Webcurios 14/07/23

Reading Time: 38 minutes

Hi! I’m back! Has…has anything been happening? Did I miss anything?

LOL JK! Sadly I missed NOTHING – one of the side effects of being an occasional pseudo-journalist (not this, to be clear – I promise you I am under no illusions as to what THIS is, and it’s certainly not journalism) is that holidays don’t really exist – and they certainly don’t when your beat happens to be ‘social media’ and when That Fcuking Man and Adam Mosseri combine to drop two of the biggest stories of the year in a week when ordinarily I should have been catatonic with drink and sun and souvlaki. So it is that my planned ‘take two weeks largely offline’ ended up instead being ‘spend a week fighting Twitter’s rate limit (and my own very strong desire to fcuk it all into the sun and just ignore the whole horrible mess) to try and keep up with the news’ – still, I FILED COPY AND THAT’S ALL THAT MATTERS.

Anyway, I am back now and have once again plugged myself into The Feeds in order to bring you – yes, YOU! – some INTERESTING AND ECLECTIC CONTENT.

YOU DON’T GET THIS ON THREADS. Which, presumably, is why it has 10m+ users and Web Curios…doesn’t. Perhaps I should take notes.

I am still Matt, this is still Web Curios, and next time if you ask nicely I’ll send you a postcard.


While I was away, the shortlist for the Tiny Awards was announced – you have until Monday to vote, if you haven’t already, so please take a moment to visit the website, check out the nominations (a genuinely lovely selection of projects, chosen by our esteemed selection committee, and which I think present a beautiful cross-section of what the web can be when it’s small and non-commercial and personal and playful and FUN). Vote! Share the URL! Tell your friends!

The winner will be announced by Matt Klein over at ZINE next week – after which we’ll put a link to all the entries up on the website, so you can enjoy the 300+ sites that were submitted. Thanks again to everyone who’s shown an interest and who’s participated in any way – it has been so, so heartening seeing people’s enthusiasm, and it’s hugely appreciated.


By Henrietta Harris



  • Donovan: We start with something that, fine, is perhaps not the cheery, uplifting sort of content you might perhaps have expected from Curios (I know! They sold you a pup!), but which very much struck me in the context of a recent hearing in the House of Lords here in the UK in which, and I quote, “legal experts and software engineers told Lords that current AI systems are not able to assess whether a given military action is appropriate or proportionate, and will likely never be able to.” So, now you’ve digested that, click the main link and glory in the terrifying ‘this is happening RIGHT NOW’ joy of ‘Donovan’ (not, sadly, anything to do with the 70s folk singer), a product developed by AI company Scale which promises ‘AI-powered decision-making for defense.’ Yes, that’s right, the thing that all the experts just told the Upper House in the UK definitely shouldn’t happen and which would, in all likelihood, is A Bad Idea, is currently in Beta – you can, it appears, apply to trial Donovan if you have an active US Military or Governmental email address, and play around with its decisionmaking capabilities by feeding it such sample datasets as ‘Chinese technical documents, including technical research reports written in Mandarin’, or ‘Technical think tank reports on emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence, quantum computing, and microelectronics coming out of China’ (Donovan (or the people flogging it, or perhaps more accurately the people buying it), it turns out, has a real bee in its bonnet about China). Obviously I’ve not been able to do anything other than gawp at the sales page here and mutter under my breath ‘this seems like a bad idea to me’ like Jeff Goldblum in the early stages of Jurassic Park, but in the unlikely event that any Curios readers are employees of the US Government then I’d welcome a product review. WELCOME BACK EVERYONE ISN’T THE WEB AMAZING?!?!
  • Prophetic AI: Sticking to the broad field of ‘weird and unsettling AI businesses that I don’t approve of or necessarily entirely understand’, say hello to Prophetic AI, a company which, insofar as I am able to make sense of the copy on their website, is looking to use artificial intelligence to unlock the power of lucid dreaming so that we might all accelerate our path towards the Age of Aquarius (or, er, something like that). This is, I *think*, a bit of kit that you wear while you sleep and which transmits your brainwaves to an app and which, if I have understood the frankly incomprehensible new age speak and pseudoscience that peppers the site, then uses AI to analyse users’ neurological patterns to better be able to induce a state of lucid dreaming in users. Basically, to put it in terms that I can just about understand, you buy a headset and wear it while you sleep and over time you will magically gain the ability to enjoy lucid dreams which you can control and which will grant you access to an entirely new level of spiritual wellbeing. Probably. Or alternatively you’ll have spent a few hundred quid on a bit of 3d printing that will do the square root of fcuk-all. OR you will have signed yourself up to a weird experiment which will fiddle with your brain activity while you sleep. Any of those options sound appealing? GREAT! These things aren’t currently for sale, and were I a betting man I probably wouldn’t put the house on them ever becoming reality, but then again I’m probably only this negative because I’m yet to master my Chi.
  • The Free Movie: Yes, I know, it’s MSCHF again, and they really don’t need the additional publicity, and I still think there’s something about them that I don’t wholly like (this is possibly sour grapes based on the fact that they are all brilliantly creative and all their projects are pretty much great and they seem to have a lot of fun, fine, but I do get a very large whiff of ‘someone’s parents’ money’ about the whole thing), but this is not only a great idea but also a rather lovely example of the mad power of the web. The Free Movie was (in the 5 days between me finding this and me writing it up at 717am on Friday 14 July) a project which asked anyone on the web to draw a single frame of The Bee Movie in a very simple art tool (MS Paint style), each of which would then be compiled to create a totally fan-made version which will be available to watch on the website (or at least until the copyright lawyers get their teeth into this) – the film’s apparently rendering now, but you can watch a shonky frame-by-frame playback on the site by clicking the ‘play’ button in the bottom left. I absolutely love this, it is PURE INTERNET (but, er, also something which with a few tweaks you could use as ‘inspiration’ for some sort of fun advermarketingpr stuff (sorry, sorry, sorry)).
  • The Jolly Roger Telephone: This is EXCELLENT, and also feels like it might be worth replicating locally for the right sort of campaigning or consumer rights organisation. The Jolly Roger Telephone is a service designed to help you fight back against scam callers (or, frankly, anyone who phones you unbidden to attempt to sell you anything) – basically it consists of a series of bots which are designed to keep the scammers on the phone for as long as possible while you go off and live your best life, unbothered by amateurish attempts to hack into your bank accounts. If you receive a call that seems dodgy, you can (once signed up to the platform) merge the call with one of the Jolly Roger online agents which will take over the conversation and try and keep the scammer engaged for as long as possible in the now-classic 419eater style. SUCH a good idea – if you want to sign up long-term there is a fee (£2 a month), but, honestly, it feels like a public service that’s worth paying for. It works in the UK, US, Australia and New Zealand, so ENJOY.
  • Cold Call: Following on SEAMLESSLY from the last telephonically-related link (never let it be said that there’s not some impressive curatorial work happening here lol), this is less of a web thing and more of a brilliant art project – sadly you can’t experience it online, but you can read about it and marvel at the smart ingenuity of the whole thing. I could try and explain it in my own words, but, honestly, I’d probably just fcuk it up, so have their explanation instead: ““Cold Call: Time Theft as Avoided Emissions” is an unconventional carbon offsetting scheme that draws on strategies of worker sabotage and applies them in the context of high emission companies in the fossil fuel industry. Time theft is a strategy to deliberately slow productivity, where workers waste time and are therefore paid for periods of idleness. For example, fake sick days, sleeping on the job, extended lunch breaks, or engaging in non-work related activities like social media or unrelated phone calls. Cold Call is an installation that takes the form of a call center. Audiences are invited to connect by telephone to executives in the fossil fuel industry and instructed to keep them on the phone as long as possible. The cumulative time stolen from these executives is then quantified as carbon credits using an innovative new offsetting methodology.” As someone who has on occasion very much leant in to the whole “being actively bad at my job is an act of protest” thing (have I mentioned I am always available for hire?), I can very much get behind this as a concept. Also, there MUST be away that an activist organisation can create an online version of this to snare up the various telephone exchanges and email centres of a bunch of nefarious companies, no?
  • The NBA Pixel Arena: This is an interesting idea – whilst it’s basketball-based, there’s no reason a similar idea couldn’t work for football, say, or any other sport with HIGH OCTANE ACTION MOMENTS (possibly not crown green bowls). Pixel Arena is an app that lets fans of the NBA take the best baskets of the week and effectively ‘remix’ them in CG, adding their own customised avatar, and special effects, and sounds, and EXCITING COOL GRAPHICAL FLOURISHES, and then share them with their friends or the wider community – there are quizzes and points and bits and pieces of gamification throughout, but the central thing (show us how cool you can make the dunks look, basically) feels…fun, and, even better, there doesn’t appear to be any mention of NFTs or Web3 or ON-CHAIN MONETISATION SOLUTIONS, which is a refreshing change for this sort of thing.
  • Blob: Older readers will remember the halcyon era of ‘executive toys’, that period in the 80s and maybe 90s when there was a genuine market for small, lightly-physics-based desk accessories with which RICH AND POWERFUL BUSINESSMONGS could distract themselves from the important business of greasing the wheels of capitalism (and doing cocaine) by, I don’t know, watching some balls of coloured fluid suspended in slightly-less-dense clear liquid rolling down a slope. Aside from Newton’s Cradle which you occasionally still see in the wild, these have largely vanished – but Blob, a brilliant little webtoy by a Japanese coder, is basically one of those sorts of things in digital form. Drop the blobs! Pick them up! Make them bounce! Hurl them around the screen! Revel in their fleshy weight! Honestly, this is so much fun and surprisingly-soothing; you can use the controls in the bottom left to edit the environment in which the blobs exist to create your very own hypnotic blob vivarium, and I promise you that there is no way that you won’t feel marginally less enervated after spending 10 minutes with this.
  • Claude: Yes, I know, LLMs are OLD NEWS – you all know about GPT and you’re all constantly outsourcing your bullsh1t jobs to The Machine and producing even more bullsh1t outputs to further pollute the informational water table…WELL DONE EVERYONE WELL DONE! Still, it’s worth being aware of the latest addition to the textual AI pantheon – in this instance it’s Anthropic’s bot Claude which has received a glow-up and can now do some genuinely useful things like analyse PDFs and look up information from links. None of this is stuff that other LLMs can’t do, of course, but Claude is free and if you’re not currently in a position to pony up $20 to OpenAI for GPT4 then you could do worse than give this a go for your document analysis needs. BONUS LLM UPDATE: Google have given Bard a tweak, which you can read about here (tldr; it’s available in more countries, it can ‘speak’ its results, you can feed it pictures and ask it to do stuff based on what it thinks it ‘sees’, etc etc).
  • LEGO Set Instructions: The Internet Archive has helpfully compiled all the available LEGO instruction manuals that apparently exist anywhere in the world into one single repository, should you be looking for a long-term building project with which to keep your feral progeny occupied over the coming Summer holidays.
  • GPS Log: Many years ago my friend Jim and I had an idea for a (really, really terrible) artwork which would have involved us fitting a bunch of disposable lighters with individual GPS trackers and leaving them all in a central London pub one evening, and then seeing where they ended up and where they traveled over the course of the life of the trackers’ batteries – the resulting trails would have been mapped over the city to give a loose impression of the shape of the life of both the people who picked them up and how small objects pass from hand-to-hand and person-to-person (I told you it was a terrible idea, don’t look at me like that). Anyway, this has nothing to do with that idea but, equally, reminded me slightly of it – this was a GPS tracker strapped to a log. “The idea of strapping a GPS to a piece of wood is not a new one. Researchers, like the ones at HJ Andrews, have been doing similar projects for years. Inspired by the idea of documenting the log’s journey, and imagining the voyage large wood takes from the mountains to the sea, Will Bonner and I had the idea of tracking wood while it travels down the McKenzie River. GPS Log tracks live data of its movements. GPS log was engineered like a boat to consistently float in the same orientation with its antenna pointing towards the sky. As the log pings every two minutes, the data is displayed live on GPSLogDrive.com for folks to watch as it makes its way downriver.” Sadly the log’s journey was a relatively short one and the project is now finished (you can, however, trace its fascinating journey on the site) – thankfully, though, plans are already afoot for GPSLog2.0 which am personally sweaty-palmed with excitement for. Can people do more of this sort of thing, please? Thanks!
  • Architecture For Dogs: MONKEY TENNIS! Not, sadly, a pitch for a new Channel4 property pr0n programme (“Kevin McCloud meets a pair of cockapoos with some grand plans for their kennel!”), but instead “an extremely sincere collection of architecture and a new medium, which make dogs and their people happy. By looking at the diagrams or pictures or watching the videos, people all over the world can make these themselves. Dogs are people’s partners, living right beside them, but they are also animals that humans, through crossbreeding, have created in multitudes of breeds. Reexamining these close partners with fresh eyes may be a chance to reexamine both human beings themselves and the natural environment.” There are 13 different designers and architects who have contributed ideas, and each of their designs is available to download as a set of instructions to let you create the design yourself (presuming you have a…reasonable degree of skill). I LOVE THESE (and I’m really not a dog person at all) – it really is worth checking out the designs here as some of them are really fun (although from the little I know of dogs I can’t imagine many of them enjoying the ‘chihuahua cloud’).
  • The World’s Writing Systems: How’s your cuneiform? This is SO interesting: “This web site presents one reference glyph and basic information for each of the world’s writing systems. It is the first step of the Missing Scripts Project, a long-term initiative that aims to identify writing systems which are not yet encoded in the Unicode standard. As of today, there are still 131 scripts not yet encoded in Unicode. So they can’t be used on the computer — yet.” Honestly, I was slightly mesmerised by this – all of these scripts whose names I half-know (Linear B, for example) but had no actual idea what they looked like, compiled here into a history of human written communication. This is both an incredible resource and just a fascinating journey through the various alphabets that peoples have come up with over thousands of years of civilisation – and, if you’re that sort of person, a really, really good database of unusual tattoo styles (“Oh, yeah, that’s just my mum’s name in Glagolitic script, no big deal”).
  • ZZZuckerberg:This is a great idea by the TLDR Institute (which “is an independent research lab that aims to promote the awareness of important facts through the unusual, strange, and downright bizarre”) – to raise awareness of the insanity of the length and complexity of tech platforms’ terms and conditions, they’ve created this site which offers an ASMR-ish reading of the Instagram Ts&Cs which you can use to help you get to sleep (if you scroll right to the bottom there’s a link to another riff on this using the TikTok terms instead). Neat, clever, and (based on the bit I listened to this morning before I realised that if I left it playing for too long that I would just fall asleep at my desk and Curios would never get written) very soporific indeed.
  • Burned Punks: I admit to having joined in with a *bit* of the recent schadenfreude at the recent news that the bottom has fallen out of the Bored Ape market and that a lot of people who invested heavily in fash-adjacent clipart over the past few years are now finding that they’re lumbered with some very devalued jpegs – at the same time, though, I do think there’s something interesting still lurking at the heart of the web3 movement, even if just its status as a place in time for the online community. This is a project by Sean Bonner, very much a pro-web3 advocate, which looks at the CryptoPunks collection and tracks which of the original run of NFTs has been ‘burned’ by its owner, to create a record of the works and their ownership and their history. “Burning, a process of sending digital artwork to an inaccessible wallet address, presents an intriguing paradox. The work becomes both present and absent; observable by all, yet owned by none. Destroying a physical artwork is destructive and sometimes an act of violence, but burning an NFT is different as the work isn’t destroyed so much as made immortal…when burned Cryptopunks are not compromised in the visual sense. Rather, they transition into a form of digital ‘commons,’ disrupting conventional perceptions of ownership and value. Should financial potential alone dictate value, thereby rendering a non-sellable entity worthless? Contrarily, I would argue that such a shift positions cultural value squarely in the spotlight. When an NFT, symbolizing some collection of exclusive ‘property rights’ to a digital artifact, is burned, it propels us into a complex discourse on ownership, copyright, reproduction rights, and the overarching legal structure of digital assets.” Obviously this is *a bit* w4nky – equally, though, I still find questions like this interesting in the broader context of ‘art’ and ‘ownership’ and the status of objects as signifiers and all that fun conceptual stuff (oh, ok, fine, it’s SUPER-w4nky, but I don’t care).
  • Dirty Dining: Currently only available in New York, but apparently COMING TO LONDON, Dirty Dining is an app which promises to let you search restaurants in New York by hygiene rating, helping you avoid the more rat-and-roach-infested eateries across the five boroughs in favour of ones which know what bleach is. On the one hand, GREAT! On the other, I am not looking forward to finding out the Dark Truths behind some of my favourite eateries when this launches over here in a few months time.
  • The Artisans Cooperative: This is an interesting project – launched last year, the Artisan’s Cooperative is a collective for, er, artisans, a member-owned cooperative which seeks to create a better environment for individual makers to market and sell their wares – there’s a new sales platform that they have created which is set to launch later this year, as an alternative to Etsy which, the implication is, has become too big and full of too many larger players, and has moved away from the strictly-artisanal and handmade ethos it had at launch; by contrast. The Artisans Cooperative will be a strictly-handmade-only marketplace (good luck policing that, but I admire the ethos), with a clear and transparent and maker-friendly fees policy and, in general, if you are a small maker of STUFF then you might want to keep an eye on this as it might be worth engaging with.
  • The Audubon Photo Awards 2023: SO MANY LOVELY BIRD PICS! These dropped while I was away, but in case you missed them they are GORGEOUS – the winning photo even makes pigeons look cute ffs!
  • The Diorama Restaurant: You may have seen clips doing the rounds on Twitter of a POV video in which a train trundles round a track whilst being menaced by cats – cats which, because of the perspective, look ENORMOUS. This is the TikTok account that those clips are ripped from – it’s from a cafe in Japan (obvs) which doubles as a cat sanctuary, and where you can go and watch the trains go by whilst sipping coffee and stroking the felines and, honestly, HOW AMAZING DOES THIS PLACE LOOK?! Anyway, this is a whole channel which features nothing but giant cats menacing tiny trains, and it’s basically like the best ride that Alton Towers has yet to invent (but, look, if anyone from a theme park happens to be reading this, you can still make this happen so hop to it).
  • Thermonator: What does the name ‘Thermonator’ conjure up? Is it something…cuddly? Cute? Benign? It’s not, is it? Repeat the name to yourself under your breath – does it not conjure images of a future in which you and your loved ones are huddled under the rubble of a bombed-out city, hiding from the killer robots doing the final sweep for survivors? YES, YES IT DOES. Which is convenient, seeing as basically that’s exactly what the Thermonator is – specifically a Boston Dynamics knockoff with a flamethrower stuck on its back, to create what the website cheerfully terms ‘the first-ever flamethrowing quadruped robot dog…equipped with the ARC Flamethrower to create your ultimate firepower companion’. Does this feel like a good thing? It doesn’t, to me, feel like a good thing. Still, it’s apparently shipping in Q3 this year, so you can get one in time for Christmas with a bit of luck, so that’s nice.

By Tajette O’Halloran



  • XAi: I am loathe to give That Fcuking Man any more of the publicity he so desperately craves, but on the other hand this initiative does claim to have as its ultimate aim ‘to understand the true nature of the universe’, so it feels like we should probably pay at least a bit of attention. What is XAi? Noone really knows yet, or at least not until the press conference happening on Spaces later on today – still, what we can say for certain is that there are no women involved (‘ONLY MEN CAN POSSIBLY UNDERSTAND THE TRUE NATURE OF THE UNIVERSE’ is 100% something I can imagine That Fcuking Man thinking on some fairly ingrained level), and that, based on his previous burblings about the dangers of ‘woke’ AI and his recent charming decisions to amplify the beliefs and viewpoints of such charmers as Carlson, Tate et al, there’s a pretty strong likelihood that what we’re going to end up with is a chatbot that seeks to ‘understand the universe’ by ‘just asking questions!’ about, say, the right of trans people to exist, or why George Soros might in fact be the devil. WHAT A TIME TO BE ALIVE, etc etc.
  • Love The Work More: Now that Cannes is once again done and dusted for the year, it’s time to look back over the runners and riders and winners and losers to see which of the work can be mined for ‘inspiration’ (lol) – except to access the full list of winners and the work, you need paid access to the Lions site. Or at least you used to need that – thanks to this site, anyone can now get the list of winners and details of what the fcuk they did for free! Which is obviously genuinely useful if this is the sort of thing you have to do for a living (I am so, so sorry), although I personally have a fairly strong belief that if all you’re looking at for inspiration for your advermarketingprbollocks is other advermarketingprbollocks then your work will be intensely mediocre at best. Still, if you’ve ever wanted the ability to go back and see all the people who won a bronze lion in 2002, or to see whether or not you can lift a 20 year old bit of creative wholesale two decades later (you can, trust me) then this will be PERFECT. A quick aside – was there anyone who *didn’t* win a Bronze Lion this year? It certainly doesn’t fcuking look like it (I mean, obviously *I* didn’t, but hey ho).
  • The Labyrinth Locator: I have mentioned here before that I have something of a ‘thing’ for mazes and labyrinths (and also that one of my favourite ever novels is about a man who designs them for a living – it’s called ‘Larry’s Party’ and it’s by Carol Shields and I recommend it unreservedly), and this website gave me a genuine frisson of joy when I stumbled across it this week – you can search by city, by country, by geographical radius…basically you have no excuse whatsoever for not using this every time you go on holiday to find the nearest maze to your destination and going and enjoying it (NB – obviously you don’t have to listen to my mild hectoring on this subject, but I promise you that MAZES ARE ACE).
  • HyperMegaTech: I try not to feature too many sites that are just tryingto flog you a thing, but I’ll make an exception for this because it looks very cool indeed and I think quite a few of you might be into it. HyperMegaTech is a company that makes handheld consoles, and their latest versions, launching in a few months, look GREAT – they’re designed to look a bit like an original Gameboy but with a colour display and better graphics, and the consoles cost the frankly insane amount of £49, and come pre-loaded with a bunch of classic, licensed games (you can get a Capcom version which comes with SFII, Mega Man and a load of other games from their catalogue, or a Taito version which does the same but for, er, Taito) and which you can buy additional cartridges for to further bolster your collection…look, obviously this might be a massive con and I offer the usual ‘caveat emptor’, but it looks GREAT.
  • Cosmos: I’m not 100% certain that anyone particularly *needs* a site/app which can best be described as ‘Pinterest, but with a minimal aesthetic and a generally ‘cool’ vibe, designed for designers and visual creatives to moodboard with’, but, well, here it is anyway! This isn’t publicly available yet, but you can sign up to the waitlist should you be so minded.
  • Molecule of the Month: A PERFECT CURIO! Well, near-perfect – a perfect Curio would probably feature fewer people from Eton, but still. Molecule of the Month is a site which has been apparently going for YEARS – it self-describes as “one of the longest running chemistry webpages on the internet. Each month since January 1996 a new molecule has been added to the list on this page. The links will take you to a page at one of the Web sites at a University Chemistry Department or commercial site in the UK, the US, or anywhere in the world, where useful (and hopefully entertaining!), information can be found about a particularly interesting molecule.” I am honestly FASCINATED by this – the longevity! The fact that it appears to be an almost-entirely UK-based endeavour! The inexplicable popularity of the site amongst current Eton students, who seem to be contributing a disproportionate number of the molecules and links here! Anyway, this month’s featured molecule is White Phosphorous (nasty) nominated by one Roderick Edmonds of, yes, Eton (special shoutout to his collegemate from a few months ago, by the way, the fabulously-named Henry Goss-Custard), but take a moment to scroll back through time all the way to 1996 and marvel at the fact that this has just kept on going and going and going. Why? I HAVE NO FCUKING CLUE, but it pleases me a great deal.
  • RedditSpeak: Plug in any subReddit you care to name and listen as this site reads out the posts to you one by one. So, for example, you can keep this open in a tab and have it read you every single ‘AITA’ post while you work – or (and I am ashamed to say that this is exactly what I ended up doing with it) you can just plug in your favourite bongo sub and enjoy the explicit descriptions being read out in a joyless robotic monotone, which I personally found very, very funny indeed (NOT IN A SEXY WAY).
  • CloneDub: This is interesting – can’t vouch for how well it works, but the concept is a fascinating one. CloneDub lets you take any audio recording in English and turn it into an audio recording in a number of other languages, but keeping the vocal style and intonation of the original. So, for example, YouTubers might use this to quickly create a translated audiotrack for their content which keeps the style and inflections of their native speech, or you could Cyrano your CEO into being fluent in Hindi. This feels like it could be used for some fun things if you’re marginally more imaginative than I am.
  • The Realtime Air Pollution Map: You may not want to spend too much time looking at this – after all, there’s enough other stuff to worry about, amirite? – but should you fancy staring through yet another porthole into the terrifying apocalyptic future that increasingly seems to await us as we continue to blow past environmental targets with the sort of breezy abandon that increasingly smacks of a collective deathwish then you might enjoy this site, which offers you a near-realtime overview of air quality around the world. On the plus side, London’s looking pretty good this morning! On the minus side, you REALLY don’t want to be on Sanli Street in Hefei right now (or indeed pretty much anywhere in South East Asia tbh).
  • Visible Earth: WOW. I am slightly amazed that I hadn’t linked this before, but WHAT a resource this is – consider it a small antidote to the last envirohorror link. Visible Earth is “a catalog of NASA images and animations of our home planet”, and it is wonderful – it turns out if you zoom out far enough, everything looks sort-of ok!
  • The Drone Photo Awards 2023: I have included this for a few years now, and I find that I am getting an increasing sense of ennui around drone work in general – so much of this stuff is so compositionally-similar that it very much blends into one uniform style, and nowhere is that more evident in the ‘Weddings’ category which does rather feel like one big cliche made JPEG (also lol at the fact that one of the wedding images in the ‘commended’ category is titled ‘Heaven’s Gate’ – er, guys, you…you do know the connotation there, don’t you?). Still, there are still some interesting shots in here if you dig around the categories – in particular the ‘Abstract’ shots are rather beautiful, although, if you dig in, often for rather miserable reasons.
  • Bavet: This is the website for a chain of pasta restaurants in Belgium, and not the sort of thing I would normally bother featuring were it not for the fact that the branding is so insanely EXTRA and I genuinely love the fact that they lean into it so hard, from the copy to the site itself. I am very, very far away from being the target market for this sort of place (about two decades away, to be exact), but it’s refreshing to see a brand that feels fun in a way that isn’t moodboarded and focus grouped to fcuk (I am going to feel very, very silly if one of you emails me from Belgium to explain that, in fact, that is exactly what this in fact is).
  • TwitterGPT: Thanks Alex for sending this my way – plug in any user’s Twitter handle and this site will give you a GPT-juiced description of WHO THEY REALLY ARE. This is more funny than anything else – although it absolutely nails me inside a paragraph, which is a bit dispiriting: “this individual is likely involved in the field of web curation or content aggregation. They frequently mention and promote a newsletter called “Web Curios,” which suggests a professional interest in curating and sharing interesting online content. Additionally, they express a need for a holiday, indicating a potential career in a demanding industry.” WELL QUITE.
  • Goblin Bet: You will, of course, be familiar with SaltyBet, the now-legendary site that spawned the AutoBattler game genre and which has been going for years and which lets visitors bet fictional currency on the outcome of an infinite series of character battles between superheroes and game protagonists – well this is that, but with a vague fantasy bent. So if you’ve ever wanted to put 50 imaginary quid on the outcome of a CPU vs CPU fight between (as is happening at the time of writing) a vampire and an adult brass dragon (and, let’s be honest, which of us hasn’t? NO FCUKER, etc) then this will be pleasing in the extreme. I’ll be honest, I expected to bounce off this immediately but then found myself 15 minutes later becoming surprisingly invested in whether or not I’d make back by losses by putting a longshot 100 on a kobold, so be warned (also, I think that might be the geekiest thing I have written here in some time and I really hope my girlfriend doesn’t bother reading this week’s issue).
  • The Zone: This is really interesting – the Zone is a lightweight TTRPG (tabletop roleplaying game) which you can play either in-person or through the website, and which is based on the premise that most of the players will die and as such frees you to engage with the scenarios and material in a freer way than you might otherwise – you’re not playing to win, after all, so go wild with your imaginations. The web interface is particularly impressive, to my mind, and allows for some pretty sophisticated online play, and the scenarios are plentiful, and if you’re the sort of person who likes to roleplay (NOT LIKE THAT) but who doesn’t always have time for a full campaign session, this could be a pleasing addition to your personal panoply of games.
  • Yeti Upsetti: If you’re Of An Age, you will have fond memories of Ski Free, a game that came bundled with old versions of Windows in which you played a tiny skier who competed on a downhill course and who would, if you played for too long, inevitably get devoured by a yeti whose clutches it was impossible to escape (you can play that here, should you so wish – and you do, I promise you). This version lets you play as the yeti – try and devour as many skiers as possible before you die of hunger. This is VERY SATISFYING, not least the animation as the yeti chomps down on yet another Salomon-clad home counties dweller.
  • Windows Defender: Our final miscellaneous link of the week is this BRILLIANTLY-designed game in the style of Vampire Survivors – I’m not going to try and explain it as I’d only make a pig’s ear of the attempt, but it’s simple and fun and so, so nicely put together, to the point that I’d almost describe it as ‘elegant’. This is 10 minutes of genuine, no-brain fun and it will CLEANSE YOUR SOUL, I promise.

By Mia Risberg



  • Little Guy Mart: A tumblr which seemingly exists solely to catalogue images of small plush toys for sale on eBay. Why? WHY THE FCUK NOT? Truly, humanity is a magnificent and multifaceted and multivariate quilt.


  • Ipikan: Thanks to Andrea for sending this my way – Ipikan is a French craftsperson who makes embroidery, often of anatomical things. So if you’ve ever wanted a beautifully-made bit of cross stitch of an anatomically correct human heart – and which of us hasn’t? – then this will very much scratch an itch for you.
  • Atelier Simon Weisse: As far as I can tell, this is the Insta feed of a special effects studio which has most recently been engaged by Wes Anderson to make miniatures and dioramas for his latest self-indulgent pastel opus (sorry, but) – if you’d like to see a bunch of REALLY impressive model trains and canyons and markets and all sorts of other things (and you do, these are amazing and scratch that very particular miniaturists’ itch) then you will very much enjoy this.
  • Who Shot Duncan?: As previously mentioned, my pop culture knowledge is patchy at best, but I am pretty sure that Duncan Killick isn’t in fact a celebrity (yet) – but that doesn’t stop him running his Insta account as though he is. Duncan photoshopped into headlines, Duncan being papped, Duncan launching a celebrity fragrance…it’s all here. I imagine that this is significantly funnier if you know Duncan in person, but it’s still gently amusing even for strangers (or maybe just me), and his commitment to the bit is genuinely laudable.


  • Move Slower: I’ve posted a bunch of links over the past year or so in the longreads dealing with the topic of growth as a metric of social progress, and the question of whether maybe, just *maybe* we might benefit from possibly not using it as the ultimate yardstick of how well we’re doing – this is an excellent and (to my mind, at least) balanced piece by Bill McKinnon in the New Yorker, which looks at the extent to which green solutions are practically possible within the context of our current economic models, and whether or not it makes any sense to ‘go green’ when all you’re aiming for is ‘low-carbon capitalism’ (to my mind the answer here is still ‘yes, it does, but not as much as it would to perhaps aim for low-carbon socialism’, but your mileage here may vary). More than anything, though, it’s a decent reminder of the incredible (I mean this almost literally – it is hard to believe) complexity of the systems that we have constructed and their nested impact on the physical world around us, and the almost intractable difficulty of untangling or remaking them, a classic ‘rebuilding the plane in mid-air’ scenario which we’re (again, to my mind) not quite facing head-on at present.
  • How To Blow Up A Timeline: I think it’s fair to say that anyone with a treble-figure-IQ and a reasonable understanding of How Social Platforms Function (and whose head wasn’t already wedged far into the Muskian colon for fanboy/techbro/alt-right reasons) had predicted that That Fcuking Man was going to make a total pig’s ear of Twitter, but I’ll admit that I didn’t think it would happen quite this quickly. AND YET! I’m personally not quite as bearish on Twitter as some currently are – I wonder whether it might still be possible for it to stage a third-act comeback as it shrinks to a size more reminiscent of its first few years, although that obviously depends on the infrastructure still basically holding up, which is far from certain – but it’s clear that the site is…struggling, not just from a technical but also governance standpoint, and that it feels like the End Of An Era of sorts. This piece, by Eugene Wei, is an excellent look back at the history of the site and the features and quirks that made it culturally relevant for a good 10 years – as an analysis of the ‘how and why’ of a social network (in the purest, nonspecificallytechy sense) this is superb, and this passage in particular neatly captures some of the reasons why what That Fcuking Man has done is so sad and destructive and, on a human level, shameful (I know that sounds hyperbolic but I genuinely mean that): “Twitter won’t ever fully vanish unless management pulls the plug. None of the contenders to replace Twitter has come close to replicating its vibe of professional and amateur intellectuals and jesters engaged in verbal jousting in a public global tavern, even as most have lifted its interface almost verbatim. Social networks aren’t just the interface, or the algorithm, they’re also about the people in them. When I wrote “The Network’s the Thing” I meant it; the graph is inextricable from the identity of a social media service. Change the inputs of such a system and you change the system itself. Thus Twitter will drift along, some portion of its remaining users hanging out of misguided hope, others bending the knee to the whims of the new algorithm. But peak Twitter? That’s an artifact of history now. That golden era of Twitter will always be this collective hallucination we look back on with increasing nostalgia, like alumni of some cult. With the benefit of time, we’ll appreciate how unique it was while forgetting its most toxic dynamics. Twitter was the closest we’ve come to bottling oral culture in written form.” BONUS TWITTER: Ben Thompson covers many of the same points as Wei in his (shorter) article, but focuses a bit more on social network theory and the role of the algorithm, and the new social landscape in a post-Threads world – a good companion piece if you can stomach reading more about social platforms, which I appreciate, frankly, you may not want to do.
  • Millennial Brain Rot: Threads, I think, is where I nope out of new social platforms for good. Time was that I would have been professionally obligated to create a profile and test the functionality and build a network…now, though? I tried it on launch day (that was a fun way to spend a morning of my holiday – THANKS MARK AND ADAM YOU FCUKING FCUKS) and determined very quickly that all the same reasons I hate Instagram applied, at least early on, to Threads as well. This piece by Kate Lindsay neatly captures exactly why so many people seem to have felt horrified by the Threads experience – partly because INSTA PEOPLE CANNOT WRITE (I am only half-joking here), but also because, as Lindsay puts it, “When I first opened the app, I expected to see an early-Twitter copycat. Instead, I was met with a feed of users parroting robotic and emoji-laden prompts, the same four jokes about being “unhinged,” and, of course, a car giveaway from Mr. Beast. Given the opportunity to build the social media culture we say we’ve been missing, we immediately resorted to posting the worst clichés from today’s internet. Is this post from a person, or a brand? Because they’re both employing the same hokey syntax to post empty engagement-bait. This behavior says something about how we view social media now. It’s not for connection, but performance. It seems that many of the people who rushed to download this app did so to get in early on a rush for potential new followers, and in so doing, adopted digital personas that bear no resemblance to how a single human talks in real life. After years of being subliminally nudged towards this behavior through algorithm changes on other platforms, when given the opportunity to do something different on Threads, we came running back to the bland platitudes and low-hanging fruit we’ve been conditioned to rely on for engagement.” BONUS THREADS: Brian Feldman covers similar ground in different style, but this line in particular resonated with me hard and seems to capture something about the way in which the generation below me has been conditioned to use the web: “Anyone loading up Threads for the first time will be greeted with an illusory barrage of empty engagement-bait garbage from celebrities, influencers, and Tequila-hawking meme accounts they follow; accounts that do not actually care to hear from the riff-raff. Threads is not a platform full of ads, but something far more terrifying: a platform full of users who have voluntarily sold out.”
  • Insane Biology: Reader Barry Hall sent me this – THANKYOU BARRY HALL! – and, honestly, I read it and could literally feel my brain fizzing with how incredibly interesting and, frankly, mind-flayingly odd it all is. This is an interview with developmental biologist Michael Levin which starts off being about slime moulds but goes on to cover a whole host of weird and wonderful curiosities of biology and, honestly, there will be SO MANY bits of this which make you stop and reread the last line and say to yourself ‘no, hang on, what the actual fcuk?’ – the cells that respond differently to different types of music, say, or the idea that you can in theory build a computer from single-celled organisms, or the very concept of whether a cell can be said to ‘want’ in any meaningful sense…I can’t stress enough how insane much of the information contained in here is, and how much it made me personally wish that I wasn’t so dreadful at anything to do with the sciences as I would genuinely love to go and learn more about this (but am very much aware that I am not smart enough to do so).
  • The Crisis of Men: No, this isn’t about Moran’s book (I figure you’ve probably read all the excerpts and takedowns you need to – oh Caitlin! Oh dear!), although I am curious as to what the hook was for Christine Emba’s parallel piece in the Washington Post which basically treads exactly the same territory as Moran does without mentioning her or the book at all. Anyway, this is all about WHAT IS WRONG WITH MEN, and I thought it might be interesting to include it as a transatlantic counterpoint to all the UK chatter around the same issue – what’s interesting to me about this debate (other than the quick internal thought about exactly what would happen where a man to attempt to write a gender-swapped version of these pieces, oh me oh my!) is how miserably reductive and in many ways antediluvian it seems. Perhaps I’m being naive here, but one might reasonably argue that the past few decades’ progress in terms of our understanding of the fluidity of the gender spectrum and the potentially limiting and damaging effects of perpetuating long-held binary ideas of what it means to be human should have meant that questions like ‘HOW SHOULD MEN BE MEN?’ were consigned to the dustbin of history. MAYBE THINKING ABOUT MEN AND WOMEN LIKE THIS IS PART OF THE FCUKING PROBLEM, EH? Anyway, Emba’s piece touches on all the things you’d expect – Petersen! Tate! Scott Galloway! Missing fathers! SUNNING YOUR TAINT! – and draws absolutely no conclusions; please, can people stop writing these fcuking articles? Although, actually, should any lifestyle journalists happen to be reading this, I have a SOLID GOLD feature idea about MEN that I am willing to hand over to the right person, enquiries to the usual email address please.
  • My AI Writing Robot: Kyle Chayka writes in the New Yorker about the less-than-pleasant experience of having a bespoke AI trained on a corpus of his work and seeing how well it can embody his style – this is in part a promo piece for a US company called ‘Writer’, which offers a VERY expensive service which retrains its bespoke LLM with your own work to create what they claim is a model that can faithfully recreate your style (as previously discussed here, you simply can’t do this with GPT or any of the non-open-source models as they tend to default to the mean style of ‘LinkedInspeak’). The piece is a nice mix of practical skepticism and existential fear, with Chayka concluding “At one point during our conversations, Habib, the Writer C.E.O., mentioned that she had been messing around with Robot Kyle, having it rewrite TechCrunch articles in my style. The thought of this filled me with a sense of futility: my robot could take on any topic, fill any assignment.” How do you feel about a future in which we can all spin up autonomous AI agents to go out into the world (wide web) and act as us, in our style, to whatever end we choose? ‘Ambivalent’, personally, but then it’s not up to me.
  • Working With The AI Toolbox: If you have access to GPT4, you really should check out the ‘code interpreter’ feature that’s currently in beta – it is, honestly, fcuking ASTONISHING. Basically it lets you upload files to The Machine and get it to work with / analyse them – and it’s also a coding sandbox that will code and run things in Python, and and and and. Seriously, I can’t stress enough how incredible it is as a proof-of-concept – it’s not quite magic, and, like all this stuff, it’s certainly not perfect (or even entirely functional), but as I keep saying to people (they are really sick of me saying it) this is the worst this tech will EVER be, and it’s already astonishing. This is a superb primer by Ethan Mollick (again), who explains some of the things that you can use the tech for, and some ways of wrangling the interface to make it do what you need it to – I can’t stress enough quite how many possibilities this opens up for building things, analysing things and, inevitably, trusting the machine too much and getting some ruinously-bad interpretations of data that will come back to bite you in the ar$e at some point in the future (DO NOT TRUST THE MACHINE).
  • An AI Brand Campaign: A *bit* ‘inside advermarketingpr’ this, fine, but it’s still an interesting practical overview of how one might practically use the current crop of AI tools to develop a visual brand campaign, how long it would take vs using non-AI methods, and how exactly you might go about it.
  • AI and Astrology: This is less about AI and astrology – although it is, in fairness, also about that – and more another example of a really fcuking cool use of the tech to make something physical and fun and surprising and delightful. Basically I am linking this here in the hope that more of you with the sort of professional clout required to MAKE BRANDS DO THINGS (or, perhaps less miserably, any of you who just make cool things for fun) start ripping these sorts of things off (or, more charitably, riffing on them in interesting ways) and I start seeing AI-enabled games and toys and art projects out there in the real world. This is all about a GPT-powered astrology booth in New York, which lets users ask questions of The Machine based on their star sign and charts and which spits out printed fortunes based on your interactions with it – honestly, this feels like such a perfect, playful use for this sort of tech while it’s still in the ‘just shonky enough to be fun’ phase and before it quickly flips into the ‘becomes the face of oppressive capitalist hegemony’ era.
  • New Tech, Old War: Returning to the issues raised by the first link earlier in Curios, this is a piece from the LRB on the use of AI weaponry in the Israeli bombardment of Palestine, and the likely spread of these technologies to other theatres of war across the world. It’s about as cheering as you’d expect, but it’s a reminder of exactly why it’s important to focus on the ‘now’ when it comes to the harms engendered by technology and not to get distracted by the technologists pointing at the mushroom clouds on the distant horizon while they continue to get rich by selling very real instruments of death today.
  • The Frontier of the AI Revolution: This is a brilliant piece of reporting by Rest of World, which addresses a question that’s been troubling me for a few months now – to whit, what happens to all the people in places like the Philippines when the digital piecework that they have spent a good decade or so making a living from either becomes entirely automated or alternatively devalued to the point where it no longer constitutes a viable profession? Andrew Deck tells the stories of various people from across the world, from South America to South East Asia, and how they are working alongside The Machine to try and keep ahead of the game; while some are more bullish than others about what this will mean for their process and practice and earning potential, I thought the following vignette felt particularly illustrative: “It used to take at least a week for Wu Dayu’s Shenzhen-based design studio to create promotional materials for online fashion stores. But since Wu, 35, switched to using generative AI in March, the same work can be completed in a day, by just two people, and for only $140.“Some high-end brands might prefer human models,” Wu said. “For small and mid-sized sellers, AI models will save them a lot of money and time.” In April, Wu laid off 60% of his staff.”
  • Weekend Plans: I am including this because, honestly, I read it and was immediately struck both by how inherently true it felt and also because I don’t think I’ve ever heard this articulated before as a concept – which means, kids, that what we have here is a GENUINE INSIGHT which I reckon at least one of you can use for AGENCY PROFIT and PERSONAL GAIN. The basic premise here is that there’s an increasing sense that people – younger people in particular – have a degree of…anxiety (? I am using this word because I can’t quite think of a better one, but know that I generally hate its overdeployment in modern parlance) over how to fill all those empty hours between Friday evening and Monday morning, without the structures and tasks of the working (or studying) week to build their time around, and that this is tied to the fact that all the life admin stuff that used to take up so much of our free time (going shopping! Paying bills! Going to the bank!) are now automated to the degree that we have previously-inconceivable amounts of time to fill but lack the resources (financial or otherwise) to find things with which to fill said time. Which, fine, is not a revelation when you write it down, but I really don’t think I’ve ever properly thought about this and it feels to me very much like the sort of thing you could probably build a sellable strategy out of for the right client (this is why, I suspect, I am a genuinely terrible ‘strategist’).
  • The Coolest Library On Earth: Did you know that there is a library of arctic ice in Copenhagen? Oh, fine, YOU might have known but I had no idea, which made this article a genuinely instructive pleasure. “Ice cores serve as important historical records for scientists interested in how our planet’s climate has changed, whether in the distant past or more recently. Like tree rings, layers of snow that fell and formed these cores can be counted and correlated to years in the past. In a core drilled from a place that sees minimal melting, “all those annual layers of snowfall are just in one undisturbed sequence back in time,” Steffensen says. “The deeper you go, the farther back in time you go.”” This is so interesting, and also feels like a decent starting point for an apocalyptic novel in the Crichton style, in which all the million-year-old ice samples melt as a result of a tech malfunction, releasing all sorts of exciting, long-dormant bacteria from the distant past into the world to wreak messily biological bodyhorror havoc. Actually, now I come to type that, that sounds horribly plausible. Please do not let the ice library melt.
  • Is Beyonce A Rapper?: I have no idea to what extent this is a question that keeps you up at night, but I really enjoyed this in-depth exploration of whether or not people see Beyonce as a singer or rapper based on data analysis of the relative popularity of her songs on Spotify – this is really nice work by Jasmine Guy.
  • Antonoffication: This has done the rounds this week and rightly so – as a takedown of ultra-bland superproducer Jack Antonoff it is deeply, deeply satisfying, but it also works as a piece of musical analysis and a more general assessment of the extent to which ‘music is content’ is now something that people actually say and believe, and what that means for what gets poured into our ears on a daily basis (there’s something interesting, to my mind at least, about the fact that we have never, ever in the history of humanity been exposed to so much music with such regularity and yet so much of it is so…utterly forgettable). Specifically, “Antonoffication is the process by which indie rock has adapted to the streaming era: not by doubling down on its status as “high” in opposition to a mass-cultural “low,” but by dispersing into the digital ether and infusing nearly every other genre. Along the way, without meaning to, Antonoff has given us perhaps the most fitting allegory for the status of music under the regime of streaming. In the hands of streaming platforms, the pop song as a form is impossibly big: capacious, spreadable through every vestige of space public or private, an always-on cinematic soundtrack to every moment everywhere for everyone. But it is also strangely small: not only because it is just one in a sea of interchangeable millions, but also because it is increasingly indistinguishable from any other content delivery device, any other configuration of mood-provoking elements.”
  • FRANK: A very UK-centric read, this one, all about the history and current status of the UK Governments youth-focused drugs helpline service, branded ‘Talk to FRANK’ as an attempt to make it feel approachable and not in fact like The Man was asking you to grass up your dealer. There was a time in the early/mid-2000s when the campaign felt genuinely subversive, and as the piece points out it employed a lot of non-standard techniques to ENGAGE ITS AUDIENCE – it’s also been a(nother) victim of underfunding by an administration that doesn’t give a fcuk about young people other than as a demographic to patronise and demonise, and as such has rather fallen by the wayside, but this is an interesting stroll down memory lane for those UK folk old enough to remember (someone I know once called up FRANK in the throes of a rather nasty comedown and was told by the person on the other end of the line that, based on what they claimed to have consumed, they ought to be dead, suggesting that the quality of advice given out wasn’t always of the highest quality, but still).
  • Notes On The Gambia: Another episode in Matt Lakeman’s pan-African travelogue (you may recall I linked to his impressions of Nigeria a few months back) – this time he finds himself in the Gambia, and, once again, this is a properly fascinating collection of observations about the country’s history and culture which, once again, occasionally made me wince slightly (I don’t think Mr Lakeman’s prose would survive contact with a cultural sensitivity reader, let’s say). I think it’s all in good faith, though, and as a series of impressions and vignettes from a country about which I know next-to-nothing is so, so interesting.
  • The Fake Poor Bride: This is GREAT – a proper bit of ‘how the other half live’ gawping, as a luxury wedding planner takes you into her world for a glimpse at the nuptials of the plute class. Perfect voyeurism which, miraculously, doesn’t ever descent entirely into ‘eat the rich’-ness, this is a wonderful confection.
  • Lockwood on DFW: Back to the LRB for this piece which, honestly, could have been commissioned JUST FOR ME – Patricia Lockwood writes about David Foster Wallace, initially about his posthumously-published, unfinished novel The Pale King and, subsequently, about his work and one’s appreciation of it in the wake of the revelations about Wallace’s status as a stalker and abuser and all round ‘danger’, in the parlance of the modern web. This is, throughout, astonishingly good – it obviously helps if you know Wallace and his work, but, honestly, even if you don’t then Lockwood’s writing stands on its own merits and her considerations around what ‘reading’ means, and the hoary old question about ‘the art vs the artist’ are worth reading, and there are sentences in here that made me stop and reread them and simultaneously clap internally while at the same time cursing Lockwood for her brilliance and myself for being a fcuking mediocre writer. This really is quite superb.
  • The Bingo Review: Finally in this week’s longreads, a piece of…fiction, ish, by Gabrielle de la Puente at White Pube, about bingo and family and class and poverty and and and and and fcuk me this stayed with me for the whole fortnight I was away and I have to share it with you because I loved it so so much. Please read it, it is very much worth it.

By Karlis Rekevics