Webcurios 16/06/23

Reading Time: 35 minutes

It has, it’s fair to say, been something of a trying week for stumpy-fingered populists.

More than enough ink has been spilt on That Fcuking Man and the parties and the lies (and my thoughts on him remain unchanged); a similar amount continues to be spaffed on That Other Fcuking Man and whether or not he’ll end up governing from jail; and yet, because of the packed nature of the week’s news schedule, it feels like Silvio’s been rather ignored. Which, given that his CV includes (deep breath) cruise ship singing, an improbable and incredibly-murkily-financed property empire (it’s interesting to note that when Nanni Moretti made the film ‘Il Caimano’, an oddly-familiar tale about a Northern Italian property magnate who pivoted to media and then politics, all the while backed by a lot of money from organised crime, writs from Silvio there came a-none!), the literal transformation of an entire country’s media landscape and, as a result, its relationship to money and capital and consumerism and STUFF (not to mention sex), the football clubs, the whole ‘managing to get elected not once but three fcuking times’ thing (there’s a strong argument to suggest that Italians are the most masochistic of all the European nations, until one looks closer to home and realises that the English remain unbeatable), the rampant tax evasion and collusion with some incredibly unsavoury parties over the years, the friendship with Putin, the whole period where he seemingly spent every single European summit making gags about how he really didn’t want to fcuk Angela Merkel, the rampant libido (and the hookers, and the underage hookers, and the mistresses and the affairs and the open promotion to cabinet positions of attractive TV presenters for fairly transparent reasons), the messianic delusions, the constant feeling that everyone was laughing at Italy BECAUSE THEY WERE…Oh, Silvio, what you gave us!

In the main this week, though, I was sad that he outlived my mum, because she fcuking hated that cnut.

I am still Matt, this is still Web Curios, e spero che Silvio venga inculato dal diavolo giornalmente.

By Klaus Kremmerz



  • Ask Jesus: It’s been a big week for finding God in the machine. Hot on the heels of the AI-generated homily in Germany (which, given the Church has, er, struggled with PR of late, was a pretty decent stunt imho) comes this frankly staggering Twitch stream (by these people, apparently) which lets users ask questions of an AI-generated Jesus, complete with soulful, doelike eyes and the stereotypical-if-historically-improbable lovely, well-conditioned long hair. Jesus has been going for a few days now – he’s live at the time of writing, though as with all these projects there’s a chance that he’ll be pulled from the platform for saying something…er…not entirely in keeping with the general vibe of the scriptures, let’s say – and, honestly, this is INSANE. OK, so he’s unaccountably got an American accent (I presume this has something to do with the fact that this is running on a bunch of free stuff and as such it’s just using a very basic ‘American male’ text-to-speech model) and he appears to be surprisingly au fait with, er, Neon Genesis Evangelion, Pokemon, and a series of other post-digital cultural artefacts that you wouldn’t necessarily imagine being within the purview of a supreme being (but, then again, ominiscience innit), but I’ve been watching this on and off for a while and it’s really, really impressive. It’s…remarkably Jesus-y, if that doesn’t sound too mad – it doesn’t veer into hate, it’s measured and ‘kind’ in its responses, its replies to evidently-goading questions are measured. There’s also some clever stuff going on with the token use here; Jesus has a rudimentary short-term memory, calling back previous questions asked by other users when formulating responses, which is genuinely impressive. Obviously the questions being asked tend towards the slightly-juvenile; you’re likely to see a lot of things about whether Jesus would kiss a man, what he thinks the most OP character build in Elden Ring is, and instructing him to rap (Jesus, it turns out, has abysmal flow), but there’s also the occasional sincere question in there about moral dilemmas which is…weirdly touching, I think? OH MY GOD JESUS JUST SAID THAT ‘SPONGEBOB HAS CHRISTLIKE QUALITIES’ (whilst then going on to patiently explain that, obviously, this is an approximation and Spongebob is of course a fictional character). Also, aside from anything else, there’s something genuinely funny about hearing Jesus addressing ‘BongoMcButtplug69’ by name. This is obviously totally silly, but it’s also incredibly fcuking impressive – spend five minutes watching this and then try and persuade yourself that an AI church isn’t near-inevitable in a future that’s probably sooner than you think.
  • Trump or Biden 2024: From the sublime and benign to the slightly more ridiculous and significantly less wholesome – this is another AI Twitch stream (interesting that there’s been a wave of new ones this week after the initial round at the beginning of the year – there’s this Family Guy one too, should you be interested) which offers the less-than-edifying spectacle of an AI-generated Donald Trump and an equally-AI-generated Joe Biden having a neverending ‘debate’ powered by The Machine and goaded/directed by the chat in the sidebar. It’s unclear what it’s running on, but it’s been jailbroken to an enough of an extent that you can ‘enjoy’ Donald swearing at Joe and calling him (per what I just listened to) ‘a useless senile motherfcuker’. The voice models here are genuinely impressive – the cadence of Trump’s speech isn’t *quite* right, but it’s certainly good enough to fool a casual listener – and even the video is pretty good (if obviously fake), and as I have it running in the background I can’t help but wonder what the everliving fcuk this stuff is going to look like in a year’s time when America’s hurtling to what promises to be a spectacularly mad and angry contest, even by their already mad and angry standards. Take a moment to reflect – a year ago, this would have been literally impossible to create; now, it can be created by children using free tools, and it’s…astonishingly good. We are in for some INTERESTING TIMES.
  • Facebook MusicGen: Another text-to-music model was released this week, this one by Facebook – unlike Google’s version from last month, this one is available to play with on HuggingFace so you don’t need to wait for access. It’s, muchlike Google’s version, scarily impressive – muchlike Google’s, this one struggles with drum’n’bass (is it because Americans don’t really understand it? Genuinely curious if it’s simply a lack of the genre in the training data) but it absolutely nails Kenny G-style light jazz (which, we can all agree, is exactly what we wanted from a Machine-enabled future – Kenny G-style light jazz for all!); perhaps more interestingly, it also lets you upload an existing musical fragment to use as a ‘seed’ for its own compositions, which effectively opens up the possibility of audio transfer – we’re going to see a degree of horrible audio Frankensteining the like of which we haven’t experienced since the heady days of the mashups boom of the early-00s.
  • Saved Memories: I’ve been personally surprised at the lack of advermarketingprwork using the current wave of AI tools – I’d have expected to see more people making a song and dance of it, but aside from a few examples (I’m already bored of those fcuking GPT-generated fast food posters from Brazil and it’s only been three days) there’s been very little in the wild. That said, all of you going to Cannes won’t be able to move for people talking about, misunderstanding, trying to sell and drinking to forget AI, so, er, have fun! You poor bstards. Anyway, this *is* an example of AI-enabled work, and a really nice example it is too. Saved Memories is a piece of work from Germany, by a collection of not-for-profit organisations working with trans people and their families, which uses AI tools to reimagine the childhood photographs of trans people to show them as children presenting their desired gender rather that assigned to them at birth. “For many trans people, looking at photos of children is uncomfortable or painful. Old pictures are kept where no one can see them and part of their life remains hidden. The SAVED MEMORIES project was created to bring children’s photos back to light using artificial intelligence. By adjusting the photos, trans people can develop a new relationship with old childhood photos and memories. This website introduces the people behind the project and shows how free AI tools can be used to create Saved Memories for yourself or loved ones.” I thought this was lovely work – sensitive, helpful, and not attempting to sell anyone anything – and it leans into things that the current crop of image AI do very well rather than trying to overstretch their capabilities in ways that don’t fit. I wouldn’t be hugely surprised to see this concept being lifted by a brand, which, frankly, would be a shame.
  • Drama in a Snap: This is *such* a nice idea! Reader Luke Somasundram emailed me to tell me about this project developed by Singapore-based theatre company Checkpoint Theatre, which uses Snap’s best-in-class object recognition AI and the platforms Lens function to make this lovely little toy-type thing; as Luke wrote, “They’ve made something called Drama In A Snap. It’s an instant story generator that uses A.I. to identify objects and then reveal a human-written story about said object. So you can discover the secret schemes of your coffee cup. Or the hidden tragedy of your futon. Or what that nondescript car across the street is really hiding.” There’s something lovely and pleasingly-whimsical about the idea of pointing your phone at any inanimate object you fancy and getting a small story or vignette about said object that makes you look at it or think of it in a slightly different way; there are apparently about 500 different objects with stories written for them that can be enjoyed, and I think there’s a huge amount of possibility in the base idea here – it feels like it might be a nice stretch to maybe crowdsource the storywriting here, opening it up to the world to create an ever-growing database of the secret storie, dreams and fears of the inanimate to discover and explore whenever you feel like it, and I think with a little bit of stretching you could make something genuinely creatively interesting (but, equally, it’s a lovely little project as-is). So, so cute.
  • The Dreamkeeper: It is a truth universally acknowledged that there is literally nothing more boring in the quantum of human experience than listening to someone tell you about a dream that they have had (it is true; even if your dream involved you having acrobatic sex with Harry Styles and Doja Cat (to pick two famouses from my subconscious; other erotic fantasies are available) while riding a unicorn that was also a space rocket, it is still less interesting to listen to than the Shipping Forecast); it is equally true that this doesn’t stop people from insisting on doing just that. Still, if you’re the sort of person who can’t hold back (“no, it was SO RANDOM, I was flying and Harry was just so SEXY!”) then why not mix it up a bit by using this AI-image generation toy (itself a bit of marketing for some Aussie software company) that will VISUALISE YOUR DREAMS?? Except it won’t really – what it will actually do is create a vaguely-fuzzy-round-the-edges sort of watercolour-ish semi-interpretation of your prompt with a bit of light animation, which, whilst probably bearing no relation whatsoever to the marvels you saw in your mind’s eye, do I suppose look a *bit* dreamy. It’s momentarily distracting to look through the gallery here of the things that other users have requested (turns out a LOT of people dream about horses, or alternatively that this site has been so far exclusively used by teenage girls going through a pony faze), but I warn you that if your dreams tend more towards the ‘a man made of knives chasing me through the bleeding teeth forest’ rather than ‘a carpet of puppies’ then this may struggle to fully capture the inside of your head. Which, perhaps, is for the best.
  • NskYC: This website is less interesting now that New York’s skies have stopped being that pleasing shade of apocalypse orange, but I still like the idea – this shows the colour of the sky over New York every hour or so, with the colour presented as a Pantone block, creating a rather lovely cyclical artwork of blues and, at night, black. I would very much like this to expand to include a bunch of the world’s cities – if nothing else I think the ability to see the slight tonal contrasts in the hue of the sky at different locations would be fascinating. So, er, yeah, if one of you could make that then that would be lovely, thanks.
  • Lihpao: I am not, I promise, going to keep featuring AI chum sites – the novelty has, frankly, already worn off – but I thought this one was interesting because it’s just VAST and shows the ease with which junk content gets created and the sheer volume of it that the web is shortly going to be absolutely overwhelmed with. Lihpao is, similar to the couple of sites I featured last week, a very clear ‘scrape top trending search topics, spin up GPT-generated junk copy for each in the general ‘instructional/how-to’ style, occasionally throw in a (genuinely horrifying, in the main) AI-generated image to sex the whole thing up a bit, and then publish, seemingly without any actual people bothering to look at the content that is being produced. So the site contains seemingly thousands of articles on a dizzying array of topics, from “Where Can I Get a Throat Culture? A Comprehensive Guide” (no, me neither) to ‘How Long After Lipo Can I Go To The Beach?” (as ever with these things, one of the oddest aspects is the light it shines on contemporary culture – Google searches are still a window into the collective soul, of sorts, and WOW is our collective soul…weird), none of which really contain any information of value or, quite often, make any sense at all. I am perhaps being stupid here, but as far as I can tell there aren’t any ads on the site and so I have no idea what the monetisation play is, but you assume that there is one somewhere – in any case, this sort of stuff really is going to be EVERYWHERE in no time at all (and just you wait til all the AI-agent stuff takes off and you’re able to set The Machine running in the background in semi-autonomous fashion), so let’s sit back and see what that does to the already-declining quality of the informational water table (we can, I think, probably take a reasonably-informed guess). BONUS AI CONTENT: The Allium is ‘satire’ written by AI and, honestly, it’s reassuringly utterly terrible.
  • Graffiti Removals: Have you ever thought “you know, there’s something ineffably soothing about watching people methodically cleaning graffiti off walls with a pressure hose, I do wish there were a place online where I could go to do nothing other than gaze in rapt wonder at the marvel and majesty of the process” (and, frankly, who hasn’t? NO FCUKER, etc)? YOU ARE IN LUCK! Graffiti Removals is EXACTLY the site you were after (although in fairness not all the removals involve a high-pressure hose) – although actually, now that I have looked at it a bit more and thought about it a second, I am struck with the question: is…is this a fetish thing? Please, if any of you happen to know the answer to this, keep it to yourselves.
  • Beeper: I only came across this this morning and as such haven’t had a chance to test it out yet, but it doesn’t *look* like malware so, er, it’s probably fine! Beeper is the latest iteration of the increasingly-necessary ‘get all the messages from all the annoying messaging platforms you’re now forced to use due to the fact that all your friendship groups have inexplicably decided to use a different service to communicate with and it’s becoming so tedious to have to switch between Signal and Telegram and Insta and WhatsApp and Snap and iMessage that you’re considering murdering all your friends with your bare hands rather than having to open yet another fcuking app just to have a tedious conversation about mundane gymgoing plans’ tools, and has the advantage of seemingly being free to use. The idea here is simple – it pulls all the messages from across your various inboxes into one place – and it apparently has a decent desktop client too, and, honestly, this looks super-useful.
  • Sleep Talk Recorder: Does your partner talk in their sleep? WHAT DO THEY SAY?! If it’s something particularly amusing – or incriminating – you may want to record it using this very specific app, which is designed to sit dormant while you kip and then, when it hears you mumble and splutter, record in short bursts. Your mileage from this will really depend on how amusing and whimsical you find it to listen back to your partner’s mumbled slurrings of ‘pass the jam, Tony, it has a sprocket on it’ – there are a few examples of people’s recordings on the homepage for you to listen to, some of which are..less amusing than others. Honestly, if what this app picked up was my screaming in terror then I would perhaps be more inclined to seek some sort of therapeutic help than to upload it for the amusement of online strangers but, well, it takes all sorts.
  • Ghost City Avenue S: Full disclusure – I have no idea what this is, or who it’s by, or what it’s for, or what it’s trying to do/say/be. Still, with those not-insignificant caveats aside, this is bafflingly-great! A selection of links which take you to a bafflingly-wide-ranging selection of photos and small animations, all accumulated over the past three years in pursuit of…what? I will probably never know (but if you find out, please tell me).
  • The Motivational Video Archive: I think I have mentioned before how much I dislike video installations in galleries – weirdly, the same stuff is far more acceptable to me on my own digital screens, which is perhaps why I enjoyed browsing the Motivational Video Archive so much. There’s limited information on the site itself about what the fcuk it is, but a bit of digging led me to this excellent explainer page which outlines what the project is, who made it (Michelle Ellsworth) and how it came about: “The Motivational Video Archive was not, at its outset, an art project. Instead, it was a repository of videos that Ellsworth, now 50, has made for personal use, to coax herself through difficult life events and creative blockages. The videos “are like used Kleenex in the corner of my room,” Ellsworth told me. She makes new videos in times of personal need, uploads them in periodic dumps, and then doesn’t think about them. When I asked her why she uploaded them to the internet, she explained that in Boulder, where she lives and teaches in UC Boulder’s Theatre & Dance department, one has to evacuate every year for wildfires. She’d rather have the videos online than risk losing the VHS tapes in her bathroom cabinet.” These are…honestly, these are amazing. Every single one I have watched (a fraction of the many, many on the site) is so striking – weird and too-intense and overly personal and very obviously ‘art video’, and they made me feel ‘odd’ in the way that the very best work does, and, seriously, I can’t recommend this enough.

By Melody Tuttle



  • Chicken Orb: With everything continuing to get, well, significantly more expensive, perhaps its time that we all became a bit more self-sufficient when it comes to our food? With that in mind, let me present to you THE CHICKEN ORB! Have you ever thought ‘you know, I’d really like to have a chicken but I just don’t know whether their foraging and general behaviour is compatible with my lovely urban garden’? WELL FEAR NO MORE! The chicken orb is, basically, a Zorb for fowl – you basically lob the bird into the spherical cage and it can wonder round freely, but it means you can more easily confine it to a certain bit of garden without the need for complex enclosures and runs, and you can also avoid chasing the s0dding thing round the garden when you want to wring its neck/put it back in its coop (delete as applicable). To be honest, I can’t really imagine any of you having a desperate desire for one of these, but I was just so charmed by the idea of this that I couldn’t help but include it. OH GOD, I just had a vision of recreating that game from old-school ITV staple Gladiators but with chickens – that is streaming content GOLD, I tell you, and I will franchise that idea to you for a cursory fee. Form a queue.
  • The Brian Butterfield Diet Soundboard: Even by the standards of Web Curios (ha! Standards! lol!) this feels like…something of a niche gag, but, equally, it both made me laugh and reminded me of a reasonably-amusing sketch and so into the newsletter it goes (just in case you ever wanted a window into the…rigorous selection process undertaken round here). Peter Serafinowicz is not *just* The Tick and a recurring character in The Cornetto Trilogy, he’s also a very funny writer who briefly had his own sketch show back in the day, one of which sketches featured a character called Brian Butterfield who had a very particular diet that he was trying to sell you. A touch of Mr Creosote about this, but not in a bad way – I genuinely hope that there is at least one of you who remembers this fondly and who gets a good hour or so’s amusement out of blasting the phrase ‘PORK CYLINDERS’ from your speakers at nosebleed volume to the increasing bemusement of friends, lovers and colleagues alike – the site also features a link to the sketch on YouTube, so you can at least make some sort of vague sense of this if you’re so inclined.
  • Privateer: One of the side effects of writing this rubbish for over a decade now is that you end up learning things about yourself and your obsessions – for example, I have reaslised that I have a real bee in my bonnet over the whole concept of ‘space junk’, and have over the years spent more time than was perhaps strictly necessary writing here about how if we’re not careful we’re going to wall ourselves into our own atmosphere with a mile-thick layer of discarded metal (this is hyperbole, before anyone with a significantly-better grasp of physics feels the need to explain to me why this is not in fact possible). Anyway, it seems I am not the only person who feels this way, as a bunch of rich and famous Silicon Valley types, including Steve Wozniak, have set up Privateer, which is, seemingly, a company whose mission is to work to clean up the Earth’s orbit and get rid of some of the defunct satellites, forgotten ‘we sent X to space!’ marketing stunts from the early-2010s and other junk (or, at the very least, to map and track it to make it easier to avoid). This is really interesting, and sensible-sounding, and obviously super-scifi, but, if I’m totally honest, the main reason I am linking to it is because their main corporate sponsor is watchmaker Omega and halfway down the Privateer homepage is what is, honestly, the most insanely-cheesy ad-photo I have ever seen, just slap-bang in the middle of their ‘we’re a serious company doing serious business’ pitch. Oh, and they are based in Hawa’ii, too, for which I am sure their are excellent spacefaring reasons but which also makes it sound like a *bit* of a cushy gig.
  • The CopyPasta DB: I saw something floating about the web this week, inspired by the Reddit protests, that made the point about the utter ephemerality of online culture and the fact that, if you’re, say, 35 or below then a lot of the places you spent your youth online, the things that you read and watched and made and experienced, simply don’t exist anymore, and how weird that is in terms of a sense of how one came to be oneself (I am mangling this somewhat, but hopefully you get the general point) – anyway, that came to mind again when looking at the CopyPastaDB, ‘the web’s largest archive of copypasta material’, or at least so it claims and I have no reason to doubt it. Obviously you all already know this, but just in case: “A copypasta is a block of text that is copied and pasted across the Internet by individuals through online forums and social networking websites. The block of text is not necessarily written to become a copypasta. However, the text is usually of a viral or outrageous nature, often with comical undertones. This makes them extremely appealing to copy and paste.” Longform textmemes, basically, which were often initially based around horror fiction but which now have come to encompass everything from repurposes Reddit edgelordery to a *lot* of weird Tumblr stuff. This is, basically, VERY VERY ONLINE, and hence simultaneously really interesting and also excruciatingly-embarrassing to its very core, and I love it.
  • Ooakfinder: This is an interesting idea. Etsy has for a few years now felt like its rather strayed from its ‘artisanal makers and individual craftspeople’ ethos to become a bit more like what eBay ended up being – to whit, a place packed with stuff that’s actually mass-produced and being sold by larger retailers in a way that presents them as being much smaller than they in fact are’. If you’d like to try and ensure that whatever you’re thinking of buying from Etsy (or elsewhere – this seems to work with most retail sites as far as I can tell) is in fact an original piece or whether it’s ripped off from someone else, or being sold in multiple other locations online, then this site will do EXACTLY that – it’s basically just cobbling together a bunch of reverse image search stuff under the hood, but it’s no less clever or useful for that.
  • Felicity Ingram: I tend not to feature fashion photography on here, not least because I don’t know the first thing about either of those two topics, but I’ll make an exception for this site which is the personal portfolio of one Felicity Ingram whose work is just GORGEOUS and whose site is such a wonderful showcase for her pictures. This is such beautiful photography and webwork, honestly.
  • Slow Jamastan: I tend to be…wary of people who seem intent on setting up their own countries – they tend towards libertarianism, in my experience, and libertarians tend to, not to put too fine a point on it, be either cnuts, or morons, or a uniquely-unpleasant combination of the two. That said, Slow Jamastan – a sovereign nation apparently founded in late 2021 – doesn’t seem to bear any of the hallmarks of a mad libertarian horrorshow (in the main I can tell this because a) noone seems to be talking about crypto; and b) nowhere on the website do they talk about age of consent laws, another troubling obsession of the ‘let’s start our own nation and do what we like!’ obsessives); instead, Slow Jamastan’s politics are described as “Dictatorship (on most days – sometimes The Sultan passes the suggestion box around)” which, you know, sounds ok! This is obviously a gag, but also…not a gag, based on the amount of effort and thought that has gone into the site, and, honestly, given the past week’s activities on both sides of the Atlantic I can sort of see why running away to a micronation and battening down the hatches might seem appealing.
  • RajShahi Gosford: The Facebook Page of an Indian restaurant in New South Wales, Australia. Their use of memes is…astonishing, frankly, and the sort of thing I would honestly like to see at least one of you pitching as a sincere ‘strategic pivot’ to one of your more staid clients in banking or FS. This came via Garbage Day, which I imagine you are all subscribed to but which if not you really ought to be.
  • Blend: On the one hand, this new shopping app (based in the UK, and found via Martin Bryant’s rather good newsletter about new-stage UK startups) which effectively purports to be ‘TikTok, but for clothes!’ sounds like it could be very smart and with some clever tech under the hood; on the other, in an era in which everyone is fcuked for money and the world continues to buckle under the weight of all the pointless crap we insist on buying and shipping around the world before depositing it in landfill to not decay over a period of centuries…well, is creating the ultimate, addictive, infinite-swiping fast-fashion portal really a responsible thing to do? God, I know, I sound po-faced and prissy as all fcuk, but, equally, IF WE DON’T STOP CONSUMING LIKE THIS WE REALLY ARE GOING TO BE VERY VERY VERY SCREWED INDEED. Still, lovely interface and IT KNOWS WHAT I WANT so envirofears be damned!
  • Hillside: This is rather lovely. Hillside was an experimental architectural project from the 60s, which was built in Montreal and still stands today – per Wikipedia, “HABITAT 67, or simply Habitat, is a housing complex at Cité du Havre, on the Saint Lawrence River, Montreal, Quebec, Canada, designed by Israeli-Canadian architect Moshe Safdie. It originated in his master’s thesis at the School of Architecture at McGill University and then an amended version was built for Expo 67, a World’s Fair held from April to October 1967. Habitat 67 is considered an architectural landmark and a recognized building in Montreal.” The link takes you to a site where you can download an interactive walkthtrough of the architect’s original vision for the project, designed in the latest iteration of the Unreal Engine with all of the high-end photorealism that delivers; I sadly don’t have the requisite kit to do anything with this, but the demo video looks gorgeous and I do love the use of this high-end digital rendering software to explore imagined spaces and counterfactual urban scenarios; in general, this is just a really nice way of bringing Safdie’s original vision to life.
  • CPUMade: I’m slightly amazed that I haven’t seen more of these – CPUMade is a tshirt design site which is – yes, that’s right, you guessed it! – AI POWERED! Create your designs using…some GAN, it’s not a particularly amazing version, and then put them on tshirts which you can either get printed on demand and shipped to you OR which you can make available on the site for others to buy, at which point you get a small kickback. The likelihood, to my mind, of anyone ever buying an AI-designed tshirt based on someone else’s prompt-tickling is vanishingly small, but on the other hand there’s a limited amount for you to lose in spending three minutes creating some vaguely-threatening tees and hoping some moron coughs up for them.
  • Landing Love: Examples of nice webdesign from all over the internet. That’s literally it – but whoever curates this has a good eye (or, at the very least, similar taste in webwork to me) and as such this is a great resource for design inspiration or some light plagiarism (also, loads of these were totally new to me, which, I promise, is no mean feat).
  • Click Bath: Do you feel STRESSED? Enervated? Like Ren from Ren & Stimpy when he gets all het up and his eyes get all bloodshot and he starts twitching and fitting? Hm, maybe lay off the cheap cocaine for a few weeks, eh? If, though, you can’t blame your jitteriness on several grammes of poorly-cut pub gak (or perhaps even if you can) then you might enjoy Click Bath, a site which exists solely to provide you with a soothing sound bath (at some point in the last year or so I learned what a ‘sound bath’ is and I am genuinely angry that I have to carry that phrase in my head) – click either of the panels on-screen to produce a soothing sound which you can tweak the tone and pitch of depending on where exactly you tap. Your appetite for this will probably be closely linked to your enjoyment of incense and your ability to perform an adequate downward dog.
  • Pick Your Paranoia: Make your own ‘This Is Fine’ cartoon, with the addition of one of a selection of very modern paranoias – from climate change to El*n Fcuking M*sk, to guns to AI – which you can then save and share through whatever channels you see fit. Will it make the bad things go away? No, no it won’t, but laughing bleakly about it makes it better, right? Right?
  • Read Something Wonderful: This is a lovely idea – Read Something Wonderful is maintaining an archive of links to excellent pieces of longform writing, with the overarching premise that the best writing isn’t always the newest, and that someone should probably be preserving links to classic journalism or essays. The site’s very simple – there’s no tagging by topic, for example – but if you’re happy to be guided by the editorial team and just read ‘something interesting’, regardless of theme, then this is a great place to bookmark and dip back into when you’re at an online loose end.
  • The Cloud Appreciation Society: Do you like clouds? NOT AS MUCH AS THESE PEOPLE DO! Still, if you’ve ever wanted to get access to a genuinely enormous collection of photographs of your cumulocirrus, your nimbus, your stratocumulus (these may not in fact be actual, accurately-named types of cloud, for which apologies), along with cloud-inspired poetry and art, and cloud NEWS and cloud FACTS, then this will be some sort of dream come true – there is also a shop on the site, and I genuinely wish I could drive so that I had an excuse to buy the ‘I Brake For Clouds’ bumber sticker. I love this with an almost sinful degree of passion.
  • Wooden Cocks: As I regularly say in Curios, I genuinely have no idea who any of the people reading this are, or where you are, or what you’re into (apart from, to at least some degree, overlong newsletters) – which means that I am genuinely curious to know whether there will be one of you who, on seeing this link and clicking it and discovering that there is an auction taking place in Brighton next week at which will be sold (and I quote) “ELEVEN CARVED WOODEN PHALLUS, 33CMS LARGEST”,will think “AT LAST!” and bid to take them home. To be clear, you don’t need to tell me (and I really don’t want to know) – it’s just that I find the idea vaguely pleasing. Anyway, the lack of detail on this auction page is possibly my favourite thing about it – are the phalluses (phalli?) old? New? Suspiciously-worn? Notched? Unless you bid we will never know.
  • Connections: On the one hand, the NYT’s games section has apparently just stolen the ‘Wall’ section from much-loved, super-geeky UK TV show ‘Only Connect’, which is pretty sh1tty behaviour; on the other, this is such a good game and, much like Only Connect, you will feel like some sort of intellectual colossus if you complete one (or at least you will if you’re me).
  • Grimace’s Birthday: This is rather fun, by global obesity-peddlers McDonald’s – it’s an in-browser Gameboy game, in which you play as noone’s favourite fast food mascot Grimace as you skateboard around some pleasingly-16-bit-ish levels, grinding and jumping and collecting milkshakes and, honestly, this is pretty good (I have a strange feeling that they might also have produced a limited run of actual GBA cartridges for this too, although equally I might be imagining that and, honestly, I’m running a touch late this morning and don’t have time to check – wow, that was both an admission of slapdash practice AND a tedious sentence none of you wanted or needed to read – GO ME!).
  • The Capcom Retro Games Archive: Capcom were my favourite ever client in videogames – fine, I had to promote some occasionally-shonky titles (noone remembers MotoGP05 with any fondness, and sadly noone remembers by accompanying PR triumph either – but I will always know that there was only one person for the Daily Sport headline ‘Bikers Have Bigger Cocks’, and that that person was ME!) but equally they were such fun to work with and let me basically do whatever I liked (possibly overstepped the mark with the Heather Mills thing for Bionic Commando, but, well, they were Different Times), and so I was charmed to see that this week they have launched Captown, a little digital museum featuring art and design and tributes to some of their best and most-loved titles…AND the Capcom Retro Games Archive, to which I have here linked, which lets you play a bunch of classic titles in-browser. Final Fight! SFII! Mega Man and Mega Man II! Oh me oh my! Honestly, this is your afternoon sorted (and, once you realise how incredibly fcuking hard these are, possibly the rest of your weekend too).

By Sanya Kantarovski



  • Seinfeld Law: Not, actually, a Tumblr! But it *could* be one, and that’s what counts! This is probably both funny AND interesting if you know and like both Seinfeld and the law; each entry unpicks a particular Seinfled scene from the point of view of the characters’ legal obligations to each other based on their actions (it’s not, for avoidance of doubt, entirely serious) – although the first entry you’ll see on the page is actually about the AI generated Seinfeld show that blew up on Twitch at the beginning of the year, which is interesting in a different and slightly more academic way.
  • F1 Fanfic: My friend Alex alerted me to the fact that there is a *lot* of F1-themed slashfiction on Tumblr and MAN is he right. This link takes you to the results page for the F1 Fanfic tag and, er, if you want to read some STEAMY SCENES in which Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton discover that beneath their rivalry burns a love that not even team instructions can keep apart then, well, you will be WELL CATERED-FOR, let me say.


  • Amy Goodchild: Amy Goodchild is an artist working with procedural generation; her Insta feed is a lovely selection of her work which is mathematical and precise and geometric and also very, very human, in a way that this sort of stuff doesn’t always land. This is beautiful.
  • Daisuke Kajima: Incredible, dense drawings of dizzingly-angled urban environments, rendered in simple lines – this stuff is wonderful.
  • Books On Maps: You might need to speak Italian to get the most from this, but it’s a lovely idea – the account posts shots of pages in books referring to a particular place, alongside shots of that place. Simple, but there’s something lovely about seeing the physcial reality of the narrative suggestion. This comes from Pietro Minto’s weekly newsletter, which is in Italian but which is easily machine-translatable and is always full of interesting stuff.


  • World Running: We kick off this week with something that’s more ‘Massive Thesis’ than it is ‘interesting article to read over coffee’ – if, though, you’ve read any of the pieces over the past year or so about lore and worldbuilding and their increasing importance as lenses through which to think about building a business or brand (and yes, I know exactly how joyless that sentence sounds, and I am sorry, but, well, we all have to pay the rent/mortgage/ransom, right?) then this is very much worth a (slow, considered) read. This is Jay Springett’s work-in-progress bible about their approach to building and running a ‘world’ – to quote directly, “World Running, akin to show running in television, is an emerging discipline concerned with the practice of guiding and overseeing the development, maintenance, and evolution of worlds.  This collection is currently organised around the five big questions I believe we should be asking of a World Runner: What Is a World? Who Loves the World? What Is at the World’s Edge and Outside of It? Why Run a World? and How Does a World End? As of the current version, I begin by investigating what constitutes a world and examining the Metaverse as a medium through which we can navigate and create. I discuss code space and user experience, and the power dynamics inside of Fandoms that drive passions and shape virtual lives. Venturing to the disciplines’ edges, I discuss the shared interface of interactive fiction and AI art, as well as the early spatial thinking embedded in digital code spaces.” Obviously this has huge applications and relevance to those of you working on fiction, games, theatre and the like – but, equally, I am very much of the opinion that it’s a helpful way to think about brand and community development in general. This is really, really interesting, and if you do a stupid, made-up job with the word ‘strategy’ or ‘planning’ in the title then you should probably give this a go.
  • The New Media Goliaths: I had lunch with my friend Rishi the other week and he was outlining a pretty compelling thesis around the end of the era of mass media – and then this essay landed this week and I am now basically convinced that it’s dead (even if it hasn’t quite realised it yet). This is a really good essay about niche media and audience pleasing and ‘truth’ and what it is that people, fundamentally, want media to practically DO, and it contains an awful lot of stuff that starts to look at lot more inevitable when you layer over it the coming truth whereby we’re careening towards a point when everyone has a bespoke ‘intelligence’ in their pocket that’s guiding their lives, and noone knows exactly what flavour intelligence anyone else is taking their cues from (“This is Nathan; Nathan’s personal digital assistant is called ‘Nazi Nick’!”). This line in particular struck me as simultaneously accurate and prescient: “fragmented publics in divergent factional realities, with increasingly little bridging the gaps.” Well, quite.
  • The Reddit Protests: A good overview on VICE of what exactly the Reddit blackout this week has been about, why it happened, and What It All Means For The Future of the Web. Which, basically, is Nothing Good – it’s hard not to think that Reddit has basically managed to burn through a lot of user good will in record time, or to think that they spectacularly misjdged their approach to this; on the other hand, CAPITALISM DEMANDS DOUBLE DIGIT MARGIN INCREASES, so, well, what are you going to do? The VICE piece makes a lot of good points about the fact that, at heart, its its intense humanity (in that, it’s literally run by people not code, in the main) that makes Reddit a uniquely-successful online space, and how we’re going to need to come to some sort of reckoning about how we adequately value that human endeavour if we’re going to preserve digital communities of worth. Aside from anything else, there’s something…a bit dodgy-feeling about a company that literally exists because of the unpaid labour of the people who post there seeking to make violent bank out of API access to content that it itself hasn’t paid for (and in Reddit’s case this is especially egregious given the insane amount of unpaid additional non-posting labour that mods undertake which keeps the content of high quality). BONUS REDDIT: The ever-readable Brian Feldman writes about how posting is basically a charitable act, an analogy that I don’t think quite works but  which I very much enjoyed reading regardless.
  • Tech, Power and AI: I keep making this point, here and elsewhere, but I am a sh1t writer and a worse debater and as such I never deliver it with the weight I’d like – here Rachel Coldicutt does a vastly better job than I at explaining exactly what is going on with the whole ‘existential AI threat’ chat, and why, actually, it’s probably quite important that non-scientists get involved in the discussion (on which, I don’t know if you’ve read Marc Andreesen’s ‘why AI is great, actually, and anyone saying otherwise is a massive hater’ piece but, if you haven’t, it’s worth just ctrl+f’ing for the word ‘ethicists’ to see his summary dismissal of philosophy as a discipline – fcuk, I really can’t stress enough how much I HATE Venture Capitalists (but, er, not the two I know and who occasionally give me work)). Anyway, the Coldicutt piece is great, and her closing lines sum up the situation perfectly: “If there is an existential threat posed by OpenAI and other technology companies, it is the threat of a few individuals shaping markets and societies for their own benefit. Elite corporate capture is the real existential risk, but it looks much less exciting in a headline.”
  • AI Regulation and Governance: Some Ideas: It feels…wrong to link to a document apparently jointly written by William ‘14 Pint Billy’ Hague and Tony ‘Should Possibly Be In The Hague’ (TOPICAL AND TIMELY!) Blair, but this is, surprisingly, genuinely interesting thinking and an order of magnitude more intellectually rigorous than anything I’ve seen coming out of the actual government around What To Do About AI. There’s a lot in here that is speculative, and also quite a few rather wooly terms and abstractions, but equally it’s the first piece of substantive writing around what a national research and regulatory framework around AI might look like. If you have any practical interest in this stuff then you really should at least skim this.
  • Customer Service and AI: The Wall Street Journal looks at fast food chain White Castle’s experiments with AI in its drive-through outlets, and how customers are reacting to having their orders taken by a non-human server (who will, it seems, attempt to upsell them at every single opportunity – there’s something sort-of horrible about the vision this conjures up, of scripts being A/B tested and optimised by The Machine until it can guarantee a 13.6% likelihood of a customer going SUPER MEGA EXTRA LARGE and this ends up inadvertently killing several million people due to the consequent uptick in cholesterol-related illness and diabetes). You may be unsurprised to know that the general consensus is…it’s fine, ish, which is enough to guarantee that you’ll be seeing this tech everywhere within the year. Oh, and here’s a similar piece looking at the airline industry, which makes the point that, whilst customers don’t necessarily like dealing with The Machine, they don’t *dislike* it sufficiently to do anything about it and, as such, our fates are sealed!
  • Is Social Media Really Bad For Us?: This is a really good article, on a topic that has once again been getting column inches after a spate of studies in the US once again made a strong correlative argument between social media usage and worsening mental health in young people, in particular young women, and after Kate Winslet’s very vocal campaigning around the need for parents to act to limit kids’ access to social platforms. So, does Insta fcuk kids up? The answer is…it depends, basically and noone really knows, which is both an annoying hedge (WE WANT CERTAINTY DAMMIT) but also, per the overview of a decade or so’s research summarised in this Atlantic piece, probably true. This is balanced and nuanced and does a decent job of attempting to de-flatten (if you see what I mean) the concept of ‘social media’ and force the reader to think of it in a more nuanced and usecase-specific sort of way; a potentially useful read for any of you who are sh1tting yourselves about your kids’ TikTok habit.
  • Days Of Plunder: Or, “why Private Equite firms are cnuts”. I enjoyed this, but Christ did it also boil my p1ss. This is a piece reviewing two books about the history and practice of private equity, and contains so many genuinely atrocious examples of corporate behaviour in pursuit of margin that you’ll be reeling by the end of the fifth para. The focus is on the US, but, wherever you live, I’d be amazed if something parallel wasn’t happening to your institutions too: “public servants in every agency and branch of government have bent over backwards to assist private equity firms in securing public pension fund financing for their exploits. Cities signed lucrative privatization deals with PE-owned ambulance operators and infrastructure subsidiaries. Regulators proved incapable of enforcing consumer protections or fraud statutes that might threaten PE profit margins. Perhaps most maddeningly, PE firms are routinely immunized from the possibility of private-sector consequences for their profiteering, as 38 state legislatures did most recently in 2020 when they passed blanket liability shields on nursing homes and hospitals for the duration of the COVID-19 emergency.”
  • They’re Here To Save Indie Media: This is a profile piece in the NYT about a pair of women who have launched a new website called The Byline. It is VERY New York, and very funny, and the sort of thing that, were it written about me, would have caused me to hide in a basement for approximately a year before moving to Moldova and taking up beet farming. There are so many AMAZING details in here and, seemingly, a complete lack of anything resembling self-awareness, and such a strong whiff of ‘somebody else’s money’ coming off everyone involved – honestly, this is a proper schadenfreude joy.
  • Why Streaming is Fcuked: This is both a really good, detailed read about exactly why it is that the streaming industry is so screwed (briefly: because, it appears, noone involved understands the first thing about ‘running a business’, remarkably), and also a very funny and slightly manic piece which captures the ‘oh sh1t oh sh1t oh sh1t’ vibe that you imagine is pretty prevalent in the world of PREMIUM VIDEO CONTENT right now.
  • Treat Culture: This week’s slightly-spurious ‘trend’-type piece comes in the form of this Forbes article suggesting that, for young people, the concept of ‘treating oneself’ is a significant and important part of existing’ (file in the same place as ‘everything is self-care if I say it’s self-care. Yes, even the skag I am currently injecting into the arch of my foot, what of it?’) – this doesn’t, I have to say, strike me as something that feels…particularly revelatory, but this is 100% a useful article to have under your belt when you’re trying to sell your client on your ‘Treat Yourself To An Enema!’ strategy (for example).
  • Republicans and Cars: A report from this year’s annual convention of the National Automobile Dealers Association in the US – an incredible lobby group which loves cars, gaso-LINE (how I imagine it to be pronounced, in full, at all times), and, mainly, the republican party, and which really, really hates electric vehicles and the general idea that taking a massive six-litre diesel everywhere is possibly not, long-term, a great idea. This is, fine, a bit US-centric, but I find these snapshots fascinating less because of what they tell us about America (it’s populated by lunatics – sorry, but it’s true) (although, obviously, if you’re reading this then I don’t mean *you*) than because of what they tell us about the challenges we’re facing as a species (do…do you think we’re going to hit 1.5 degrees? Because reading stuff like this, I think ‘ahahahahahaha pull the other one mate it has got oily bells on it’).
  • The Illusion of Moral Decline: A great essay, this, looking at whether or not it is in fact fair to say that ‘morals’ or ‘ethics’ or ‘standards of behaviour’ are in decline and concluding that, actually, they’re probably not, at least not by any measurable metric, and that in fact every single generation since we’ve started doing mass-scale polling has consistently thought that the moral fabric of the world is eroding around them and that, coincidentally, that erosion started pretty much at the point they were born. Consistently. Every single time. A lovely example of good, detailed data investigation, and perhaps a reassuring fillip to remind you that people probably aren’t getting worse (despite that being EXACTLY what it sometimes feels like).
  • The History of Fire Escapes: Specifically, the history of fire escapes in NYC. Which, yes, I know, but this is honestly super-interesting from an urban planning and architecture and design point of view, and also because MAN does the author go deeper than they need to in investigating the story. This is great, and touches on so many interesting ways in which policy, design and human behaviour intersect – honestly, even if you have no interest in either New York or fire escapes (INCONCEIVABLE) this will still be a good read.
  • MrBeast: Another profile of Most Famous Man On YouTube MrBeast, whose numbers continue to astonish and whose fabulously-cynical take on the creator business (don’t get me wrong, the guy is insanely good at what he does but also the way he’s approached it with the gimlet-eyed intensity of Ed Sheeran’s pursuit of top 10 success is…somewhat intense) has made him astonishingly rich. I enjoyed this – mainly because it doesn’t try and get to the heart of the man (because I think that that’s impossible – not that Donaldson isn’t, I’m sure, a perfectly human entity, just that there isn’t currently room in his life for him to be anything other than a single-minded content-optmiser) but instead tries to break down a bit of what makes the channel work and how it fits into the modern media mix. At heart, if you care what I think, I reckon MrBeast’s stuff works because in many respects its remarkably similar to classic TV, just recast for a YouTube generation and given the appropriate dressing – but read the piece and see what you think.
  • 200 Things That Fox News Has Called Woke: Both very, very funny (if, equally, a bit mad and deranged and terrifying) and very, very useful as something to send to anyone who has the temerity to attempt to use the ‘w’ word as a disparaging critique.
  • Khalid Sheldrake: Did you know that in the early-20th Century there lived a man in South London who, contrary to the fashions of the time, decided to convert to Islam and at one point was appointed king of the short-lived Islamic Republic of Turkestan? Well there was, and this is his story – honestly, this is full of ‘hang on, what?’ moments, like this throwaway line which feels like a whole novel in itself: “He converted part of his house in Fenwick Road into a mosque, calling it Masjid-el-Dulwich. In 1928 he conducted the funeral service of Sayaid Ali, an elephant keeper at London Zoo who had been murdered in his bed by a rival elephant keeper.” A RIVAL ELEPHANT KEEPER!?!?!?! Seriously, this is fascinating (and part of a brilliant project by the National Archives which ‘invited entrants to research and share stories of the 1920s, searching for the most fascinating local history stories covered by the 1921 Census of England and Wales’).
  • The Monster Discloses Himself: Possibly the best thing I have read about conspiracy theories and the people who subscribe to them – this is so so so so well-written (and contains bits in the second person, for which I am famously a sucker), and, I promise, you will savour it.
  • The Rich List: Finally this week, Andrew O’Hagen in the LRB writes about the Sunday Times Rich List, the publication of which is possibly the second most odious event on the publishing calendar after Tatler’s Little Black Book, and how it has evolved and changed over time. Obviously we know this – obviously! – but reading this section in particular made me feel…slightly sick: “When this list began there were nine billionaires in the UK; in 2022 there were 177. They were to be encouraged, Peter Mandelson once suggested, so long as they paid their taxes. But they don’t. And can anybody now say, with a straight face, that people on low incomes are in a better place than they were thirty years ago? Behind the nation’s back, and with collusion it might take a generation of reporters and novelists to expose, the interests of profit-makers have undermined those of wage-earners, to the point where it seems almost greedy – a category error – for people to push for decent pay. The Sunday Times Rich List is replete with celebrity energy barons accumulating gold while many millions of people in the UK suffer from fuel poverty or live in damp houses.” I mean, quite.

By Jake Kennedy