times these pieces say things like ‘and you’d never believe how friendly and amazing Qatar is, nothing like what you read about!’).
  • The Scent of Flavour: A great essay about smell, taste and flavour, the difference and connection between the three, how they all work, how we can use chemicals and science to modify and augment them, and how language slightly fails us when it comes to talking about these things: “we lack a verb to describe the perception of flavor. Consider how we describe the sensations evoked by taste, smell, and flavor. I can say, “I taste sugar” and “I smell cinnamon,” but not “I flavor cinnamon.” Using “flavor” as a verb means to add flavor to something rather than to perceive the sensation of flavor. When we want to describe how we perceive the flavor of cinnamon we borrow “taste” and say, “I taste cinnamon.” This only adds to the problem.”
  • Vanguard Estates: I rather enjoyed this – a ‘choose your own adventure’-style short story about a future in which robotic care for the elderly is the norm, and the extent to which you might feel comfortable handing over a loved one into the care of the machines. I have only tried a couple of the branches, and whilst I haven’t found anything weird or traumatic in there I suppose I ought to at least acknowledge the outside possibility that one of the branches in the narrative ends up with some sort of horrible scene of snuff-gerontophilia, so, er, caveat lector.
  • How I Lost $1m In The Pandemic: Or “Stonks: Line Also Go Down”, to give it a plausible alternative title. This is from the Guardian, fine, but I don’t know how much traction it got this week and I think it’s a really interesting piece – the author writes about their experience briefly making it big in the pandemic stock market madness around Gamestop before (and I think the headline already gave this away and so I don’t feel bad for spoiling the surprise) losing it all again, and the emotional strain of having your mental and financial wellbeing yoked to the vagaries of a market being prodded by idiots with sticks. A useful reminder that the value of your investments really can go down as well as up, particularly at a time when we once again seem to be being bombarded with ads suggesting it’s a really good idea to get in on the ground floor of the trading and speculation marketplace (still, probably a better bet than crypto right now lol).
  • Buying a Goblin: This is a near-perfect piece of writing in which the author explores the possibility of buying a goblin (yes, a real one – OBVIOUSLY) from a Zimbabwean bloke on Facebook; the only downside is that the price quoted was too rich for the buyer, and so the goblin sadly went unpurchased, but otherwise everything about this is golden. I particularly enjoy the tediously-practical bits of advice for the spirant goblin keeper as peddled by the sellers – ‘don’t eat okra’, feed it milk, don’t have sex with any virgins while you’re in possession of said goblin, etc – and genuinely wish they had gone through with the purchase, if only to see what poor, benighted member of the animal kingdom eventually showed up half-dead in a fedexed parcel from Harare.
  • Modlins: A lovely story, this, in part historical detective work and in part a profile of a genuinely odd-sounding family, the Modlins, who fled the US for Franco’s Spain in pursuit of the artistic and cultural success they believe their genius warranted. This is a lovely piece of writing by Aaron Shulman, in particular for the portrayal of the titular family who are rendered with a sense of tragic sympathy throughout.
  • Mozarting The Mind: Finally this week, I adored this – I suppose I would call it a prose poem if pressed, but it’s just a gorgeous piece of writing from start to finish. Revel in the language, it really is superb

By Jang Koal