Webcurios 12/04/24

Reading Time: 35 minutes

I went on an open-top bus tour through London last weekend, and, honestly, it was FCUKING GREAT and you should all do one. That’s it, that’s basically all I’ve got for you this week, just a general sense of unbridled enthusiasm for taking a bus around some tourist attractions – seriously though, it is ACE and less expensive than you might think, and people are SO NICE TO YOU! I mean, look, most of the time it’s fair to say that the London attitude to tourists is usually stuck somewhere between ‘you cnuts, it is your fault that M&M World exists, and you deserve the Aberdeen Angus Steakhouse franchises as your penance’ and ‘STAND ON THE FCUKING RIGHT JESUS FCUKING CHRIST ARE YOU THIS INCAPABLE OF PICKING UP BASIC SOCIAL CUES IN YOUR OWN NATION???’, but when you’re on an open top bus, well, people WAVE and SMILE and generally act like they are sort of happy you’re alive.

Anyway, that’s by way of an unusually-positive introduction, designed in part to reassure the very kind person who emailed me last week evidencing what sounded like genuine concern about my mental wellbeing – see? PEOPLE WHO ARE TERMINALLY UNHAPPY DO NOT TAKE OPEN TOP BUS RIDES!

I am still Matt, this is still Web Curios, and you will thank me when you take the bus advice, I promise you, it really is fun.

By Melanie Garcia



  • XKCD’s Incredible Machine: I don’t tend to feature XKCD stuff in here very often, consistently-superb as it is, mainly because, well, it’s all over the fcuking web and I like to try and take the ‘Curio’ thing seriously (I am a terrible, disgusting linksnob), but every now and again Randall Monroe really does surpass himself and this is indeed one of those times. The link takes you to Monroe’s own spin on the classic 90s CD-Rom era game The Incredible Machine, which was basically a series of playgrounds in which you, the player, are tasked with making increasingly-preposterous Rube Goldberg devices to transport something from point A to point B within a level, limited only by the bits and pieces at your disposal and your own imagination – this is that, effectively, except with only one level, and it is SO GOOD. There are a dizzying array of different elements that you can drag and drop onto the screen, each of which will affect the trajectory of the various coloured balls in different ways – trampolines, springs, accelerators, decelerators, all that sort of physics-y fun, basically – and you can arrange them in whatever way best pleases you to direct the differently-hued spheres to their intended destinations. Every player’s creation can eventually be saved into a collective ur-machine, which you can check out by clicking the ‘view machine’ button in the bottom right and scrolling around, letting you feel REALLY inadequate in the face of strangers’ immense and intimidating creativity – turns out some people spend HOURS on this (or, alternatively, I am just really fcuking sh1t at building digital ball-wrangling contraptions) and make some truly astonishing setups. Honestly, this is loads of fun and the sort of thing you could reasonably use as a ‘look, it’s Friday afternoon and our jobs are pointless; shall we sack it all off and play this?’ distraction.
  • Udio: Significant numbers of people seem to have stumbled across AI music generation platform Suno in the past few weeks – YOU, loyal and patient and frankly insanely-tolerant Curios reader, have of course been all over that sh1t for MONTHS since I mentioned it at the beginning of the year, and are probably in the market for a NEW and DIFFERENT and EXCITING AI music creation robot…and lo, here such a thing is. Udio launched this week and has people from Deepmind and all sorts of other Serious Places behind it…but what you really want to know is ‘can it create a worryingly-song-shaped MP3 about my friend’s embarrassing personal problem that I can share with the groupchat?’ and the answer is a resounding YES IT CAN! The improvement in these models in just three months is, as ever, astonishing – Udio, for example, seems to understand the concept of ‘tune’, whilst at the same time being inconsistently unwilling of applying this understanding to its compositions, and the lyrics are terrible…but, honestly, no worse than the song I happened to hear when shopping this week whose sole lyric, repeated wholesale for approximately 3 minutes, was ‘You’re too much for me, You’re OTT’, and it’s almost eerily-good at creating plausibly-2024-pop-sounding almost-melodies. Give it a try – oh, and the website gave my antivirus some scares, but I don’t appear to have been phished or anything and it is a Legitimate Business so I think it’s fine (and they may have fixed this since Monday). BONUS STATE OF AI MUSIC: here are some terms and conditions, rendered beautiful. And this is basically what I imagine every 13 year old boy is doing with this sort of technology at the moment (this isn’t big or clever, I concede, but I confess to laughing).
  • Audit NASA: As a general rule I don’t tend to link to ‘stuff that is actual nutjob conspiracist material’, but I will make an exception for this because it feels like a neat intersection of lots of silly bullsh1t believed by stupid people. Do YOU believe that the North American Space Agency is in fact not pursuing its stated aim of pushing back the outer bounds of the cosmos and securing humanity’s interplanetary future, but that instead it’s pushing a DEEP STATE and POTENTIALLY WOKE agenda, including but not limited to propagating the CLIMATE CHANGE HOAX (and quite possibly turning everyone queer through the application of gay space lasers) (and probably something to do with diversity too)? Well why not get involved with this project, which somehow aims to AUDIT NASA! How? Oh, that’s right, by donating money or buying a course – a course on, er, how to audit NASA! This is quite obviously a grift perpetrated by some idiots (or, read as generously as possible, some desperately-cynical b4stards) on some bigger idiots, and it would be halfway-funny if it didn’t speak to the wider conspiratorial movement and its seemingly-inexorable growth. Seriously, there is a big button on the homepage asking the open question “IS NASA GOING TO SPACE?” Anyway, if you’re wondering on what grounds the shadowy people behind this feel they have the ‘right’ to ‘audit NASA’, you’ll be pleased to hear that the answer is ‘Freedom of Information Requests’, which anyone who’s ever dealt with an FOI anywhere in the world will know is possibly not the transparency silver bullet that these lads appear to believe it is.
  • Netflitwitter: When That Fcuking Man bought Twitter all those many months ago, I included a closing line in a piece I wrote about it somewhere else which read, broadly, “It is likely that Musk will make a pig’s ear out of the acquisition, because nothing suggests he knows the first thing about running a social media platform or that he would be good at doing it if he did” – it was subbed out of the final version, which annoyingly means I don’t have anything I can point at when I do my incredibly tedious ‘I told you so’ routine, but I can still tell YOU. What’s that? You don’t care? FINE. Anway, this site is just the latest proof point in the ongoing saga of ‘Elon doesn’t know what the fcuk he’s doing and seems to have sacked everyone who did’ – per the site’s copy, “As of April 8, 2024, the iOS Twitter (now X) client automatically replaces the text “twitter.com” in posts with “x.com” as part of its functionality. Therefore, for example, a URL that appears to be “netflix.com” will actually redirect to “netflitwitter.com” when clicked. Please be aware that there is a potential for this feature to be exploited in the future, by acquiring domains containing “twitter.com” to lead users to malicious pages. This domain, “netflitwitter.com,” has been acquired for protective purposes to prevent its use for such malicious activities.” SMARTEST MAN IN THE WORLD! See also here. INTERPLANETARY GENIUS!
  • The Bagpussverse: Dave ‘Bagpuss’ Forsey (no, I don’t know why and to be honest I don’t really want to ask) is one of a group of ‘people in the UK who make fun stuff on the internet and have been doing so for ages and who almost certainly got started with this stuff on B3ta.com about two decades ago’ – see also Matt Round, Happytoast, Cyriak, Joel Veitch and even actual proper film director Ben Wheatley – and whose work I have put in Curios at various points over the years; now Dave’s updated his website including all sorts of games and distractions and LIGHT SATIRE, and it’s just generally a fun place to click around and spend 20 minutes playing games about the UK’s shooting gallery of awful politicians – or, alternatively, playing ‘ar$ebishop’, a game in which you have to decide whether a very close-up and pixellated bit of fleshy jpeg is a buttock or a man of the cloth. Never let it be said that Curios doesn’t bring you the highbrow stuff.
  • Dig This: Do any of you work at Google, and can any of you confirm to me whether the YouTube music recommendation algorithms have been improved recently? It feels almost troublingly-tailored at the moment, in a way that makes me feel a bit uncomfortable. If you’d rather entrust your next serendipitous discovery to ACTUAL serendipity rather than ‘maths masquerading as chance’ (please, noone write in to explain me how chance is in fact maths as well, I barely understand numbers upto 10 let alone any of this stuff) then you could do worse than bookmarking Dig This – load up the page and it presents you four genres at random, which you can either swap out for another four or choose one of. Picking a genre will take you to a randomly-selected pick from Discogs, with a link either to the Discogs page or a YouTube search for the artist and track in question so that you can explore. I have been fiddling with this a bit this week and it has played me stuff that I have never, ever heard of (and reset the YouTube algo a bit unto the bargain, which is no bad thing).
  • The Animorphs Art Store: Animorphs – or, specifically, the covers to the editions of the kids’ books published in the US in the 90s/00s – are a very specific type of internet thing; if you’re not aware, the books were always about kids who were able to transform into animals because reasons, and the covers always depicted said kids going through an incredibly-rendered 5-phase person-to-animal transition which involved some of the most troubling/incredible photoshop work ever committed to the cover of an actual, published book – and now the artist responsible for these masterpieces (David Mattingly, in case you want to erect your own domestic shrine) has an Etsy where you can buy prints of the covers and, honestly, even if this doesn’t trigger any nostalgia or if it means nothing to you, please click the link because you need to see these covers (and possibly buy one for your spare room, or for whichever child of yours you feel is most in need of some really unsettling bedroom decor).
  • Better AI Transcription: I have seen a few people this week praising this, but I am yet to use it myself so all the usual caveats apply – still, if you’re after an alternative to Otter which is, so I am told, cheaper and in-no-way-inferior, then you might want to give this a go (it’s a Japanese platform, so you might need to translate the webpage).
  • Sound AISleep: I know that being a parent is hard, and that juggling the various responsibilities of work and family and life and ‘being a presumably adult human being’ mean that those idealised portrayals of domestic bliss in which a happy family unit does a perfect bedtime every night, with a story and NO TEARS are probably significantly rarer than televisual advertising makes them appear (I mean; I say ‘I know’ but I obviously I have no idea, thank God), and that the idea of using technology as a way to maybe make things easier is perfectly fine and indeed on occasion to be encouraged, but, equally, I saw this app and I read the description and I got ‘Cat’s Cradle’ playing in my head on a sad little loop. “At Sound AiSleep we offer unique kids bedtime stories spoken in your voice! You can create a digital replication of your voice using AI. Simply record your voice for a few minutes and then choose any kids book from our library, to create your personalised audiobook spoken in your voice! Perfect for soothing your little ones to sleep.” On the one hand, cute! On the other, “robomummy reads you a story because real mummy is too busy working a third shift to make rent” is…frankly too bleak to continue with, so I’m going to stop there.
  • This Is A Teenager: To be honest this is long and involved enough that it could have been a longread, but it’s also a REALLY LOVELY bit of webwork and dataviz by The Pudding and so it can go here instead. Very North America-centric in terms of the data it’s drawing on, but wherever you are in the world the themes that it speaks to will apply – drawing on data about the life experiences of young people tracked by US statisticians. “In this story, we’ll follow hundreds of teenagers for the next 24 years, when they’ll be in their late-30s.They’re among the thousands of kids who are part of the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth. This means researchers have followed them since their teenage years to the present day – and beyond.” As you scroll you see visual representations of the proportion of kids in each agegroup coterie who will experience ‘significant’ life events, from crime to poverty and beyond, and how those life events will go on to impact their academic prospects and, eventually, their life prospects – none of this should be surprising, but it’s a hugely-effective way of communicating the long-term impacts of relatively small differences in early-stage life across a demographic swathe.
  • Gaggl: Would you like to know what ‘TV 3.0’ is? No, of course not, because we have all learned by now that anyone putting numbers like that after a concept is trying to sell you something, and, if web3.0 was anything to go buy, that ‘something’ is, in fact, nothing at all. Still, here’s Gaggl with its attempt to piggyback on the The Way We Live Now (alone, poor, never going out, all our friends exist inside screens) – the premise here is that Gaggle licenses films and TV shows so that streamers can in turn watch said content with their audiences in legal watchalong parties, which to be honest is something that I thought we had all decided we didn’t actually like doing lockdown but which I presume enough people have seen enough promise in to warrant a fat wedge of investment (lol like ‘something gets early stage funding’ is in any way correlated with ‘said thing is a good idea’). On the one hand, I really don’t get this at all – on the other, I think I have watched a grand total of approximately 38 minutes of video this week so I’m not really the target audience here. Er, who is? I am unconvinced.
  • Dark Visitors: Want to stop your website and your content being scraped by ALL THE AI CRAWLERS? Well, honestly, you probably can’t, in the long term. Still, if you’d like to continue your Cnut-like (king, not swear) resistance to the overwhelming TIDE OF THE MACHINES then this site contains all the necessary to keep your website’s robots.txt file up to date.
  • Meet Paulinho: This is a genuinely heartwarming story – because of That Fcuking Man, Brazilian Twitter users this week discovered Bluesky en masse, and by so doing they also discovered one of the platforms employees, a guy called Paul whose one of the site’s ‘power users’ (sorry sorry sorry) and basically seems to be some sort of real-life Bluesky Avatar on the platform engaging with the community and generally being a nice guy. Anyway, apparently Brazilian Bluesky users collectively fell in love with Paul – the link takes you to a feed of people basically just turning him into an incredibly-wholesome meme, which is the sort of nice thing that you just don’t see happen on Twitter anymore (ever?) and which hopefully isn’t going to result in Paul being revealed to, I don’t know, be a secret bait baiting enthusiast or something. This came via the essential Ryan, who also has a generally excellent summary of ‘what the fcuk is happening with Twitter in Brazil’, should you be interested.
  • Shrimptank Live: You really shouldn’t need a description for this one. At the time of writing, there is one particularly jazzy-looking yellow chap standing proud atop some sort of brick; who knows what sort of SCINTILLATING ENTERTAINMENT will be streaming when you click (it will be shrimp-based, just to temper your expectations).
  • Countdown Til Christmas: I am sharing this only because I am fairly sure that there is at least one person out there who lives or works with someone for whom cheerily informing them ‘only [for example] 256 days to go til Christmas!’ at random times of the day/week is guaranteed to cause some sort of low-level psychic injury, and I like to share weaponry like this when I can.
  • Floor 796: I featured this – an infinite canvas of small, isometric, pixel vignettes – in November 2022 (travel back into THE DISTANT PAST here), but I am taking the rare step of including it again this week because I happened to stumble across it this week and was slightly-dazzled by what it’s become; I think that the whole thing’s had something of a visual upgrade, because I don’t remember it being so dense or so well-animated, and you can now click anything you see to find out what it’s a reference to (which is necessary given the insane volume of pop culture from around the world that’s now represented across the seemingly-hundreds of little interlinked capsules. Each one of these is the work of a single individual, as far as I can tell, and if you want an idea of the amount of work these must take I encourage you to click the ‘about’ link and then through to the ‘special online editor’ through which all of these have been made – HOW THE FCUK DOES ANYONE MAKE ANYTHING THIS GOOD USING THIS INTERFACE?! I love this so so so much and I am very happy that it has continued quietly existing and growing and developing.

By Travis Lampe



  • Oreo Menu: Apologies for the advermarketingpr link here, but this irritated and confused me in equal measure. The Oreo Menu is a promo being run by the inexplicably-popular biscuit brand (seriously, though, the flavour profile of an Oreo is literally ‘incredibly sweet’, regardless of which bit of it you are consuming, why are they ubiquitous?) – because you know those menus on websites characterised by three horizontal lines, which your experience of navigating online tells you means ‘click this to expand the nav options’? You know how everyone calls them ‘hamburger menus’? Yes, well they are WRONG, those are OREO MENUS because THREE LINES LIKE THE BISCUITS (are you listening, Adidas?)! Anyway, that’s your (dreadful) starting premise – the core of the promo is that if you see a hambur- sorry, OREO menu anywhere online, all you have to do is go to this website and enter in any of the menu navigation options (literally things like ‘About’, ‘Newsletters’, ‘Fistulae’, that sort of thing) and you’ll get given a code giving you $1 off the diabetes-inducers. Except it hasn’t worked with any website I’ve tried it on, meaning you need to enter the website url so it can ‘check’, meaning you have to jump through three hoops to get a buck’s discount – presuming you’ve remembered the fcuking promo exists in the first place. At the very least making this a Chrome extension that automatically alerted you to being on a website with an eligible menu would have made vaguely more sense – as it is, this feels very much like a combination of a brand person getting overexcited and noone at the executing agency having the balls to tell them that ‘Oreo Menu’ is never, ever going to become a thing.
  • True By Now: I have quite strong ‘this has been hacked together in about 10 minutes’ vibes from this site, but that doesn’t really matter – I very much enjoy the premise behind it, which is basically to go back to old headlines and see whether the thing that it confidently predicted has come to pass has in fact come to pass (it may not surprise you to learn that, as it happens, they mostly haven’t). Obviously we’ve got Elon’s repeated ‘WE ARE GOING TO MARS!’ and ‘VIA A SELF-DRIVING TESLA’ pronouncements and their breathless reporting, but there are also fun nuggets from the past such as ‘underwater holidays will be ubiquitous by 2024’ and ‘Bristol set to become UK’s entirely smoke-free city by 2024’ and if nothing else maybe this will relax you, seeing as seemingly nothing that ever gets predicted anywhere ever seems to come to pass (don’t worry, guys, the planet will be fine!).
  • Joseph Wilk: The website of artist Joseph Wilk, whose work spans data and digital and a bit of AI, and whose artist statement reads as follows: “I’m a London born artist working with programming code, realtime media & audio. Through live coding in front of an audience I’ve worked in other performance fields such as dance, theatre, music & cinematography. My experience of disability strongly impacts my practice. Living with pain, physical limitations, disillusionment and disconnection from society affect my thought process and how I create, using my disability and its limitations as part of my process. Performance is a key part of my practice as it fulfils a need to be seen physically and creatively, but in a form I control. We experience the world through our bodies and design dictates how much friction we feel moving through it. I explore automotive forms of expression that utilise new interfaces for alternative bodies.“ There’s some really interesting work here which goes back several years and shows the evolution of the tools and processes available to people working around this space – the generative music stuff from a few years back is particularly interesting imho.
  • The Threads API: No, I know, and I don’t care about it either – who, exactly, is using Threads, and what for? I have an account there, but only so I can follow a dozen or so journalists who migrated there from Twitter and as such I don’t really have a feel for the site’s ‘vibe’ (sorry)…it’s interesting though that in almost a year of existence it doesn’t seem to have generated a single cultural moment or meme, despite the user numbers being objectively great…so what is it FOR? Fcuk knows, but now there is an API meaning that if you can be bothered you might be able to start making WEIRD AND INTERESTING THINGS in Mark’s otherwise-sterile ‘Live, Laugh, Love’ textual playground.
  • Likewise: This is a cultural recommendation app/website which has INTEGRATED ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE, to create a natural language layer over its content and thereby somehow MAKE IT BETTER – and, as with so many things where people have just tried to ‘AI it up’…it doesn’t quite work! Oh, ok, that’s not totally fair – it did give me a reasonably-interesting set of book recs when I asked it for ‘dark literary fiction exploring themes of death, family and incest’ (not a personal interest – it’s just curious to test where the guardrails are, and I wanted to see if I could get it to specifically recommend ‘The Cement Garden) which included Nabokov, Eugenedis and ‘Flowers In The Attic’ which in fairness is a decent spread of styles – but it’s slow, and the recommendations don’t link out to anything, and it’s simply not yet better than either just Googling or asking a librarian (on which point, I re-registered with my local library yesterday and it felt genuinely lovely to take out a bunch of graphic novels, highly recommend it), or indeed just asking Claude or another model of your choice. Still, get used to this sort of interface because there are an awful lot of people who have businesses whose futures are predicated on them becoming ubiquitous.
  • Donghua Jinglong: Also via Ryan in Garbage Day comes this excellent TikTok account which answers the question ‘what happens when a short video platform becomes the dominant marketing and sales channel, even if your business is not in fact particularly suited to making advertising or content for a short form video platform?’ and which is a window into the exciting world of glycine manufacturer in mainland China. These videos are GREAT – drone footage of glycine factories. Inexplicable smash-cuts, weird visual overlay effects and, of course, the words ‘PREMIUM GLYCINE MANUFACTURE’ in big letters all over the place. This has obviously broken containment and moved away from what I presume is its standard audience of, er, large-scale chemicals buyers (is glycinetok otherwise big?) and has become Somewhat Memetic, to the point that there are apparently a bunch of cryptohustlers attempting to leverage this into memecoins (because obviously there are, it’s 2024 and we are expected to just accept that sentences like that have meaning).
  • Clio Books: One of the many exciting ways in which generative AI is making the world better is via the medium of AI-generated books, which anyone who’s spent any time searching on Amazon recently can attest are fcuking EVERYWHERE at the moment (seriously, I wrote this for Another Publication last week: “Amazon continues to fail to get anything resembling a grip on the AI-generated books proliferating on its platform, and which are now guaranteed to show up in search results for any book by, or about, a celebrity. Witness Pogues frontman Shane Macgowan who died in November 2023 and who is commemorated in a range of high-quality tomes,  several of which include AI-generated covers of a suspiciously-healthy looking Macgowan and one in particular which describes the famously-hard-living singer as a business guru who ‘had the ability to solve complex problems and find innovative solutions to any challenge that came his way’. Another ‘celebrity’ to get the AI treatment is Liz Truss – anyone (anyone?) searching for her new book will also find a slew of profiles of the UK’s least-successful Prime Minister, also featuring AI-generated covers and high-quality prose like “Once upon a time, amongst the hallowed halls of British Politics, there emerged a figure whose journey would be etched in the annals of history.” Well, quite.”) – now you too can get in on the LITERARY GOLDRUSH thanks to Clio, an app/website thing which for…some money, will literally Cyrano you through the process of writing a business book, even to the point of letting you (or at least so it claims) just ‘dictate some thoughts’ into your phone and have those turned into a potential-bestseller in minutes! It’s almost certainly not quite that simple – I would imagine, reading between the lines, that it’s just structuring you through some fairly-standard LLM wrangling with successive prompts – but it’s not hard to imagine the market for this, and the sort of INCREDIBLE WISDOM that is going to result. I appreciate that some of you might feel differently about this, but I am firmly of the opinion that all business books are Bad, and largely For Idiots, and this sort of thing is going to make the market even worse.
  • Hover States; I don’t seem to have featured this before, despite it being 12 years old – FIE ON ME. “The home of alternative design, code and content on the world wide web. Browse our growing archive of web design inspiration which we have been curating since 2012. We look out for websites that are experimenting with design, interactivity and content in new and interesting ways.” This is HUGELY-useful and definitely worth bookmarking.
  • Roots: A collection of images of the root networks of various different trees and plants of different species. These are incredibly satisfying, partly because they just are and partly because they give me an excuse to use the word ‘dendritic’.
  • Aruba’s Digital Archive: I heard a really interesting thing on the radio this week about digital curation and archiving and the constant, Cnut-like (again, king not swear) battle against the inexorable and inevitable forces of entropy that all physical and digital media face, and it made me think once again that we are going to one day wake up and realise the vital importance of things like the Internet Archive (and the tragedy of all of the terabytes and petabytes that are gone forever). Anyway, this is a genuinely brilliant project – the tiny Caribbean nation of Aruba (I once lived with a guy from Aruba, who was tiny, incredibly-cheerful and who had the name ‘Juan Sanchez’, making him literally impossible to ever track down again) has digitised its archival history, supported in part by the infrastructure of the Internet Archive, and you can explore it at this url – this is less about the collection (although ethnographers and historians and, perhaps, YOU, will find it interesting) and more about the ethos underpinning it. That which is not saved will be lost forever, innit.
  • ASCII World Map: “MapSCII is a Braille & ASCII world map renderer for your console” That…that is literally it, but perhaps one of you will find it useful! Maybe it will change your life in some small way! But, in all likelihood, it probably won’t!
  • Vertebrate Models: “The openVertebrate project, oVert for short, is a new initiative to provide free, digital 3D vertebrate anatomy models and data to researchers, educators, students and the public. X-ray CT allows researchers to visualize and quantify hard-to-measure characteristics. This image shows high and low density areas of the skull of an Angolan burrowing pig-nosed frog. Florida Museum of Natural History image by Ed Stanley.  Over the next four years, the oVert team will CT scan 20,000 fluid-preserved specimens from U.S. museum collections, producing high-resolution anatomical data for more than 80 percent of vertebrate genera.” Which, yes, is all fine, but what I am taking from this is the fact that there is shortly going to be a massive database that includes models of EVERY SINGLE VERTEBRATE (ish) ON THE PLANET! Which means that if you want a perfectly-accurate representation of, I don’t know, a cane toad, or a sugar glider, or an asp (and you are in the 0.1% of the world’s population who owns or has access to a 3d printer) then you can just make one! The future!
  • Eclipse Simulator: Did you get to EXPERIENCE TOTALITY? No, me neither, and yet as is ever the case with ‘stuff that happens to America’, we still have to listen to a bunch of people wang on about it. Still, click this link and see what all the fuss was about.
  • Drawback Chess: What if ‘chess, but with each player playing under slightly-tweaked rules in an attempt to even out differences in skill between mismatched opponents’? CLICK THIS LINK AND FIND OUT! This is quite fun, in a ‘I wonder what it would be like playing chess if I am only allowed to move my knights in one specific configuration?’ sort of way.
  • Apollo: A brilliant little platform game in which you play as a small, initially-flightless, bird, and have to wander round collecting stuff – this is tightly-designed and just challenging enough, and lasts pretty much the perfect amount of time to make a pleasing 15-minute distraction from whatever it is that is currently causing you pain.
  • Poet Gang Playing Cards: Our last miscellaneous link this week is this…surprisingly excellent game, which has equally-surprisingly seemingly been made by hiphop producer Kenny Segal and which sees you engaging in a variety of hiphop-themed card battles with a range of opponents, writing rhymes and dropping beats and building up your card deck…honestly, if you’ve ever played Slay The Spire or one of those types of things then you’ll get this immediately, but if not there’s a decent tutorial and the learning curve’s not too steep. There’s a lot of depth to the mechanics if you want to search for it, with four different characters with different cards and playstyles to unlock, but perhaps the biggest draw here is the music which really is far, far better than you’d expect it to be for a browsergame with graphics that look a little bit like they were made by a 17 year old in 1994 (in a nice way). This is really very impressive and a surprising amount of fun.

By Raymond Lemstra, via TIH



  • Blocky Graphics: From the ‘about’: “Old computer graphics, basically. You either get it or you don’t. You’re either fascinated by file formats and file size limitations and making much out of little, or off to reblog the next bit of panoramic scenery pr0n.” Which, honestly, is the sort of curmudgeonly snobbery I can absolutely get behind.


  • The Stamp Curse: The curatorial principle behind this account isn’t ENTIRELY clear to me, but, well, STAMPS! LOTS OF STAMPS! I think, as far as I can tell, the stamps featured tend to be in some way related to the news – there were loads featuring images of eclipses over the past week, for example – should that give you a compelling reason to follow this one.
  • Artificial Drag Race: Hosted by an AI Betty Boop, and featuring a host of highly-copyrighted cartoon figures from pop culture, this probably isn’t going to be online for very long – but if you’ve ever wanted to experience Bugs Bunny facing off against Donkey Kong to see who serves the most cnut, then, well, HERE YOU ARE!


  • The World Cannot Afford The Rich: I appreciate that this year there’s been something of a glut of ‘Big Money/plutocrats=BAD!’ pieces in Curios, but in my defence it’s simply a factor of the fact that there is a LOT of this sort of thinking out there at the moment (you can make your own guesses as to why). This one’s actually a couple of weeks old but is a very good overview of the data and arguments demonstrating that the greater economic inequalities exist within a society, the greater the likely environmental impact of said society – the piece is literally ALL paragraphs like this, but here’s one at random: “The costs of inequality are also excruciatingly high for governments. For example, the Equality Trust, a charity based in London (of which we are patrons and co-founders), estimated that the United Kingdom alone could save more than £100 billion ($126 billion) per year if it reduced its inequalities to the average of those in the five countries in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) that have the smallest income differentials — Denmark, Finland, Belgium, Norway and the Netherlands. And that is considering just four areas: greater number of years lived in full health, better mental health, reduced homicide rates and lower imprisonment rates.” Worth reading, partly because it’s interesting, partly because it’s infuriating, but mainly because it’s useful to have a lot of this stuff in your pocket for the next time someone starts suggesting that the burden of responsibility for A LOT OF THE BAD STUFF doesn’t in fact fall on the rich (individuals and corporations alike).
  • Homo Economicus is a Sociopath: Ok, this is a *bit* silly and obviously not the most vital piece of research that’s going to be published this year, but, equally, it feels like it might be a potentially useful framing for something. The premise of this paper, published in the Journal of Business Ethics, is that the behavioural archetypes that economic models are classically based on and which underpin our ‘understanding’ (lol) of how we should structure and regulate (lol) markets in order to optimise outcomes – that is, Homo Economicus, agents who are “consistently rational and narrowly self-interested, and who pursue their subjectively defined ends optimally” – basically demonstrate all the traits of clinical psychopathy and that, as such, perhaps there’s a SMALL CHANCE that optimising for this stuff is in fact not a good idea on a human level. JUST A THOUGHT!
  • AI Has An Uber Problem: An interesting piece of writing suggesting – heaven forfend! – that the ultra-capitalised means in which companies, specifically tech companies, are funded thanks to VC et al has the knock-on effect of creating distorted markets which actively disbenefit consumers, businesses and…oh, what a surprise, everything except for the investment! In summary, “It is a dark pattern, a map to suboptimal outcomes rather than the true path to competition, innovation and the creation of robust companies and markets. As Bill Janeway noted in his critique of the capital-fueled bubbles that resulted from the ultra-low interest rates of the decade following the 2007–2009 financial crisis, “capital is not a strategy.” Venture capitalists don’t have a crystal ball. To the extent that entrepreneurial funding is more concentrated in the hands of a few, private finance can drive markets independent of consumer preferences and supply dynamics. Market discipline is significantly delayed—until the initial public offering or later. And of course, today IPOs are delayed, often precisely because companies can get all the capital they need from a small number of deep-pocketed investors. Founders and employees are even able to cash out some of their shares without having to face the scrutiny of public markets, much as if bettors on a horse race could take their money off the table as the horses round the first turn. Thus, far from finance being an extension of the market (with lots of independent signals aggregated to ensure competition and consumer choice), capital can ignore the will of the market.”
  • The Big AI Data-Scraping Story: If you are yet to read it, this is the NYT’s BIG SCOOP from last weekend all about how – and this may come as a shock to you – it turns out that everyone involved in the development of generative AI models has been playing fast-and-loose with the idea of copyright and ownership, and how now Google is getting p1ssy with OpenAI, and how maybe Google hasn’t been entirely transparent either…and, look, I don’t know about you but the more I read of the copyright question the more I am convinced that the only thing that is going to happen with any of this is some lucrative interbusiness deals being signed, some lawyers having a VERY good decade or so, and none of the people who actually made any of the videos, or wrote any of the words, that have been scraped to feed the machine getting paid anything at all.
  • Welcome To The AI Gadget Era!: Or at least that was the headline to the first Verge piece on AI wearables and gadgets, which looked forward to the relatively-imminent launch of the first wave of LLM-enabled devices and how they might change everything and REVOLUTIONISE THE WORLD! The piece acknowledges that it’s all very early days for this stuff, and that it won’t really work very well at first, but that it’s the start of an exciting new era and closes with “Right now, everyone’s searching for “the iPhone of AI,” but we’re not getting that anytime soon. We might not get it ever, for that matter, because the promise of AI is that it doesn’t require a certain kind of perfected interface — it doesn’t require any interface at all. What we’re going to get instead are the Razr, the Chocolate, the Treo, the Pearl, the N-Gage, and the Sidekick of AI. It’s going to be chaos, and it’s going to be great.” A whole 8 days later that optimism was somewhat tarnished when the same publication published its ‘first impressions’ of the Humane AI wearable which has just shipped and, per the review, just doesn’t work, at all, in any meaningful or useful way. There’s something quite funny about the way in which this pairing of articles neatly highlights the two central pillars of tech journalism (specifically, 1. Excitedly proclaiming ‘the holodeck is just around the corner!’; 2. Giving the holodeck a one-star review on launch because it doesn’t come with full teledildonics plug-and-play functionality), but the main takeaway, as with any of this stuff right now, is ‘NONE OF THIS TECH IS MARKET READY YET FFS’.
  • Enter The Era of Never Forgetting: What will it do to us when our magical personal digital pocket friend who lives in the cloud and in our phone and in our glasses and watch and trousers and fridge and eventually frontal cortex and sees and hears everything that we see and hear and read and watch, and never forgets ANY OF IT, and all of that is available to us to search through and index and trawl back over, like ‘Evernote, but for literally your whole life and this time actually usable’? NO FCUKING IDEA, but this article in Wired asks the question (and, if you ask me, doesn’t ask anywhere near enough additional questions about ‘what are we going to do to ensure that the aggressively data-extractive anti-privacy patterns of the past 15 years don’t get replicated in their entirety?’).
  • What Google Is Doing To Publishers: This is just one online business’s story, but it’s one that’s being replicated across the web and around the world, and it is only going to be exacerbated by the inevitable integration of generative AI and summary content into the search experience. Retro Dodo is a website which publishes stuff about retro games, and, as you’d expect, makes money from advertising against that content – this article tells the story of why the site probably won’t exist for much longer in the wake of continued downward pressure on site traffic, and does a decent job of explaining why the ad-funded publishing model simply isn’t going to work for anyone any more in a few years’ time.
  • Print Is Coming Back: Ok, not quite, BUT I found myself nodding throughout this piece by Viktoriia Vasileva which basically says ‘brands making physical media is about to have a comeback’ – I genuinely believe this, given the insane oversaturation of the podcast and newsletter market and the rare and genuine pleasure of slightly-ephemeral physical media in the shape of zines or magazines.
  • The Declutterers: Cleantok has been a thing for YEARS, obvs, but whereas in the past it was that woman with all the bleach (sorry, mental block, Mrs…Hinch?) it’s now evolved and reached its seeming apogee in the US, with the latest wave of people who have managed to somehow turn ‘doubling your plastic consumption, literally, in pursuit of an aesthetic’ into aspirational content. This piece is incredibly depressing, honestly, in a ‘and this is why we are totally fcuked’ way – it profiles a bunch of people in the US who are doing numbers on TikTok showing off their ‘decluttering routine’, which basically involves taking an enormous, industrial quantity of domestic stuff, usually food, and removing it from its original (usually plastic) packaging to put it in new, organised, more-aesthetically-appealing plastic, which of course has been bought and shipped from…probably the other side of the world! This is basically ‘Stacey Solomon’s Refill Day’ on adderall and several million dollars of passive income, and the overwhelming ethos of the creators in question can be summed up in this delightful quote: “This is a space where women are empowered. We’re women sharing cool things with each other directly. You want it to go back to men running QVC?” EMPOWERMENT! Jesus wept.
  • The Latest AI Deepfake Influencer Thing: Another week, another case of AI video being used for questionable purposes! This time it’s a brand new scam in which UNSCRUPULOUS ACTORS scrape a bunch of content from various OnlyFans pages, spin up a fake woman’s face using an AI generator, use another AI programme to graft the fake face onto the real body in the images/video and then use these new AI frankenvids to tease unsuspecting horny idiots into signing up for some fraudulent OnlyFans shell site or another. This is probably going to be a very awkward conversation to have, but a lot of you should probably have a word with any teenage boys under your care about this sort of thing because I would bet not-insignificant money that it’s the very young and the very old who are getting scammed here.
  • Reality TV: The Videogame: Lots of excitement and hype, this week at least, about a newly-released videogame which is interesting for a couple of reasons – firstly the premise, which revolves around you playing someone responsible for filming and directing a reality TV show, and ensuring you create EXCITING MOMENTS for the viewing public (whatever that may end up meaning…), and secondly because of the slightly-meta nature of the game which is explicitly designed to be streamed as entertainment, and whose setup and framing is very much Twitch friendly in terms of the premise and the sorts of scenarios that end up resulting. There are some interesting questions about how best to design something that works from a player and spectator point of view – a question that I don’t think has quite been nailed yet by anyone really, which is one of the reasons why esports as a spectator sport hasn’t quite taken off in a mainstream sense.
  • Birds Aren’t Real Take Two: I enjoyed this profile of the kid behind the ‘bird aren’t real’ movement – not least because it’s hard not to feel warm towards someone who decides to drop out of college on the basis of an accidentally-viral gag and is the very definition of someone *committing to the bit* – which talks to him about the madness of the past few years and what he wants to do next… I confess to feeling my heart sink a bit when I got to this section and realised that, perhaps inevitably, the pivot is going to be to ‘running an agency’ (he doesn’t say, but read the following and just extrapolate a few years): “McIndoe and his friend Adam Faze, who produces shows for TikTok and recently raised a $750,000 seed round for his new content production company, are attempting to harness this type of enthusiasm with a political network they’ve called Fifty Stars. “The right has a very strong engine ecosystem that is communicating with Gen Z, from the Daily Wire, to [MAGA YouTubers] the NELK Boys, to the Joe ‘Roganverse,’ to the Jordan Petersons and the Andrew Tates,” McIndoe said. Not Fox News commentators but comedians, fitness influencers, and lowly podcasters are “influencing the future of the right more than anyone,” he said. “The left doesn’t have anything comparable.”” MSCHF-but-for-politics is 100% going to be on an investor slide somewhere.
  • Linking The Gurl: This is less a ‘longread’ and more ‘a list of resources that might be interesting to anyone who wants to explore ideas of womanhood and femininity, and the concept of ‘girl’, in online spaces’ – compiled by Molly Soda, who writes: “As a culture, we’ve discussed the girlification of the web ad nauseam: in think-pieces, blog posts, trend forecasts, and Twitter threads. 2023 was coined “The Year of the Girl” thanks to the popularity of girl-centric terminology (girl dinner, hot girl walks), the ubiquity of bows (not just in fashion but everywhere you could imagine), and the commercial success of the Barbie movie. In the wake of this heightened Girl awareness, there have been well-intentioned but ultimately misguided attempts to define “girlhood” online. These definitions are predicated on the opposition between girlhood and womanhood. Why do all these grown women want to be girls? Who gets to be a girl? When does one stop being a girl? Much of the discourse has framed this sudden interest in girlishness as a failing, or as a resistance to the oppressive Girlboss (the term Girl still applies here), or as a fear of aging.  There is no distinction between woman and Girl online. We must throw out any binary thinking. Online, we are all Girls. Girl exists as a condition rather than a fixed gender or age. “Girl” is a valuable marketing term in the same way that “authenticity” is. It is performed, refined, but never able to be perfected—hoisted upon us and impossible to embody. We’ve reached peak Girl. By the time this syllabus reaches you, you’re likely sick of it. The culture has turned against it. The Girl backlash has begun.” To be clear, this really is a syllabus – there are a LOT of links to various essays here, alongside personal websites and other digital portals – but if you’re interested in the construction of gender in online spaces then it’s a fascinating place to start exploring.
  • Momos: ‘Momos’ is the term apparently given in China to (mostly young) people who rather than using their real identities in online interactions instead assume a sort of shared collective identity, using usernames that WeChat defaults to giving anonymous users (in the same way as Google Docs, for example, assigns people animals and adjectives, which is why you will occasionally have a Serendipitous Ocelot perusing your Sheets) – this article, translated from the Chinese, talks about the phenomenon and What It Means, and, honestly, the world is a fcuking village: “Perhaps this is also the reason for the popularity of momo. Even among young people, who often make the most energetic impressions, some of them have begun to hide themselves online. “The reason why they hide their image and become momo is because they grapple with the pressures from real life. They deconstruct themselves and call themselves ‘social animals’ or ‘student animals’.” A 2023 paper said. In this paper published in the Journal of News Research [新闻研究导刊], two scholars from Henan University also gave a portrait of momo, “It can be said that momo has created a unified group imprint to the outside world, that is, the mental pressure is high, but cute and humorous, an image full of justice and empathy.” This statement is recognized by many momos. “No normal person would play as momo, if they weren’t dealing with issues.” said 27-year-old Xiong Xiong.” WELL QUITE.
  • Microdosing Retirement: On the one hand, the title of this article makes me twitch; on the other, I very much enjoyed it and I am totally on board with the premise – taking a few months off every now and again to just…do…nothing, because why the fcuk not and also we are never, ever retiring, ever.
  • It’s A Long Way Down: I have a fairly strong – unscientific, obvs – feeling that the next 5 years or so are going to see an absolute labour market glut of men in their late-40s and upwards, men whose actual, practical professional skills can largely be described as ‘writing and thinking a bit but mainly making powerpoints and delegating the making of those powerpoints to people younger than them, and going to LOTS OF MEETINGS’ and who are going to suddenly find that a) their current employers don’t need them anymore, and b) that literally noone is going to pay them 80k+ ever again in their lives. This piece, by Ray Suarez, is not QUITE about those men – the author here is a writer and journalist rather than an agencymonkey, but his broad thread, that lots of GenX people are about to be kicked in the face by the realisation that the world has changed in ways that upend all of the assumptions they had made about their life’s final tercile, strikes me as very accurate indeed. WON’T SOMEONE THINK OF ALL THE POOR AGENCY DADS???
  • I Hate Berlin: Another of Deez Links’ ‘I Hate X’ pieces this week, this time on Berlin – I lost the author in the final two paragraphs where they went on some weird American tangent about ‘people take too many holidays’ – mate, honestly, THAT is very much a ‘you’ problem – but the rest of it is joyous and my ex-Berlin friend Scott described it as ‘incredibly fcuking accurate’, so there you go.
  • Women’s Words: I LOVE THIS! Mary Wellesley reviews a book about ‘Women’s Words’ by Jenni Nuttall – words that have been used to describe women, their bodies and their minds and their selves, in English over the centuries, and it is a glorious tour of lexicographical curiosities from the anatomical to the societal, and is full of paragraphs like this which sort of thing I find endlessly-fascinating: “In this period, Nuttall writes, ‘certain parts of society dug in to resist change.’ Language was often tidied up by lexicographers and literary texts cleansed. When an anonymous Georgian author published a modernised version of Chaucer’s ‘Miller’s Tale’, the words ‘hole’ and ‘ers’ were replaced with ‘buttock’ and ‘bum’, and Alison’s verdant pubic hair, described by Chaucer as ‘rough and long y-erd’ (‘long haired’) was described as ‘rougher than the down on ladies’ cheeks’. At the same time that this version appeared, it became usual to assign the male pronoun to nouns of indeterminate gender. We still haven’t shaken this off.”
  • The Big Food Fair: For Vittles, Jonathan Nunn visits The International Food and Drink Event at London’s Excel Centre, where the BIG BUYERS congregate to decide what’s going to be on people’s plates in a few years’ time and which is where you go if you want to scope out what exciting developments are coming down the line in the plant-based pepperoni market – this is wonderful, as you’d expect, capturing the peculiar nature of The Big Conference Experience (seeing as we’re all agreed that Big Magazine can probably retire the cruise ship feature now, can we also agree that they should move on to Big Conference Experience features? I would honestly read a 3,000 worder about the very peculiar weirdness of attending, say, the Annual Bitumen Suppliers Conference in Wolverhampton) and the otherworldly horror of ultraprocessed foods.
  • The Creative Process: Often when you see writing about THE CREATIVE PROCESS it’s annoyingly wooly or nonspecific or nebulous – not here, though, with three different artists (visual artists Cheryl Pope and Kara Walker and the poet Louise Glück) talking through the practicalities of How They Make Work. I like this because it’s procedural and unglamorous, and it shows the work that goes into The Work, if you see what I mean.
  • Super Cute Please Like: One of the best essays about online shopping – specifically buying on/from SHEIN – I have ever read. Nicole Lipman writes about EVERYTHING – the experience of browsing, of buying, of the brand and the site and the marketing and the TikToks and the hauls and the totality of ‘what we talk about when we talk about online shopping’ and it is brilliant and personal and weird and slightly-odd and a bit uncomfortable – honestly, this really is excellent.
  • The Big Buffet: READ THIS. If you like food, read this. If you like silly pieces about slightly-ridiculous places, read this. If you just enjoy a beautifully-written article that you can luxuriate with for 20 minutes, ideally with an accompanying pastry, READ THIS – it is superb, although I warn you that you will be FCUKING RAVENOUS by the time you’re done reading it – The New Yorker sends Lauren Collins to experience what is apparently the largest restaurant buffet in the world, and I guarantee you that by the end you will be looking up cheap accommodation (and possibly some sort of local stomach-pumping facility) in Narbonne.
  • Dark Matter: If you’re a certain vintage of online, PostSecret occupies a very special place in your heart – I presume you’re all aware of it, but if not then it’s the ORIGINAL (pre-Fesshole!) internet confessional, except it ran on postcards. People from all around the world have for years sent its founder Frank Warren cards detailing their secrets, and Frank posts some of them online – the cards are often works of art in themselves, and if you’ve ever spent any time trawling the archive you’ll know that they are devastating and funny and occasionally frightening and VERY HUMAN…this article profiles Frank, and the website, and is just beautiful.
  • It’s Not What The World Needs Now: Our last longread of the week is this VERY LONG piece by Andrew Norman Wilson, a video artist who you may or may not have heard of, who writes about a six year period of his life and his art and precariety and THE ART WORLD, and I think I enjoyed this more than almost anything else I have read so far this year; there’s something…pleasingly-affectless about it that reminded be of Easton Ellis in a good way, like a more self-aware Glamorama without the international terrorism, and it reminded me so powerfully of certain people I have met and Places I Have Been that it was almost uncanny. If you have any interest in/affinity with the contemporary art world and how very silly it is then you will very much enjoy this.

By Leela Corman