Webcurios 24/11/23

Reading Time: 30 minutes


Of course, if you’re in North America right now you’ll already be in the middle of an extended period of having a bad time with people you don’t like who you’re nevertheless compelled to spend time with by accidents of birth, but for the rest of us we’re into the FINAL COUNTDOWN to the festive season and that weird period of time when everyone loses the ability to imagine that life will continue after the holidays (I feel the whole November/December period of work is the real-life embodiment of the sowing/reaping meme, basically).

Effectively what I’m saying is that you’re entirely-entitled to down tools from hereon out – noone’s going to notice, and according to Rishi the economy’s going really well ACTUALLY and so we can probably all rely on things just sort of magically picking up next year…so click ALL the links in this week’s issue because, honestly, who the fcuk cares anyway?

I am still Matt, this is still Web Curios, and you have my permission to open the Bailey’s and drink so much that you see God.

By Seth Becker

(images as ever via TIH)



  • Diesel Vert: Or is it ‘Diesel Metamorph’? The homepage and url say ‘vert’, the hoverover on the tab says metamorph…but, fundamentally, it doesn’t matter either way because (get ready everyone) WE’RE BACK IN THE METAVERSE! Yes, that’s right, 2022’s wasted marketing budgets keep cropping up here in the wild future that is the fag-end of 2023 – will this be the one that finally persuades me of the compelling benefits of branded activations in poorly-rendered virtual environments? Er, no – but I will concede that this is by FAR the shiniest bit of metaversal w4nk I’ve seen so far, and I was genuinely impressed by the CG and animation on display here. Diesel Vert is…oh, look, I don’t know, there’s some absolute hokum up front about some sort of ANCIENT PEOPLE who HARNESSED THE POWER OF TIME and who we MUST HELP (but…why? Who are they? And, honestly, why were they fcuking with time? Did they not know to leave well enough alone? And if I help them, will they have learned their lesson or will they simply start again with the ‘harnessing the power of time’ fcukery that got them into this mess in the first place? There’s a lack of detail here, is what I’m saying), but the ‘interactive’ portion of this literally involves guiding your (admittedly nicely-rendered) little avatar through a series of (equally-nicely-rendered) environments, occasionally pressing ‘E’ in order to get an ANCIENT PERSON to move you from one bit of scenery to another. And, well, that’s it – you do this a few times and then the website tells you to buy a pretty nondescript-looking watch, and you’re left with the sort of generally sad and empty feeling that everyone involved in the project would probably have been better off just spending some more time with people they loved than making this utterly-pointless bit of marketingw4nk. Still, it really is VERY PRETTY, so there’s that.
  • Atmospheric Agency: HELLO ADVERMARKETINGPRDRONES! Do any of you happen to work for McCann? If so, this one is firmly aimed at YOU – or rather, the people within your organisation who make the decisions about what clients are ethical to work, and who are apparently currently considering pitching for the Saudi Aramco business. Atmospheric Agency is a spoof ad firm website, presenting a firm that is PROUD of its work for the world’s oil and gas giants and which has been put together by campaign organisation Clean Creatives, presumably in the hope that it will do the rounds of the world’s adland creatives who will feel TERRIBLE about the clients that their paymasters work for and protest or quit or something. I’m slightly conflicted about this – on the one hand, I am a big fan of internal rebellion about stuff like this, and of staff making their voices heard about what a business should and shouldn’t do for money; on the other, I’ve been writing about this sort of stuff for over 10 years now, and not once have I ever seen one of these sorts of spoof campaigns achieve any sort of cut-through or impact whatsoever. Still, if you happen to work at McCann (or one of the other agencies pitching the Aramco business) – or know anyone who does, who you want to gently bully into making some sort of PRINCIPLED STAND – then you might enjoy this; if nothing else, the ‘creative ideas’ in the spoof pitch deck on the site are literally no worse than some of the things I have heard in real-life PR brainstorms.
  • Music League: Music is wonderful, glorious, emotional, HUMAN stuff – so what better way to celebrate and enjoy it than by reducing it to a two-dimensional means of accruing and flexing social capital? Welcome to Music League, in which you compete with a bunch of friends in music-themed challenge rounds – basically the game gives you all a bunch of prompts (“the happiest song in the world”, “clear the dancefloor”, “song most likely to cause sudden, ruinous, mid-coital impotence”, that sort of thing) and each player can submit a track in response – you all get to listen to the submitted songs, chat about them and vote on which is the ‘best’ response to the challenge prompt. This goes on over a number of rounds until someone is declared THE WINNER and…well, that’s it, unless you decide to craft some sort of elaborate crown out of cardboard and tinfoil and award it at some sort of regular presentation ceremony, or you take the additional step of instituting running league tables with relegation from the friendship group as a penalty for poor performance, but I figure this could be fun with the right group of people, and you might too.
  • Galerie: I think we’re all in agreement that the age of streaming and infinite, on-demand entertainments hasn’t quite worked out in the way in which the idea was sold to us back in the late-90s/early-00s. “Everything will be online!”, they said, “and you’ll have low-latency, high-bandwidtch connections that will enable you to seamlessly stream the infinite quantity of digitised media from any point in history direct into your eyeballs at the push of a button!”. And to an extent they were right, but THEY (the b4stards) forgot to mention the fragmented streaming landscape, and subscription fees, and, most irritatingly of all, that the complicated mess of international media rights, coupled with the rapacious and insatiable nature of, well, CAPITALISM, would mean that if you want to watch anything other than mainstream content from the past 40 years or so then you are basically fcuked. Still, there are smaller streaming services available that attempt to offer a slightly more curated selection of films than Netflix et al – the latest of these is Galerie, billing itself as ‘a new type of film club’, which comes from a bunch of FAMOUS PEOPLE (Ethan Hawke! Maggie Gyllenhall! Wes Anderson!) and which, for $10 a month, will offer you essays and film screenings and exclusive content and – I presume you’ll also get a selection of actual films you can watch, otherwise it feels like something of an unsatisfying film club. Frankly details as to what EXACTLY you get for your money are sketchier than I’d like, but I suppose they’re hoping that the star power of ETHAN AND MAGGIE AND WES will get people paying up regardless.
  • The Museum of Menstruation: Before the Vagina Museum became an online cause celebre and got its permanent home in East London there was the Museum of Menstruation, a website created and maintained by one Harry Finlay – there was apparently also a physical version of the museum which existed, er, in Harry’s house (details on exhibits and visiting protocols are a bit sketchy, which, honestly, is a shame, as I have QUESTIONS), but the main bulk of his work is preserved on this site, which appears largely-unchanged since its early web heyday. There is a LOT of content on here, from a section of ‘famous women in ads for menstrual products’ to some really detailed information on how past cultures related to the concept of menstruation, but I really encourage you just to click and spelunk around and generally just enjoy the vibe of the site – and, if you do nothing else, PLEASE click here and read the ‘About’ page which, honestly, I think could possibly inspire a book or short film in itself.
  • The Natural Landscape Photography Awards 2023: Would you like to see some glorious photographs of our beautiful, dying planet? OF COURSE YOU WOULD! I am very much a sucker for this sort of environmental photography in which physical geography attains a sort of abstract quality; there are some images in here that remind me of paisley, almost, in terms of the way they use colour and geometry. My personal favourites here are the frankly ridiculous shots of burning lava from the Fagradalsfjall volcano, but, as ever, these are all rather wonderful.
  • Hope Sogni: ‘Football’ can probably be placed on the long list of ‘things which are conceptually good but which are increasingly being rendered bad by the actions of a small group of men’ – which is why this campaign exists. Hope Sogni is a fictional woman presenting her vision for the beautiful game – designed to be a contrast to the testosterone-y posturing of current FIFA President Gianni Infantino who’s in semi-dictatorial charge of the sport’s governing body for at least another 3.5 years. You can read a bit more about the campaign in this article, but the actual execution…oh, look, I don’t want to sh1t on poor Hope Sogni, but it’s all built on a platform called Twise which basically cobbles together a sub-GPT LLM and an Elevenlabs-esque voice model, and…it doesn’t really work to be honest. There’s meant to be the option to ‘talk’ to Hope using voice recognition, but the audio detection’s seemingly a bit iffy which means you’re effectively reduced to having a conversation with a chatbot which is obsessed with telling you about the importance of diversity in promoting the beautiful game. Which, you know, I agree with, but doesn’t feel like it needed an AI bot to communicate. This has all the hallmarks of an idea that smacked hard against the realities of TIME and BUDGET, which is something of a shame – it does, though, present a good argument as to why you shouldn’t do shonky ‘AI’ stuff as, well, it’s just a bit sad and disappointing.
  • The Information Is Beautiful Awards 2023: Want to see the year’s best examples of infoviz work, as selected by David McCandless and team? OF COURSE YOU DO! So many wonderful bits of design and visualisation here – many of which I’d seen over the course of the year, but the vast majority of which were entirely new to me. From pure dataviz to design to interactive webwork, the range of styles and techniques here is dizzying – my main takeaway was how much I want one of the Jesus Christ Superstar posters in my flat.
  • The Pudding Cup: I saw another one of those ‘wow the web has gotten really boring, what happened to websites, we used to have websites?’ Tweets yesterday doing numbers – approximately the seventh variant of that sentiment I’ve seen expressed in semi-viral terms over the past few months. On the one hand, I am sort-of glad that we’re seeing the pendulum of digital culture swing back towards the vague idea of ‘small and handmade and personal and fun’ as worth pursuing; on the other, HOW CAN YOU BE SO BLIND AND LAZY AND BOVINE AS TO THINK AND THEN TYPE SOMETHING LIKE THAT? THE WEB IS FULL OF BOUNDLESS CREATIVITY AND MAKING AND DOING AND WEIRD, MAD, HUMAN MESS! DO YOU NOT READ WEB CURIOS, YOU TOTAL CNUT?!?!? Ahem. Anyway, that’s by way of increasingly-spittle-flecked preamble to the sixth Pudding Cup (run by the people at Web Curios favourite The Pudding), which exists to celebrate non-commercial projects that can be described as ‘visual or data-driven’ – they are currently accepting entries, so if you have a site that fits the bill that you’d like to nominate then you should go right ahead and do just that.
  • Art Terms:Via Jared, an excellent resource from MOMA in NYC – ALL OF THE ART WORLD TERMS presented in helpful alphabetical order. Never again need you be lost for a definintion of Dadaism – instead, you’ll be peppering your conversation with references to the Harlem Renaissance and the Fluxus movement like some sort of awful gallerina (don’t, though, attempt the beret; NEVER attempt the beret).
  • FPV Cheffing: Fallow is a restaurant in the expensive London district of St James’ (it’s just round the corner from the Ritz, to give you an idea), and it’s pretty eye-bleedingly expensive (and, in case you care – which, fine, you don’t – it’s 100% not worth the money) and for a while now its kitchen has been doing a marketing gimmick where they chuck first-person video of its chefs during service. Someone straps a GoPro to their brow and records an hour or so of them, I don’t know, working the sauces station, or worrying at celeriac (I am yet to see anyone actually worrying at celeriacm, fyi). This is REALLY interesting for anyone who enjoys cooking and has a passing interest in the pro end of the talent spectrum – you will pick up some decent technical tips from this, and it’s pretty entertaining (if, again, you REALLY like cooking), but the main takeaway is that the reason everything tastes so nice in restaurants is the fact that it’s cooked in approximately a pack of butter per dish.
  • Gehry: Oh this is SO SO GOOD – a wonderful bit of scrollytelling (sorry) from Getty here, telling the story of the Gehry-designed Walt Disney Concert Hall in LA, from design to construction, accompanied by some wonderful music and access to all sorts of footage and archive material to tell the story. Gehry’s style is almost familiar now, so it’s nice to be reminded of quite how architecturally bold he was – this is such a glorious piece of multimedia storytelling and design (and I don’t care how old the term ‘multimedia’ makes me sound). BONUS SCROLLYTELLING: this piece about the James Webb telescope in the New York Times is also rather lovely and contains lots of gloriously-violet images of the cosmos.
  • BigRat: Yes, this is a single-page website. Yes, that page hosts only a single image. But WHAT an image. And what a big rat!

By Katrien de Blauwer



  • The Fine Water Academy: A few years ago I featured a longread in Curios all about the very specific and rarefied world of the water sommellier and the luxe H20 market – now I am proud to present to you the world’s PREMIERE organisation for the accreditation and recognition of aquatic expertise! The Fine Water Academy is a VERY SERIOUS institution, consisting of two water experts who are willing to share their hard-won expertise on all things watery…for a price. “We have been asked many times in the past to share our knowledge and excitement about Fine Waters. We have both done this through all possible media channels, from tastings to seminars, speeches and training. We both have an extensive online presence and knowledge base as well as and a large audience. The Fine Water Academy LMS (Learning Management System) will now allow us to do this in a structured way and educate and certify the next generation of Water Sommeliers and train HORECA for a proper water service. Anyone. Anywhere. Anytime.” Leaving aside the…slightly sinister vibe given off by the last three words there, and the frankly-risible concept of a somehow-bespoke ‘learning management system’ for, er, what water tastes like, this all seems like good, clean fun – for just $120 you can take their ‘Fine Water 101’ class, while a Water Service Certification is just a shade under $500. Prices to get certified as a Fine Water Sommelier (what do they wear instead of the grapes, do you think? A small silver water molecule?) are on application only, but, frankly, WHAT PRICE THAT SORT OF EXPERTISE?!?!
  • The Social Justice Kittens Calendar 2024:I don’t know about you, but it doesn’t feel to me as though the festive season has really started until I see the first mention of the Social Justice Kittens calendar for the coming year – 2024’s selection of cats saying preposterous things is a classic bunch, and I am already looking forward to enjoying next December alongside a sad-eyed kitten bearing the legend: “I exist in the space beyond your expectations. My queerness threatens your hierarchies”.
  • Dear AI: A personal, small, modern bugbear of mine – the death of epistolary correspondence. I don’t mean physical letters – there is literally noone left alive under the age of 50 with hands strong enough to compose more than approximately three lines of cursive, based on my own personal (painful) experiences last time I was forced to write anything in longhand – but even just the habit of long, rambling, one-side-then-the-other email chats has sort of died down. Or maybe I’m just a really fcuking boring correspondent, I don’t know (but if you *do* know, please don’t tell me). Anyway, if you need to write someone a letter or ‘proper’ missive, one that requires you to use all the letters and none of the emoji and to write in full sentences, then why not…outsource that to AI! Obviously this is a useless service that is just a GPT addon and which won’t exist in a few months’ time, but I found quite a few things to be sad about and hate here which I want to share with you because, well, that’s what I do.  The idea that you can ‘add a personal touch’ by integrating the recipient’s social channels into the response is SUCH a risibly bad and clunky idea – you just know that you’ll end up with something like “I find you so inspiring, like that post you made on Instagram about flowers!” – but the real, proper ‘oh god this really is so bleak’ moment came when I looked down the page at their proposed ‘coming soon’ features and discovered the promise of ‘Fully Automated Correspondence’, described as “Our AI agent learns who and what is meaningful to you and preemptively writes and sends letters without you having to lift a finger. So you can focus on what’s important to you.” So, er, WHAT IS THE POINT OF ME, THEN?! Does anyone really *want* a future in which The Machine does all the heavy lifting of, you know, communicating with the other people in one’s life? Eh? Oh, ok, fine.
  • TIME’s Top 100 Photos of 2023: TIME Magazine’s annual roundup of the best photojournalism from the past twelve months – these selections are always rather wonderful (if quite dizzying), and the range and breadth of topics and subjects covered this year is no exception. There’s a predictable quantity of human suffering on display – you may have heard, there are some wars going on – but many of the best shots are smaller and quieter; grapefruits split from crates in an earthquake’s aftermath, people watching Pride in New York, bulldozers moving in to level a German town…being alive is, mostly, maddening and awful and confusing and a bit scary, and these images capture all of that.
  • X100: Do you feel that there’s something holding you back from achieving your personal fitness goals? Is that something…COUNTING???? Well FEAR NOT, as x100 is here to help – never again need your prsuit of MASSIVE GAINS be stymied by pesky contiguous numbers! X100 is an app which, er, counts your reps – set it up so your workout station is within your phone camera’s field of vision, tell it how many lifts or squats or prolapses (can you tell I don’t gym?) you want to achieve and then OFF YOU GO, focusing on your posture and your technique and on not tearing anything and letting The Machine take care of the tricky business of remembering what comes after ‘17’.
  • Code For Text: Yes, ok, that’s not technically what this is called, but it doesn’t seem to have a proper name and it’s quite hard to describe and…you don’t care, do you? You just want me to get on and tell you what the fcuk this is, and stop with the tedious stream of consciousness authorial schtick? OH OK FINE. This is a link to a code project which basically exists to let you run analysis on words – to quote the project, it’s “a set of tools and standards -to mess with text. like a crowbar, for words. pull a chunk out- and get something back from your text.” So this will let you easily sort the adjectives or verbs from a corpus, say, or isolate sentences of particular length, or all sorts of other clever things which would otherwise be tricky or time-consuming – and none of which, fine, I can think of any practical NEED for, but I really like the idea of being able to have a setting on a website which (for example) removes all the adjectives at a click, to give you the most pared-back explanatory experience, say (actually that’s not a wholly terrible idea for a particular sort of company). If you do anything that involves wordwrangling then you might find this curious and vaguely-inspiring.
  • Italian Poetry: Via Giuseppe, Italian Poetry is a lovely little project by a MYSTERIOUS PERSON WHO LIKES POEMS and which self-describes as “my answer to the question: “If I were an English speaker trying to get an idea of how Italian poetry sounds, what tool would I like to have?” Well, I would like first of all to hear the poems recited out loud. Then I’d like an easy way to go back and forth between English and Italian without opening a dictionary. Also useful: some context on the choice of vocabulary, and maybe a guide to the most salient technical aspects of the Italian language.” The site presents a selection of poems which you can listen to and read along with – the words are highlighted as they’re spoken, making this helpful not only for poetry enthusiasts but also for anyone learning Italian and wanting help with listening comprehension or pronunciation – and the site’s seemingly updated regularly with new verse; this really is rather lovely.
  • Eternal Sunset: This is a nice idea which almost feels like it could be bigger – the website’s basic premise is that whenever you log on it will display a livestream of a sunset happening somewhere in the world (at the time of writing I’m enjoying a slightly-underwhelming one over Taipei, albeit one with a very pleasant lounge jazz soundtrack), but I would quite like to see this jazzed up slightly and, I don’t know, used as a premise for a wall in a bar or a meeting room or something. In fact, what this reminds me of most is an exhibition I saw at MOMA in San Francisco in about 2011 which pulled images of sunsets from Flickr – GOD I AM OLD. Anyway, this is pleasing and who doesn’t like a sunset? NO FCUKER, etc! This came via perennially-interesting Nag, btw.
  • Choose Your Own Threadventure: One of the curious things of having been A Weirdo Who Spends Far More Time Than Is Healthy Online for more than a decade now is that I am now starting to see past internet trends coming round for the third or fourth time (and this is one of the many, many reasons why I don’t want to live until I’m 100+ – can you imagine how incredibly fcuking tedious it must be watching the same arguments and conversations and trends and themes come back over and over and over again? It’s…it’s almost like we’re moronic hairless apes who will never learn!) – I’ve recently seen a spate of pieces talking about the TREND for old influencers on TikTok, just like we did on Insta in about 2012, and moral panics over THE KIDS and social media, just like we’ve been doing…well, annually, since about 2006 tbh, and here we have someone doing a Choose Your Own Adventure game… on Threads! Just like what we used to do on Twitter in 2015! And on YouTube in 2009 (RIP annotations)! Anyway, this works in exactly the same way as they did on Twitter, and it’s a gentle 5 minute timewaster with nice little graphics to accompany it, and if you’re in the invidious position of having to be in charge of some awful company’s pointless Threads presence then here’s an idea you can lob at your paymasters in order to maybe leaven the dreadful tedium of your professional existence for a few seconds.
  • The Ship Handling and Research Training Centre: I don’t mean to laugh at this – I don’t, really – and this is obviously no particular shade on Poland as I imagine that actually this is a pretty standard way of training ship’s captains in-waiting about the basics of maritime safety and seafaring, and I appreciate that this may still be the best way of doing this sort of educative work…but, also, just take a moment to imagine what you THINK a nation’s centre for training its future naval captains might be…are you imagining? ARE YOU? Good. Now click the link, Now click around the site. Now…now try not to laugh as you understand the scale at which this is all operating at. Honestly, I have cried actual tears of laughter every time I’ve clicked on this.
  • Nights on Earth: This is SUCH a great website, and is definitely worth bookmarking if you’re the sort of person who likes craning their neck to look at the sky at night – Nights On Earth is a calendar website which, based on where it thinks you are, will give you a reasonable idea of what sorts of things you might expect to see in the firmament (presuming you’re living somewhere without light pollution, or clouds). If nothing else it’s worth looking at before you go on holiday – you’d be surprised (or maybe you wouldn’t, I don’t know you or indeed your level of familiarity with astrology, who ARE you?) at the frequency with which visible meteor showers happen in parts of the world that aren’t the UK (although apparently we might be able to see shooting stars in London on Tuesday, so shut my face).
  • Closer: With the holiday season coming up, those of you whose relatives aren’t all mostly dead will likely be spending it with family – if you’re after a game to play which might BRING YOU CLOSER and HELP YOU LEARN AND GROW then, well, you’re a very different sort of person to me and we probably wouldn’t really get on, but, also, you might like Closer, a card game which is designed to, er, bring its participants closer (DO YOU SEE?) via the medium of asking everyone playing to share personal stories based on prompts and themes suggested by the cards – players vote on which stories were ‘best’ to add a small element of competition to the whole affair, but as far as I can tell this is mainly about giving everyone an opportunity to share stories and REFLECT and stuff like that. I would imagine that the likely appeal of this will be split pretty much along national lines, with North Americans (and frankly most of the rest of the world) approaching this with healthy interest, and the English instead thinking ‘the only way I could possibly countenance playing this is if I were very drunk, and if that happened it would inevitably end in murder or divorce’, but see what you think.
  • Retro: YES I KNOW NOONE WANTS ANOTHER PHOTO SHARING APP…but, in its defence, I think Retro looks reasonably interesting. As far as I can tell, its particular gimmick is that it encourages you to upload photos into weekly albums which you can share with friends and family – it’s designed to be a known-network rather than a ‘strangers and the world’ platform, and there’s something rather nice about the idea of using it as a small, shared visual diary and a light-touch way of keeping in touch. Admittedly there’s little here that you couldn’t probably also achieve with a bunch of other existing apps but, well, I quite like the feel of this for reasons I can’t quite articulate.
  • Plotthread: You know the ‘Wall’ game from Only Connect? Or, for the arrivistes among you, the NYT’s daily ‘Connections’ game? Well it’s that, but for films – you have 16 films each day and you need to group them by common plot thread. Given my previously-chronicled lack of interest in cinema this is basically the quiz equivalent of quantum physics for me, but you may have more success.
  • DoodleRiddle: This is an interesting idea – the game here is to draw something, anything, which is then compared against what that day’s target object is. How much does The Machine think the thing you have drawn looks like the thing it wants you to draw, and can you use that information to get closer to drawing what it wants you too? Which, dear Christ, is a truly appalling attempt at explaining how the fcuk this works. Sorry. You’ll just have to click the link and play – it’s fun, promise, although it’s also totally fcuking impossible if you ask me.
  • The Roottrees Are Dead: Ooh, this is fun – and has a slight whiff of cult 90s police procedural videogame (and covert recruiting device for the LAPD) Police Quest for good measure. In The Roottrees Are Dead, you play as a detective investigating the demise of the titular family – your job is to examine the evidence, do some light sleuthing and piece together the pieces of the mystery to discover what happened. “The year is 1998. A private jet belonging to the Roottree Corporation has crashed. On it were The Roottree Sisters and their parents. Combined, they were worth over a billion dollars. Now, due to the eccentricities of their great, great grandfather, Elias their money must be redistributed to the rest of the family. But who’s actually a BLOOD RELATIVE? That’s where you come in. Armed only with the power of your mighty dial-up modem, you’ll scour for photos, books, articles, and other evidence. Then, you’ll make connections and deductions based on the family relationships you uncover. With every spot on the tree you fill in correctly the names and photos left in your possession will have fewer and fewer places to go, but the evidence will also be harder and more obscure to find.” This really is very good indeed, and suprisingly involved – I won’t say it’s hard, exactly, but I had to think more than I have had to do in most white collar desk jobs I’ve ever had.
  • A Bull In A China Shop: You are a bull, You have 20s to smash as much crockery as you can. BULL SMASH!
  • Dr Ludwig and the Devil: The winner of this year’s Interactive Fiction Contest (which I seem to have unaccountably missed, FFS Matt!) is this charming and very funny text adventure in which you play Dr Ludwig who has, possibly unwisely, summoned the devil. “Join esteemed mad scientist Dr Ludwig as he faces the greatest challenge of his nefarious career: making a deal with the Devil and coming out on top. Research demonology! Read legal documents! Face off against the world’s least effective torch and pitchfork-wielding mob! All this and more!” This is excellent, and the amount of attention to detail alongside the quality of the writing make it a real gem, even if you’re not a particular fan of IF and text adventures as a rule.
  • Dreamcore 95: Finally this week, an idle clicker game of genuinely exceptional quality – it has a soundtrack! It has actual, light gameplay elements! It has penguins and dolphins and palm trees, and a genuinely-soothing vaporwave aesthetic! It’s basically a bit like a bath bomb for your brain, except with the added benefit of not smelling like the inside of Lush!

By Boris Pelcer




  • ArcX1000: I don’t tend to feature meme or ‘aesthetic’ accounts on here, but I will make an exception for this, partly because I just like the vibe and partly because of this specific image which speaks to me in ways I can’t adequately explain to you.
  • PaperMeister Hackney: The Insta feed of a bloke in Hackney who has, apparently, the largest rolling paper collection known to man. Why? I HAVE NO FCUKING IDEA WHY NOT ASK HIM? Lots of photos of obscure international rolling paper brands interspersed with unremarkable photography of Being A Young Man In Hackney makes this feel weirdly like a fashion lookbook, and I rather like it.


  • Logic Is Reality: My first year of undergraduate study were characterised largely by indolence and uncertainty – I did fcuk-all work, obviously, and I wasn’t entirely certain that I wanted to be at university anyway. My ambivalence was such that when I got to the end of the first year I decided that the fate of my entire degree rested on the result of my ‘Introduction to Formal Logic’ exam, a subject that I had…struggled with, and which I felt broadly embodied my struggle to really give a fcuk about what I was meant to be there to study. If I passed formal logic, I went on and did the second and third year of my degree; if I failed, I quit and moved to London to live with my Dad and seek my fortune (my dad, his wife and their family had not been informed of this decision, but obvs they would be thrilled). Results came out and it transpired that I had achieved the miserable, pathetic, lowest-possible pass of 40%, condemning me to two more years of rain-drenched academic mediocrity and depriving London of my presence for a while longer (London, it turns out, could not have given less of a sh1t either way). Which is by way of long, unasked for and entirely-uninteresting preamble to this excellent article which neatly sets out why logic is THE FUNDAMENTAL BUILDING BLOCKS OF EVERYTHING and which I really do recommend to anyone who’s not already familiar with the field. Despite the fact that this is an area of thinking which is, if I’m honest, far too close in nature to maths for me to ever feel comfortable with it, and despite my p1ss-poor exam performance, I’ve found what little logic I have retained immensely useful in life – if nothing else, in an age in which so much of what we experience is dgitally mediated it feels sort-of important to get a vague handle on the rules that underpin every single aspect of ‘digital life’ and without which you wouldn’t be reading these words right now.
  • The OpenAI Thing: In a year which has already been a bit of a nightmare from the point of view of ‘attempting to keep up with tech news’, last weekend was very much a new nadir – not least because it suggested that as a culture we have learned the sum total of fcuk all lessons from the past couple of decades of ‘treating people who have earned a lot of money in tech as though they are visionary gods who have the secrets of the universe at their fingertips and following their every move and utterance with the same degree of rapt revenance as was once reserved for the scrying of entrails’. I personally am singularly uninterested in the boardroom power struggles at the top of OpenAI, but if you really want a one-stop-overview of EVERYTHING THAT HAPPENS and WHAT IT ALL MEANS (at least up to about 22 November) then you could do worse than read this very readable summary by Paris Marx which cocks a reasonable snook at the whole thing, while neatly explaining why this is probably very good news for Microsoft and anyone who’s bullish on AI.
  • The Billionaire Problem: On the one hand, an article whose central premises are ‘hang on, maybe it’s not strictly necessary for any single individual to amass a quantity of wealth so vast it could never be spent’ and ‘hm, maybe being that rich does not-generally-wonderful things to people in terms of empathy’ probably doesn’y really need to be written in the here and now (although on reflection the fact that despite…well, despite EVERYTHING there are still people caping for the plutocrat class perhaps suggests that the message could do with reinforcing; on the other, this is a readable (if occasionally a *touch* precious in tone) overview of all the reasons why being a billionaire is BAD, written by Geoff Mulgan who has known a few and therefore HAS OPINIONS.
  • The TikTok Osama Thing: Did TikTok send Osama Bin Laden’s 2002 ‘Letter To America’ viral among teens? No, not really, but that didn’t stop that angle being reported all over the place for about 48h, thereby neatly Streisand-ing the issue into the popular consciousness and ensuring that Bin Laden was current again for the first time since he got shot a few years back. This link is to Ryan at Garbage Day who devoted a whole edition to investigating how ‘viral’ the whole thing ever got on TikTok – the main point of this, to my mind at least, is less the general ‘the media makes a thing on TikTok seem far bigger than it is in pursuit of a story’ and more the deeper ‘it is literally impossible to have any idea any more what anyone is watching or listening to, or where they are getting their news, or what they are being told is true, or by whom, or why, and frankly that feels quite unsettling in a way that feels weirdly new’.
  • Del Harvey Speaks: Del Harvey was Head of Trust and Safety at Twitter up until a few years ago – this is her first interview since she left the post, and it’s a great read for anyone interested in the difficult, important and far-from-decided questions around platform moderation and ‘free speech’ and the boring, technical, practical ways in which you try and manage the behaviour of millions of people in a way that balances rights and responsibilities…I found this fascinating, and it made me really really wish that I had worked with or for the interviewee (or, frankly, just anyone that smart).
  • The Cameras Are Too Good: On the very modern, very first world problem of smartphone cameras now basically being TOO GOOD, and the fact that they basically now give every single one of us the same kick in the metaphorical self-esteem gonads experienced by famouses when they saw themselves in HD for the first time. Interesting partly because it’s relatable – we all love relatable content, right kids?! – and partly because it feels like this is a new but emergent category of ‘problem’ where the increased speed or fidelity or frictionlessness of products or services throws up unexpected wrinkles in the user experience.
  • The Machine Killer: Or, “How AI Coming To Search Is Going To Fcuk Journalism”, specifically games journalism per this article, but, frankly, lots of other bits of it as well. This is a really good piece, mainly because it takes the time to talk through the logical steps of what ‘LLM-enabled search results’ means for the publishing industry as it’s currently set up and why it’s bad – and why that means a necessary move towards subscription models, a trend which I think we can all agree is firmly in-train thanks to 404 Media, Second Wind and the rest.
  • The Haunting of Modern China: A beautiful bit of writing about the changing way in which urban and rural populations in China deal with the concept of ghosts and the supernatural, and how an increasingly-technological and sanitised and isolated style of urban life is leading to a rise in superstitious beliefs and interest in the paranormal amongst city dwellers; there’s something ghostly about the piece itself, in places.
  • The Year in TikTok Drama: I’m including this mainly as a) who doesn’t love a little bit of gossip? This is literally like finding a copy of ‘Closer’ or ‘Chat’ on the train and reading it – you don’t know who anyone is, fine, or why they have all chosen to buy the same face from the plastic surgeon, but for the 15 minutes you’re reading you are WHOLLY INVESTED in whether or not Kayrin is going to give Andrey another chance; and b) because it was a nice reminder that however weird and pointless and exhausting and dispiriting your job may be, at least you’re not the person who has to spend their days and nights keeping up with the TikTok Industrial Beef Complex for a living, because DEAR GOD CAN YOU IMAGINE?
  • TikTok P1ssers: Callum Booth doing god’s work here, digging into the apparent (thankfully niche) trend that has seen men filming themselves on TikTok p1ssing absolutely EVERYWHERE. It’s fair to say that there are no great revelations here, but, well, it’s sort of compellingly-dreadful.
  • The Sound Of Your Voice: I think I first heard of the trend for using WhatsApp voicenotes as a means of communication in about 2014, in a piece about how it was taking off in Brazil – I recall thinking at the time that that sounded VILE, and nothing about the current state of the world, in which people think it absolutely fine to just leave you a three minute voicemail like it’s the most natural thing in the world and you don’t have better things to do with your life, has changed my mind. Except, well, there are some people who it’s obviously really nice to receive voice notes from, and certain tones and nuances of conversation that simply don’t get conveyed in text, and sometimes hearing someone’s voice is just *better*…this is a gorgeous article by Erica Berry about a friendship that exists solely as voicenotes, about how “In that contained space, floating in the digital world, I’m more able to be myself. It’s something about not being physically seen. Like asking someone to turn their head in the other direction when we sing.”
  • Click Pray Chat: Another piece from Dirt now (currently publishing some superb writing about digital/culture), this is a paean to Chatroulette and the beautiful, temporary, evanescent moments of connection forged between the bored, the drunk, the horny and the terminally-online in the pale blue glow of a 3am laptop screen.
  • The Strangest Gift Ideas of 2023: Leaving aside my personal sense of horror at a world in which we can simultaneously talk nervously and anxiously about our constant and repeated failure to hit climate change targets AND spend several months of the year encouraging the creation and eventual disposal of several million tonnes of plastic tat, there is always something pleasing about a good old list of ‘weird sht available to buy from obscure corners of the internet’, and this is no exception. Whilst obviously I am a joyless husk of a man who hates Christmas and basically just wants to hibernate until March, I can’t help but feel a small frisson of joy at the fact that it is apparently possible to buy ‘Heroin Smell’ online and apply it to someone’s suitcase to ensure that they have a VERY UNPLEASANT TIME at the next major airport they visit, or a small scale model of the naked torso of Jason Statham (with or without tattoos). This is both a GREAT list and a source of content for every single groupchat you’re in between now and Christmas Eve.
  • Can’t You Take A Joke: Jonathan Coe reviews A History of British Comedy by David Stubbs in the LRB, and in so doing takes the reader on a whistlestop tour of the postwar entertainment landscape in the UK, through the postwar vaudevillians to Ealing, to the Goons and Python and the alternative scene of the 80s and beyond –  this in particular made me fall into a short reverie to imagine what the current equivalent would be…it would be Gervais, wouldn’t it? “By the early 1980s, however, voting Conservative had become a more strident ideological statement than it had been during the previous decades. The Young Conservatives’ conference during the 1983 general election campaign offered the unappealing spectacle of Kenny Everett, wearing a pair of gigantic foam-rubber gloves, bounding on stage and shouting ‘Let’s bomb Russia!’ and ‘Let’s kick Michael Foot’s stick away!’” This is a bit parochially English, so apologies to all the people from other countries who will read this and, not unreasonably, wonder who the fcuk Eric Morecombe is and why they should care.
  • Bravocon: By way of redress and counterbalance, I don’t think there is ANYTHING more North American in this week’s Curios than this profile of Bravocon, a multi-day event in Vegas which exists to celebrate (and further monetise) the network of shows run by the Bravo TV Network which boasts the ‘Real Housewives Of…’shows and which seemingly exists as a sort of mad chardonnay-and-tweakments WWE of domestic kayfabe and inexplicable arguments and premium mediocre product endorsements. I confess to understanding about 7% of what is happening or who any of the people mentioned in this piece are, but it does feel rather zeitgeisty in terms of the whole ‘product and artist and audience and content, and the weird and increasingly symbiotic relationship between each of those elements in the world of parasocial fandom’.
  • The 56 Best/Worst Analogies Written by High School Students: Yes, yes, I know – you’re rolling your eyes at the prospect of a cutesy ‘kids say the funniest things!’ lineup, I can tell, but DO NOT BE SO QUICK TO JUDGE. These are BRILLIANT, and you will want to work at least one of these into a conversation before the end of the year.
  • Williamstown, Summer 2003: This is short – more a fragment or vignette than a fully-fledged story – but it is BEAUTIFUL. “We had famous on credit: Chris’s dad was on the TV show Chips, Katherine’s dad was on Law & Order, my dad was dead, six years, famously dead—rapt audience every time I told it.”
  • Patricia Lockwood Meets The Pope: It’s Lockwood, it’s superb, what do I need to say? So many wonderful lines, such wonderful STYLE, and, annoyingly, a pretty much perfect ratio of gags-to-profundity. Also, the closing line will change the way you think of the Pope’s face forever (or at least it will if you’re me).
  • The Hofmann Wobble: Our last longread of the week is possibly the best thing I’ve read all year – novel, article, whatever, this is just superb. I don’t think I have ever read anything by Ben Lerner that isn’t exceptional, and this is another practically-perfect piece of writing from someone who seems to never miss; I mean, look at this third sentence, the ‘wrongly’ just casually fcuking with you: “I remember, wrongly, that I was listening to a book on tape, a work by a prominent linguist, as I moved through the alien landscape, jagged formations of red rock towering against a cloudless sky.” This is about writing and information and truth and ‘truth’ and ideas and thinking and how language and words work, and contains the single best use of GPT-generated copy (or is it GPT-generated) I have yet seen. This is astonishingly, perfectly good, please read it.

By Lui Ferreyra