Webcurios 25/03/22

Reading Time: 37 minutes

Those of you reading Curios in the UK are still likely reeling from the staggering realisation that the Conservative chancellor who’s married to the child of a literal billionaire doesn’t perhaps give a flying fcuk about the lives of the poor! I know, I was shocked too!

Those of you reading elsewhere will likely have had your own similarly-seismic damascene moments this week, but I have no idea what they might be. Sorry.

Look, everyone, I need a break. And so I am taking one! Curios will go on holiday for a week, as my girlfriend is (barring mishaps) coming to visit for a few days tomorrow and as such I will hopefully have marginally better things to do with my time than stare unblinkingly at a screen while tears course down my cheeks.

I will be back with more words and links in a fortnight – til then, though, rest assured that this is a particularly fine clutch of URLs this week, accompanied by prose which, sadly, is the same poor quality swill that I always shovel your way (I may not be good, but I am remarkably consistent).

I am still Matt, this is still Web Curios, and you will almost certainly not miss me while I am gone.

By Christopher Burke



  • Metaculus: What’s the most common shared human interest, do you think? Is it sex? Is it food? Is it ‘sitting in front of screens and hoping against hope that the pretty pictures will make the thinking stop’? In the absence of better suggestions, I might argue that the past two years have proved that it is in fact ‘making spurious predictions about how things are going to go based on no real knowledge or understanding of the wider circumstances but with a nonetheless-incredible degree of confidence in our own abilities to scry the future’ – which is where Metaculus comes in. “Metaculus is a community dedicated to generating accurate predictions about future real-world events by aggregating the collective wisdom, insight, and intelligence of its participants. Users can track their predictions, earn points and powers, and hone their forecasting skills. Do you have what it takes to be a super predictor? We hope you’ll join today!” Obviously what this currently boils down to is LOADS of people making and debating all sorts of prognostications on covid (I realised this week that it’s been two fcuking years of this bloody virus and I still haven’t settled on a house style for writing it – correctness be damned, from hereon in it’s just ‘covid’), the war in Ukraine, global politics (well, mainly US politics, fine), and a bunch of other things. According to the mysterious, faceless people calling the odds on Metaculus we can rest assured that there is only a 20% chance of Trump getting reelected in 2024 (but then again we listened to Nate Silver last time and look where that got us), and a 5% chance of a no-fly zone being declared over Ukraine. No idea at all where people are getting these numbers from (though I have one or two ideas *cough their ar$ses cough*), but there are comment threads under each prediction should you fancy really delving into the opinions of a bunch of amateur analysts. There’s actually loads of really interesting stuff here if you can get past the slightly-cold horror of people blithely chatting about likelihood of world-annihilating nuclear conflict being on the cards by Christmas (don’t worry, everyone, the anonymous internet people say it’s only about 2%, we’ll be fine!).
  • The Sound of Love: No, not like that. When did YouTube comments stop being ‘the worst place on the internet’ and instead become a surprisingly-positive home for hopes and dreams and emotionally-excoriating memories of love lost and found? Fcuk knows, but thankfully they did – this site takes the ‘insight’ (lol) that a surprisingly-large number of people use YT comments under music videos as a place to cathart about their emotional reactions to songs, and presents you with a selection of tracks which you can listen to as you read a single person’s love-related memory of it. Every single one of these is a novel waiting to be unpacked in your head – I opened this as a reminder whilst writing just now, and got served up the Spiritualised track ‘Ladies And Gentlemen…’, off the eponymous album, along with a memory which reads: “when face to face with tears. I still remember those early days in London. I still remember the look on your face when I smuggled those pills into your first rave. I still remember the way you used to kiss me amidst the lazers while high on E and I certainly remember the night that I played this song to you. Over and over again while you sat on my bed smoking joint after joint with me and laughing at how I sung this song to you, on loop, for what I remember to be an entire night of happiness that I still remember vividly to this day. I will love you till I die and I will.. but I am sorry it didn’t take the pain away. At that moment I was confident it would. My heart was in the right place. I know for that night your heart was there too. Please don’t think I don’t have any happy memories of you.” And if that doesn’t break your heart and make you immediately click this link and explore sad memories of other people’s past loves then, well, I don’t understand you at all.
  • BeReal: A NEW BUZZY APP! Not 100% convinced that this is anything other than a brief, buzzy flash-in-the-pan, but it’s a really interesting idea nonetheless. BeReal’s ‘thing’ is simple – the app lets you post one pair of photos a day, and you have to do it WHEN IT TELLS YOU TO. Once a day you’ll be sent a prompt by the app, giving you a set amount of time to share a photo both of what you can see and your face when you’re seeing it (you can post your daily images outside of the window, but the app makes it VERY CLEAR that you were playing fast and loose with its rules, and flags exactly how late the posting was) – the idea is that it prompts UNFILTERED SHARING and REAL MOMENTS from REAL LIFE, as an alternative to the ultracurated Insta feeds we’ve all apparently gotten so bored with (but, hang on, hadn’t we done away with ultracurated Instafeeds? Aren’t you all just posting pictures of yourselves sweating comedownishly amongst half-empty packets of Space Raiders, corner shop energy drink and licked-clean wraps? WHAT HAPPENED TO GOBLIN MODE? So confusing). If you want TRENDS here, this has it in spades – a shared moment of daily ritual! Realness! No ‘likes’! – and there’s something interesting about it’s theoretical ability to capture snapshots of what swathes of people are all doing at any one given time. There’s a reasonable overview of the app here – I would like to share with you the final lines of it, as it feels almost-perfectly modern: ““If it was my wake, and someone was like, ‘Oh my god, it’s time to BeReal,’ and all my friends came up and got a picture of a single tear falling down and a picture of the casket, that’s truly honoring my legacy,” Cafarella said. “They would be completely in the right for that.”” And which of us, really, could argue with that? NO FCUKER, that’s who!
  • Think In Colour: What would your personality look like if you attempted to visualise it? A bounding, slightly-dumb hound? A tall, terrifying obsidian monolith, gleaming with malice? An unassuming, dun-coloured mass with all the visual appeal of a carcinoma? No! It would look like a seashell, apparently, or at least it would according to this personality-visualisation tool thingy built by Belgian current affairs weekly magazine Knack – answer a series of questions about your attitudes to various questions (‘do you feel empathy or laugh when other people hurt themselves?’, say, or  ‘do you shout at strangers on the internet for fun?’, that sort of thing) and, as you do so, see the amorphous personalityblob begin to take shape, taking on various colourways and protrusions depending on your answers. At the end you’ll be granted an assessment of your personality based on your perceived open-mindedness, empathy, curiosity, etc. You may or may not be surprised to learn that I scored high on the first and last of those three and…not so much on the middle one, suggesting that I’m very much your man if you want to tell me about whatever weird, obscure sh1t you’re into, but that I am very much not your man if you want me to sympathise with whatever horrific genital injuries you sustain whilst doing it. SHARE YOUR EMOTIONAL SEASHELLS WITH THE WORLD!
  • Tacu: Or, in words that actually mean something, ‘a web-based tool that lets you share your screen with anyone using a single url, which you definitely shouldn’t use to, say, illegally watch films or sport or whatever with a wider audience than the rights holders might have intended you to’. Works EXACTLY like all the enterprise software versions of this stuff that you know and hate (oh hi Teams, you horrible piece of sh1t bloatware!) but it’s open source and free and just works, as far as I can tell. Web Curios obviously in no way suggests you use this to, for example, share illegal streams of the football with the world, oh no siree.
  • The Brutalist Report: Not, sadly, a digest of brutalist-themed news (“Concrete Still Great, Survey Finds”! “‘No More Glass, We Want Looming Grey Hulks”, Say London Residents”!), but instead a newsfeed aggregator which does a nice job of stripping everything back and presenting you with a truly terrifying array of latest news headlines from a staggering range of sources. Not a new thing – I’ve featured things like this before – but the design is clean and not too eye-fcuking, which is important with something like this where you’ve got a LOT of different information fighting for your attention. Bookmark this – I promise you, even if you find it overwhelming, the fact that it includes such a vast array of sources means that it’s the best antidote I’m aware of to the dullard’s cry of  ‘I’m bored and have nothing to read online”.
  • Creatives Rebuilding New York: I’m only aware of one New York-based artist who reads Web Curios (NO WONDER THE SCENE IS SO STAGNANT), so this is for them and them alone. “Artists are also critical to the health of our economy. Arts and culture contribute $120 billion to New York State’s economy and are a main driver of the state’s $177 billion tourism industry. The sector also accounts for nearly half a million jobs. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, however, New York State lost 50 percent of its performing arts jobs over the course of 2020. In New York City, the figure is 72 percent—more than any other industry. To fully recover the health of our economy and our communities, we must place artists at the center of large-scale investment and relief efforts. Creatives Rebuild New York (CRNY) was conceived to do just that. CRNY is a three-year, $125 million investment in the financial stability of New York State artists and the organizations that employ them. CRNY will provide guaranteed income and employment opportunities for 2,700 artists whose primary residence is in New York State. These two programs will work to alleviate unemployment of artists, continue the creative work of artists in partnership with organizations and their communities, and enable artists to continue working and living in New York State under less financial strain.” This is backed to the tune of $115m by the Andrew Mellon foundation, with a couple of others chucking in $5m each – honestly, presuming that this is all distributed equitably and there’s nothing dodgy about the way in which applicants are assessed, then this is SUCH a wonderful idea. Can you imagine this happening in the UK? Sadly, not so much – despite the fact that (to pull some names out of a hat for a second) Damien Hirst, Elton John, Ed Sheeran and Andrew Lloyd Webber, for example, could find that sort of money down the back of their respective sofas.
  • Stream Club: MORE STREAMING! This is a bit like Mmhmm but, afaict, a bit newer, scrappier and cheaper – the deal, though, is broadly the same, insofar as Stream Club offers you a bunch of useful tools and widgets to do better, fancier-looking multiperson, multimedia livestreams, combining all sorts of useful-looking graphical flourishes which you can export to all the platforms you’d expect (Twitch, Twitter, FB, YouTube, you get the idea). On the one hand, we’ve all been doing this sort of stuff for a couple of years now (well, you have; I still hate my face so much that I refuse to put it onscreen, but hopefully you have less of a miserable and conflicted relationship with your own likeness) and so you might reasonably-expect that everyone who wanted to stream stuff had worked out how to do it to their liking by now; on the other, Web Curios has never particularly worried about being behind the times, so for those of you still trying to work out how to bring that AMAZING idea you had for ‘a podcast, yeah, but we’ll be on-camera too because that’s better!’ to life then, well, fill your videoboots.
  • MediaSynthesis: I know I type variants on these words seemingly every week (and so should you by now; why you keep reading them is a mystery to me to be honest), but it’s astonishing to me the speed at which we move from ‘oh wow that is basically witchcraft’ to ‘no this is old and played out and I tire of it, remove it from my sight for it provokes wonder no longer’ – this is particularly pronounced when it comes to AI-generated artgubbins, with stuff that elicited gasps of wonder a few short months ago (“You type in words and it imagines what they might look like??? Go on, tell it to imagine “tentacle flesh bongo”!”) now earning little more than a slightly-raised eyebrow and a faint huff of ennui. MediaSynthesis a subReddit collecting various people’s efforts at producing interesting and unusual outputs from a variety of different training models (some, like WomboDream, which I’ve featured in here before) – there’s a wonderful range of prompts and resultant images on display, though it’s noticeable the extent to which the aesthetic in all of them is recognisably-linked regardless of what software’s being used to spit them out… My main takeaway from this is that this stuff is a) not going to be exciting at all in a year or so’s time; and b) we are about…two years(?) from a significant amount of spec artwork and photoshop being done entirely by this sort of software.
  • Web2/Web3Bot: “A GPT-3 bot trying to figure out the difference between web2 & web3”, this spits out a regular stream of “Tired vs Wired”-style comparisons between the two ideas. Which are obviously all sort-of gibberish, and yet at the same time seem to be getting quite good at producing pithy little aphorisms like “web2: one-time event; web3: community” or “web2: business efficiency; web3: human flourishing”. With a bit of tweaking you could probably churn out a half-decent Web3 manifesto using this stuff (by ‘half-decent’ I obviously mean ‘empty and meaningless, but so are most people involved in hyping this up and so it’s unlikely anyone will be able to tell’).
  • The MandelaVerse: I had thought, prior to seeing this, that Nelson Mandela’s legacy and place in history were secured and largely-untarnishable – I hadn’t reckoned with the incredible grift that is THE MANDELAVERSE, though. I don’t quite know where to begin with this – it’s seemingly linked to the Mandela Education Programme, which certainly sounds like a real thing (although the link at the footer of the site which purports to go to the Education Programme instead takes you to a page all about Mandela Day on 18 July, which, well, doesn’t actually seem to have anything to do with education at all), and the liberal use of Mandela’s name and likeness all over the site lead me to believe that this is in some way an ‘official’ use of his image rights, but, well, whilst I didn’t personally know the man, I don’t know whether I would have pegged him as the sort of guy who, were he still alive, would, be bang into crypto. The project’s tagline, almost-unforgivably, seems to be ‘A Long Walk To Meta’ which, honestly, I can’t even. Still, maybe it will all make sense when we read the copy? “Welcome to the Mandelaverse, a space created by, and in support of, the Mandela education programme – an initiative to expand access to books and the Mandela digital learning platform to children in Africa and beyond. It is here that we will amplify voices, connect a global community through storytelling, and uphold the legacy, principles, and values of a revolutionary man.” Hm, well, ok, supporting a worldwide education programme, sounds good… “A token to unlock the future of education and equitable change for a new generation. Madiba Genesis Vol i is an expression of hope that explores the developing intersection of the african diaspora with technology. Modeled to pay it forward through the belief that equity leads to liberation, web3 is a radical blank canvas that allows our community to create a new world through systemic change. guided by the principles and virtues of Nelson Mandela, Mandelaverse aims to emerge as a platform for African multidisciplinary artists, voices, and movements.” Oh. Oh dear. Amusingly, the first 100 NFTs that are being minted will…grant their owners to a VIP Gala event in New York, replete with A-Listers! Yep, that’s that ‘community’ in action, right there! Look, maybe the Mandela family is onto something here, and maybe this is the sort of new charitable fundraising structure that will carry us all into a better future, raising up the most-deprived around the world through the magnificent, decentralised power of THE BLOCKCHAIN! I…I don’t have a huge degree of confidence that that will be the case, but PROVE ME WRONG, MANDELACOIN!
  • Bobu Azuki: This feels…sort-of interesting, though. Bobo Azuki is a pixelart ‘character’ with a limited backstory, effectively a blank narrative slate waiting to be drawn on. Ownership of Bobo Azuki tokens confer voting rights on the direction of the character in whatever future iterations of this IP may result – so you get to determine Bobo’s backstory, how he presents himself, but also how he’s marketed and what the roadmap is for promoting him and the wider Azuki narrative ecosystem…look, obviously there’s a certain (very real) level on which ‘pay not-insignificant amounts of environment-ruining digital magic beans for the right to determine the future narrative direction of an utterly-unremarkable 8-bit sprite’ that is, objectively, utterly-moronic, and, as ever, there doesn’t seem to be any absolute objective need for any of this to be on the fcuking blockchain, but I continue to be interested in the governance and shared ownership side of the NFT/DAO thing (even if, to reiterate, I do not think we are all going to be clamouring for Netflix to bring out Bobo Azuki: The Movie anytime soon).
  • Unhuman: This is a project which was sent to me by its creator, Damjanski, with whom I had an interesting chat about the whys and wherefores – it’s mobile-only, but visiting the site on your phone will let you create a one-of-a-kind algogenerated image-artwork, based on digital manipulation and interpretation of whatever’s captured by your device’s camera. Said digitally-manipulated output then becomes available for you to mint, becoming a one-of-a-kind NFT which in itself is a part of the wider, 777-piece work called ‘Unhuman’, which collects all of them on a single chain. Damjanksi described it to me thusly: “In ‘Unhuman Composition’, my first dapp (decentralized app), I am merging these two streams and include the audience into the making process of a new series called ‘Unhuman Compositions’. Every participant creates their own ‘Unhuman Composition’ that will be added to the collection & is fully stored and rendered on chain. It ties everyone together in a wider performance that is recorded on the blockchain. So without people participating this piece wouldn’t exist.” When I quizzed them about ‘yeah, but why does this have to be on the blockchain, though?’ they disarmingly responded with ‘because I would like to get paid please’, which, honestly, I respect quite a lot. If YOU fancy dropping 0.1ETH on your very own bespoke NFT artwork, and by so doing contribute both to the genesis of the wider Unhuman piece AND to Damjanski keeping themselves in ramen and bongo (NB – this is just a guess) then fill your boots.
  • The Fleur: Another NFT art set, this is marginally more aesthetically interesting than most – the AI-generated flowers here are quite beautiful, in a slight ‘they look like the fauna from Avatar’-type way (wow, literally had not thought about that film since I saw it 15-odd years ago, thanks brain!). Each is obviously available for sale, but tbh I am more interested by the look of the generated blooms than I am by their NFT-ness; if I were to quibble, I’d say that they’ve played it a bit straight with the descriptions here – the names are good (‘Vomitus Flos’, anyone?), but I want a bit more algoweirdness in my copy please thankyou – but, honestly, these look quite cool to my mind.
  • Walking On Mars: The second ‘a catwalk fashion show, but in CG!’ that I have seen this year, making this an OFFICIAL TREND – this is by Chinese (I think) clothing brand (or store? Look, sorry, it’s all in Chinese and Google won’t translate it, so my interpretation is…loose, to say the least) SKP, and I like this because its aesthetic can basically be summarises as ‘brutalist wip3out Neuromancer’ and I am here for that ALL DAY.
  • Online Tarot: I appreciate that many of us are increasingly comfortable with ideas of THE OCCULT and WITCHCRAFT and dear God if I hear one more person talking about fcuking manifesting I swear I will do a crime – if YOU, dear reader, are the sort of person who worries whether Mercury is in fact in retrograde (I’ll be honest with you – literally no idea what that is even MEANT to mean) and all that jazz then you might enjoy this online Tarot reading tool, which asks you to give it your name (or the name of someone else, should you want the cards to speculate on THEIR fate rather than your own), the question that you would like to ask of the cards, and then to pick three from the splayed deck it arrays before you. Pick your cards, and then let the AI spit out a bunch of predictions for your past, present and future. This is neatly-done – the content of your question gets worked into your answer (I presume there’s some GPT-x under the hood somewhere), meaning that the analysis at least sounds vaguely coherent. Still, wouldn’t go basing too many big life decisions on this – stick to the horoscopes, they’re much more accurate.
  • Tales: Not the first service of this ilk that I’ve found or featured in here, but this looks slick and professional and pretty simple to use. Tales is a platform which offers to conduct an in-depth interview with a friend, family member or loved one, guided by questions of your choosing, which will then be turned into a podcast to share with anyone who might wish to hear it. This is obviously designed as a means of memorialising people, and I imagine its primary audience is amongst people who have an ageing parent or grandparent who they want to squeeze all the stories from before they cark it (“And make sure you ask about the ring, specifically where the fcuk they hid it”), but I also really like the idea of using it as a means of extracting apologies or confessions from people – imagine, you ease them in with some light questions about their happiest memories, and ‘so, tell me about some funny times you had with Bob and the kids’ and then BANG you drop a nuclear ‘so why were you such an emotionally-unavailable parent? And why did you demonstrate such naked favouritism towards Anna and leave Paul feeling so alone and unloved?’ This could RUIN families forever. Amazing.
  • Chaotic Nightclub Photos: Thanks Alex for sharing this with me – impressive for a Twitter account with only five posts to its name to have racked up 350k followers in less than a week, which makes me wonder whether this isn’t going to be some sort of bait-and-switch which sees this being used for Social Chain-style ‘coordinated inauthentic behaviour’ to promote a bunch of brand tat – still, til that happens, enjoy the (small, but wonderful) collection of terrifying photos of the UK’s provincial nightclub ‘scene’. As someone who first discovered the horrific and wonderful powers of regular binge drinking at the sticky-carpeted paradise that was Cairo’s in Swindon (inexplicably-lax Thursday night door policy where they would let in literal 13 year olds; a pound a pint and a pound a shot all night – on reflection, it’s no wonder I have what might be described as a…problematic relationship with booze), these are familiar and terrifying.
  • Buy The House From Scarface: $40m, and, as far as I can tell, that doesn’t include the cocaine mountain or the tigers, which, frankly, seems like a rinse. Still, worth looking around the photos to see exactly what that sort of money gets you – you’d sort-of hope that, given the nature of the film and the sort of people who lionise it and its central character, the feds will be taking a close look at whoever steps up to buy this (here’s a hint, guys – if they offer a significant proportion of the sum in cash, they may be iffy). SCARFACE FACT! Back in the mid-00s there was a Scarface videogame released on consoles – as part of the promotional junket for that game, a bunch of European games media were flown to a Spanish Island (may have been Ibiza, I forget) where there were ACTUAL TIGERS on leashes wandering around, a retrospectively-uncomfortable number of female models in white bikinis being paid not-enough-money to laugh at the jokes of a bunch of mostly-very-ugly male games journalists, and, as ‘legend’ (very good authority) would have it, an awful lot of actual cocaine. Videogames PR in the 00s was ODD.

By Alexey Kondakov



  • Freezecam: On the one hand, I sort-of assume that everyone reading this is of an age and weariness whereby work just sort of happens – you know what you’re doing, you do it, you and everyone else knows it’s mainly a pointless exercise in wheelspinning for everyone involved, you all move on. It’s basically painless, is what I mean – boring, enervating, depressing, fine, but you know what you’re doing and you just get on with it. It may be, though, that you are occasionally faced with scenarios in which you find yourself living out your anxiety dreams – forced to present an unfamiliar ‘deck’ (POWERPOINT! KEYNOTE! ANYTHING BUT FCUKING ‘DECK’ FOR THE LOVE OF FCUKING GOD!) about which you know nothing, and care even less, and you just DONWANNA…well, Curios is once again here to help. Or, more accurately, this website is here to help – Freezecam is a downloadable bit of software that works with Zoom, Teams and the Google Suite that noone uses, and lets you do a bunch of things to futz with your videostream. Swap it out for a prerecorded video of you nodding and pretending you give a fcuk while you go and make a sandwich! Cause your stream to stutter unbearably, making it impossible for you to contribute to the meeting! Freeze your stream entirely! Honestly, this is genius – were I the sort of person who was ever asked to present anything to anyone, I would absolutely use this within 10s of slide one and then go to the pub.
  • One Week Bot: From the bot’s bio: “I tweet the lyrics from the song One Week by @barenakedladies when you say “one week” or “it’s been”.” That’s it. And yet, this is oddly-pleasing, not least because it shares a short (2s) clip from the song’s video along with the line, so you can hear it sung in-situ which, yes, ok, doesn’t necessarily sound compelling, but I promise you that this is oddly-pleasing (and will earworm you like a motherfcuker, be warned).
  • The Man Will Never Fly Memorial Society: A society founded in 1959 which, according to this website which was last updated only three days ago, is still going strong, and whose beliefs and ethos can be summarised thusly: “  Members of the Man Will Never Fly Society are not opposed to flight.  Birds do it, Bees do it, even educated fleas do it, as Cole Porter once said.  But when you stop to think about it, do you actually believe that a machine made of tons of metal will fly?  Small wonder that the editor of a Dayton newspaper said, when informed of the mythical first flight in 1903.  “Man will never fly.  And if he does, he will never come from Dayton.”  The Society’s members believe that balloons fly, but we do not believe in flying machines.  Indeed, members of the Society have proposed a variety of apparati for movement through the ozone.  One of our members is even cultivating an enormous jumping bean which, when saddled and heated by a laser, will propel a human for great distances. But let us hear no more of plane moving through the air, unless they are hurled by carpenters.  Airports and airplanes are for the gullible.  Little do “plane” passengers realize that they are merely boarding Greyhound buses with wings, and that while aboard these winged buses, given the illusion of flight when cloud like scenery is moved past their windows by stagehands in a very expensive theatrical performance.  We ask you to gather under our banner and combat the myth that man can, did, or will ever fly, except in his or her imagination.” In the unlikely event I am ever again in North Carolina (sorry, North Carolina, but little I saw indicated you were worth a repeat visit) then I will totally pop in on these people.
  • Mr Forge: One of the odd side effects of having a very small and slightly-miserable life at present is that I am spending slightly more time using Facebook than I have done in a few years (I don’t want an endless stream of video entertainments; I want a few minutes of feeling smugly superior to the people I used to go to school with so that I can feel momentarily better about the fundamental-sh1ttiness of my current situation) – amongst the photographs of people who are balder and fatter than I am (YES! IN YOUR FACE! I WIN! And yet still, on most levels, I lose!) I currently get served a seemingly-incessant stream of cookery videos (I like cooking, well done algorithm!) which, in the main, involve MASSIVE MEN with MASSIVE KNIVES cooking what is fundamentally very, very basic food (MEAT! MORE MEAT! POTATO!) with oversized, very sharp knives and LOTS OF FIRE – is..is this what the world’s men want from cookery? A throwback to simpler times when they had to de-sinew elk with their teeth before slicing it into carpaccio with a double-bladed greataxe?). Which is by way of preamble to Mr Forge, a TikTok accounts which takes ‘cooking with fire’ to its logical extreme conclusion – that is, cooking with molten metal. Mr Forge has access to, er, a forge – his videos show you what happens when you introduce superheated, glowing-red semi-liquid metal to foodstuffs (spoiler: they mainly catch on fire). Inedible, but definitely VERY MACHO. I hope Mr Forge has an alternative source of food, though, as he must be hungry otherwise.
  • The Emblems of Space Force: A thread of all the emblems used by the various branches of the US Space Force, created by the last administration to help secure the future safety of the planet from as-yet-unknown interstellar or extraplanetary threats OR to give a bunch of Republican morons a massive militaristic space-boner (delete as applicable) – these are quite, quite remarkable and I can’t stress enough how much I really hope that they are all real. You will all have your own favourites, but personally I can’t see beyond the GIGANTIC EVIL SPACE SQUID, which would hands-down win any contest for ‘emblem most likely to be used by The Bad Guys in a Paul Verhoeven space fash flick’ and which absolutely confirms that literally everyone involved in the Space Force thing doesn’t get that Starship Troopers is satire.
  • Dead Pet Girls: “An exploration of the weird and wonderful world of mourning pets”, runs the homepage description – er, ok! ‘Wonderful’ seems like a bit of a stretch – I mean, I get that grief can be cathartic, but try and tell the child weeping desperately over the mutilated corpse of their budgerigar that there’s anything ‘wonderful’ about their mourning. Still, if you’re interested in exploring the emotional intensity of the death of a beloved animal friend then this might be worth a look: “Grief is an essential part of the human experience, but little is said about pet death. Yet, around the world incredible memorials and graveyards dedicated to pets exist. A little bit funny, a little bit sad, and a bit sentimental with a dash of camp and counterculture, these spaces can tell us a great deal about individual and social values. The ways that excessive shows of loved for our dearly departed companions. Stick around for tales of space dogs, women who shaped modern art, princesses and lions, the Queen and her corgis, and so much more. Who knew there were so many stories to be told about dead pets?” Well, er, quite.
  • Record Temperatures Map: A simple, sobering bit of dataviz from the Pudding here, taking a map of the US and overlaying it, state by state, with the number of days since each state recorded a record temperature for the time of year. Overall, at the time of writing, it’s been 37 days since there was a never-before-seen record anywhere in North America, but what’s astonishing/terrifying about the figures is how many records have been broken within the past year – literally every single state has recorded a new record high within the past 12 months.  This doesn’t feel like good news, and, er, to be honest it probably isn’t.
  • The Tolkien Estate: Have we gotten to the point now where ‘being interested in, and spending time on, the internet’ is now mainstream enough that there’s not an expected automatic venn diagram crossover with ‘also likes fcuking Star Trek or fcuking Star Wars or fcuking Tolkien’? Because, sorry, I don’t like any of those things. That said, I do find Tolkien the man significantly more interesting than Tolkien-the-work, and this website is a new(ish) repository for all the materials you could ever want to explore from the Tolkien family archive. It’s blissfully light on anything to do with the films or the forthcoming Amazon series, and instead a lot bigger on letters and archival materials and maps and notes and all that sort of thing – I am sure that if you’re the sort of obsessive who’s actually read the Silmarillion then you will find a LOT to love here, even if you’re no Middle Earth obsessive; you can’t deny he was an incredibly-accomplished worldbuilder, and a proper polymath, even if you wish deep in your heart of hearts that you had never heard the word ‘hobbit’.
  • A Bowman: The website of one A Bowman, who has made a bunch of small digital pets that you can download and play with from their website – hamsters! Goldfish! PENGUINS! Ok, so I only found this this morning and so haven’t had the chance to test these out properly, and as a result I can’t promise that they are not in fact massively well-disguised Trojan Horse programmes that will take over your computer and use it to mine Bitcoin or something but, well, I trust A Bowman based on their website, and I think you should too. Because, once again, PENGUINS! A colony of penguins that can live on your computer, and who due to their digital nature won’t come with that honking whiff of fish that sadly makes the penguin a less-than-ideal meatspace pet! Who doesn’t want that? NO FCUKER, that’s who!
  • Fetish Guitars: Not, sadly (well, sadly to me at least) a collection of guitars made of latex and featuring interestingly-designed harnesses; instead, this is a site devoted to ‘the glory of Italian guitars from the 60s’, which I confess to not having realised was a particularly rich heritage but, well, look! Italian guitars from the 60s! I can’t say with any certainty but I think that there’s a fair proportion of my readership who are middle-aged men, and for whom this will therefore be some sort of existential catnip.
  • Syosa’s Pixel Art: Truly glorious pixelart illustrations of tiny birds and flowers and dogs and cards and, er, the working life of Japanese veterinarians, and God do I wish I read Japanese so I could see exactly what was happening in the impossibly-cute-but-largely-inexplicable section entitled ‘ABOUT Japanese Food Poisoning’. These are gorgeous and, honestly, a cut above most pixelart work I come across.
  • Flight Simulator: This requires a download, fine, and I confess to not actually having tried it (my personal tolerance for flight simulator games is pretty much zero, sorry), but, well, how can you not be drawn in by the strapline ‘The only free flight simulator where you can do anything!’ which, fine, might be something of an hyperbolic exaggeration, but it sounds good. “Shoot down waves of hostile aircraft offline, demolish nearly any ground object with any weapon, or challenge other combat pilots online to test your mettle as a flying ace. Use the navigation instruments to plot a peaceful flight, or hunt your prey with air to ground missiles, coming in for the kill with a hail of gunfire. Fly aerobatic formations, fight in ultra-lights, or land a strategic bomber on a helicopter pad. The only limits are your imagination, your add-on collection, and the rules of the server where you fly.” How does that grab you?
  • Google Maps Driving Simulator: This feels very much like a throwback, and I have a vague recollection of featuring this or something very much like it waaaay back in the day when Hill+Knowlton Strategies somehow let me write this on their actual corporate website, but that was then (Flash) and this is now (JavaScript) and so here it is again for your afternoon delectation. Google Maps Driving Simulator is very simple and quite rubbish in many respects, but, equally, it lets you pretend to drive a bus or car around anywhere in the world using Google’s own satellite footage, and there’s something pleasingly-retro about the fact that it doesn’t even attempt to work in layers of collision detection, meaning you’re effectively just skating across the surface of a bunch of stitched-together photographs. Ok, fine, I am not selling this, but I promise you this makes driving through London fun in a sort of GTAII sort-of way.
  • Framed: I know, I know, another wordle clone – except it’s not really very Wordle-y at all, and instead it’s just a relatively simple ‘can you guess the film from a single frame?’ game, which gives you 6 tries to guess the title, with each presenting you with a new, supposedly-easier, frame from the movie. Look, this might be possible if you’re more of a cinephile than I am, but as far as I am concerned this is basically impossible (although I did get today’s in two goes just now).
  • Catfish: Finally in the miscellania this week, this very simple and yet oddly-soothing fishing game, in which you play a cat trying to catch a bunch of fish of varying sizes and shapes with their fishing rod. This isn’t hard, but it’s the sort of thing you can happily zone out with for 20m with some music on in the background and which will cause your brain to basically smooth out almost-entirely which, if we’re honest, is all we’re really after at the moment, right?

By Scott Conrad Kelly



  • Vanishing Sydney: I can’t pretend I have any interest in visiting Australia – no culture, murderous wildlife, insane journey, Australians – but, thanks to this Tumblr which showcases photos of “the new sh1t replacing the old sh1t in the Inner West of my beloved Emerald City”, I don’t feel that I have to! My pointless borderline-racism aside, this is a really nice little project – not because of the photography so much as for the little anecdotes and memories that accompany the pictures (NB – obviously if any Australians are reading this (HI BRENT!) then I don’t mean you).
  • You Cannot Take It With You: I haven’t featured an artTumblr on here for a while, but this is a really nicely-curated collection of pieces with a focus on nudes (but, you know, tastefully).


  • Turn Studio: Beautiful pottery and ceramic work, which includes not only images of the finished and fired pots but also videos which document their creation, including the design work done in CAD before sculting, decorating and firing. This is lovely, and very soothing.
  • David Rivillo’s Fancy Pasta: The ‘fancy pasta’ designation is mine, by the way, not Mr Rivillo’s. Still, he does make fancy pasta – the sort that, to be clear, never actually gets eaten but instead exists to be sold in hideously-expensive packages at airports by people desperately searching for gifts for people they neither know well nor particularly like.
  • Mozu World: Incredible intricate miniature work from Japan. You may think you have enough tiny, doll’s house-sized stuff in your feed, but you never do.


  • Lessons From 19 Years in the Metaverse: Yes, I know, you’re sick of the M-word chat. I’m sick of the M-word chat. And yet, here we are, still with the M-word chat. This, I promise you, is, despite your near-overwhelming-sense of fatigue about anything to do with the prospect of glorious digital futures in which you can enjoy glorious brand experiences, worth reading – Charlie Warzel interviews Wagner James Au, who’s been involved with Second Life for 19 years and as a result knows a thing or two about the creation of immersive digital spaces in which people can construct and conduct parallel/complementary non-meatspace existences. This is a really interesting exploration of what might be said to constitute the concept of the metaverse, the extent to which it already exists (or, perhaps, can never exist at all), and all the sorts of really interesting questions about the creation of community and infrastructure and social guidelines and mores which, based on its 15-year history, I personally have no confidence whatsoever that the Zuckerbergian Big Blue Misery Factory has any idea of how to get right whatsoever. This quote, in particular, struck me as usefully-illustrative: “With the Web3 would-be metaverses, I think they put the cart before the horse. If you put out a speculative offering, like a new coin that gains people entry into a digital world, people might show up, but I don’t know why they’d necessarily keep coming back. On a basic philosophical, human level, a thing is only valuable if a group decides it is. These crypto metaverses put the speculation before the community. Meta is sort of doing the same thing by openly saying they want to give people Oculus headsets and scrape their user data, including what people are looking at, in order to do advertising. Right there, once again, they’re putting the monetization right up front, before the community.”
  • SXSW: Or, to give the piece its full title, “At SXSW, A Pathetic Tech Future Struggles to Be Born”. VICE goes in two-footed on this year’s SXSW, which, honestly, feels a bit like shooting fish in a barrel at this point, but the piece is well-written and does a decent job at skewering much of the current hype and meaningless guff surrounding everything cryptonftweb3related. This para, in particular, is talking about a specific project but could well be a cipher for the entire ‘scene’ at the moment: “it seems to largely center on creating an ecosystem that can be fully commercialized by community members who will also be content creators and consumers. All that is then wrapped up in rhetoric about creating fully commodified and commercialized communities where interactions are mediated by transactions and markets that will actually liberate people from a world dominated by transactions and markets.” Still, er, COMMUNITY!
  • Paris, Apes and the Crypto-Clique: Whereas this piece is basically the negative of the last one – imagine instead that you believed that this commercialisation and commoditisation of everything was in fact a boon, and that it was a good thing that it was all being driven by a shadowy-and-indeed-not-so-shadowy group of the already-extremely-wealthy, and this is the piece you might write. This is both a profile-puff-piece of Paris Hilton and her VC husband, and how they (well, she) is the vanguard of this new movement, and how GREAT that is, and also an incredibly-straight-faced look at exactly how incredibly interconnected and weblike and…well…fcuktree-ish the whole top-end NFT ecosystem appears to be, to the extent which a clearer-eyed piece, one which seemed less interested in ingratiating itself with the rich kids, might ask one or two questions about. What could be more decentralised than communities based on token-based voting rights – where a bunch of multimillionaires own all the tokens? NOTHING, and you would have to be a miserable fool or a communist to suggest otherwise.
  • Apecoin: Except, of course, that when you look properly closely at the whole thing – as this Verge article examining the newly-minted Apecoin cryptocurrency launched by Bored Ape founders Yugalabs – it looks very much like an elaborate series of financial scams (or things which will be deemed to be scams in about 18m time when regulators and legislators have caught up, by which point the whales will have gotten out and moved on, and the ‘community’ will be crying into their yerba mate about how they are still, against all likely expectations, GMI). I appreciate that I am perhaps at the extreme end of skepticism when it comes to this stuff, but I think it’s also fair to argue that, in my lifetime at least, anything involving incredibly complex, byzantine financial structures which looks like a scam or a crook’s endeavour has, in fact, turned out to be exactly the sort of scam or crook’s endeavour that it first appeared to be.
  • Meet Mr Ethereum:  A superb profile of Ethereum founder and current holder of the global title of ‘person who looks most likely to have invented a cryptocurrency’ Vitalik Buterin. It’s worth reading the three pieces above before you get to this one, as it throws into sharp relief the difference between Buterin’s approach to crypto, and what he sees as its potential, and that for which it is currently being used – it’s hard not to feel a touch sorry for this guy, an archetypal geek-genius whose obviously an incredibly smart and deep thinker whose currently seeing the digital infrastructure which he envisaged as being a way to transform anything and everything from business to finance to politics instead being used to sell monkey jpegs to rich morons.
  • The Golden Age for Armchair Generals: Or, per my intro a month ago when the war kicked off, how now that everyone’s had time to Google ‘Clausewitz’ and flip through their back issues of Soldier of Fortune Magazine there is something of a glut of military strategists and tacticians currently peddling their questionable infowares all over the internet. This VICE piece looks at some of the main types, from the SAS reservists who are now dropping TRUTH BOMBS about the best ways in which to secure an urban environment when subject to constant shelling to the newly-minted NATO historians who can tell you all about why a no fly zone is actually a perfectly reasonable thing and we don’t need to worry about the nukes. Basically everyone is a moron and you shouldn’t listen to anyone on Twitter about anything, was my takeaway from all this – if you fancy a hit of PROPER ARMCHAIR GENERAL CONTENT, by the way, try this, a PDF guide to urban warfare by…er…some guy off Twitter who claims to be (and, for all I know, in fact is) a veteran of urban conflict in Iraq.
  • Downloading Wikipedia: A fascinating vignette from the conflict, as citizens in Russia have reportedly been racing to download copies of Wikipedia before it got taken offline by the Kremlin as part of its continued drive to limit outside information on the conflict from reaching its citizenry. Several things, here – firstly, again, a reminder of the myriad disbenefits of having the world’s major information resources being online-only (“Sorry, we appear to have started World War 3 because we couldn’t access any historical context due to the WiFi falling over”); secondly, it will never cease to amaze me that a website which up until relatively-recently was a byword for ‘the internet is full of lies’ is now an accepted-enough authority that people will literally rely on it as a de facto foreverencyclopaedia; and thirdly, the idea of a future, post-web civilisation’s entire knowledge corpus being contained on USB drives containing samizdat copies of Wikipedia is just mind-flayingly future-but-not-really-that-future-scifi.
  • Who Is Who And What Is What?: Fascinating and not a little heartbreaking, this is a collection of observations and anecdotes compiled by Chris Lockhart and Daniel Mulilo Chama, who have written a book about Zambian street children. “Together with colleagues, they set out to write a different kind of story, one that looked at what was missing from those reports: “the children themselves.” Their research team included five former street children, a journalism student from the University of Zambia, an outreach worker (who had been a street child, too), and an anthropologist. The result of their five years of collective immersion is Walking the Bowl — a propulsive work of narrative nonfiction fiercely anchored in social science, yes, but also a work of intimacy, surprise, and deeply felt humanity. For The Cutting Room, Guernica’s new column for creative work that helped make a book but didn’t make it in, the authors have shared excerpts from their team members’ journals, or “street notes,” collected over a two-week period in 2016”. Each of these fragments is a painting, a photo, a novel-in-waiting – honestly, I know that that reads like hyperbole, but these are stop-you-in-your-tracks arresting.
  • The Origins of Zemmour: France is currently undergoing its seemingly-quadrennial process of ‘flirting with a massively-racist candidate in the early rounds of elections before deciding to elect another centrist when it comes to the final round’, with the role of ‘massively-racist candidate this year being played not by a Le Pen but instead by Eric Zemmour, a (to my mind, at least) pretty repellant figure who is here well-profiled by Boyd Tonkin in Unherd (and yes, I know, Unherd – but this doesn’t seem like an awful piece of divisive, right-wing sh1t, so I figure I can link to it with reasonable impunity). I particularly enjoyed the delve into the French bourgeousie’s long-held history of enjoying a little bit of racism here and there (explored particularly well in Houllebecq’s ‘Atomised’ imho).
  • Americans Underestimate: This is some YouGov researched, which can be summarised thusly: “When it comes to estimating the size of demographic groups, Americans rarely get it right. In two recent YouGov polls, we asked respondents to guess the percentage (ranging from 0% to 100%) of American adults who are members of 43 different groups, including racial and religious groups, as well as other less frequently studied groups, such as pet owners and those who are left-handed. When people’s average perceptions of group sizes are compared to actual population estimates, an intriguing pattern emerges: Americans tend to vastly overestimate the size of minority groups.” I saw this doing the rounds a LOT over the past week, often with screencaps of the graphs which show the extent to which denizens of the US overestimate the proportion of non-white people in the country, of gay people, of trans people, accompanied by commentary shock-LOLing at the ignorance of our cousins across the pond and, er, guys, what makes you think anywhere else is any different or better. I have seen these surveys conducted for audiences in Italy, Spain and France before, and the results are always the same – ALWAYS. We ALWAYS overestimate the presence of the minority other in our societies, which overestimation leads to a lot of the insane and hateful policies towards said minority others which get pushed through by awful people preying on exactly that overestimation and the fear it can engender. Worth remembering when next you encounter a frothy moral panic about how minority group X is going to bring about the fall of civilisation for reasons Y.
  • Coding With Language: This is not particularly well-written, fine, and it is a bit niche, but I found it fascinating. It’s a post on the blog of one Andrew Mayne, all about the simple games that they have been able to code using Open AI’s code generating software through which the machine can create working code based on your natural language descriptions of what you want said code to do. Which, fine, maybe doesn’t make as much sense as a description as I would like it to, but which will become a lot clearer as soon as you click the link and read the piece (CLICK THE LINK FFS!). Even if you don’t code, this should be enough to persuade you of the glorious coming future in which you can just type ‘Elden Ring, but easier and with more bright yellow armour sets’ and Lo! It will appear (and if you do code, this should be another sign that, if all you do is cobble together stuff off GitHub, your days might be a bit numbered).
  • Shock Art: A review (ish – more of a feature about than a review per se) of a new work on display at the Whitney Biennale, which uses VR to make the viewer…complicit(?) in an act of extreme violence. “Here’s what goes down. Viewers are directed to a counter, handed noise-cancelling headphones and virtual-reality goggles, and instructed to grip the railing below them. The video begins with a view of clear sky glimpsed between buildings on a wide Manhattan street, as if you’re lying supine on the ground. You can almost smell spring. Then a cut, and there, kneeling on a stretch of sidewalk, is a young man in jeans and a red hoodie, an obscure, plaintive expression on his face as he holds your gaze. A man in a gray T-shirt stands over him: the artist. He takes a baseball bat and whacks his victim in the skull, then drops the bat, drags the man by his legs to the center of the sidewalk, and proceeds to bash his face in with a series of stomps and kicks. Blood gushes. The victim grunts and is silent. In the street, indifferent traffic is lined up bumper to bumper. Pedestrians mill around in the far background. The bat has rolled into the gutter; the batterer retrieves it and carries on. The camera cuts to a dizzying view from above; it feels like hovering upside down in a dream. Throughout, a man’s voice sings the two Hebrew blessings that Jews recite over the candles during Hanukkah. Abruptly, the sound cuts, then the image.” This is fascinating to me – I have long been interested in the extent to which VR can affect the way you feel about seeing imagery like this, and the extent to which the viewer’s perspective impacts empathy with what you see (or indeed the opposite). I would find this a far more interesting idea, for example, if the viewer was given the viewpoint of the person holding the bat.
  • The Toad Man: This is a hell of a story, which I don’t really want to tell you too much about by way of spoilers, but it’s basically about a guy who’s made himself a tidy little business (and, whisper it, also a cult) out of his ability to source hallucinogenic toad secretions which he feeds to visitors who come seeking enlightenment, cure and absolution at $250 a pop. All you need to know about this is that it turns out that the man who makes a living cooking and selling toad meth to tourists is exactly what you’d expect him to be like.
  • Intergenerational Wealth Spiral: This is, to be clear, utterly heartbreaking. Dave Jr lives in Michigan; this is the story of him and his family as they try to bury his father, Dave Sr, whose debts, left behind after his death, threaten to bury them. Everything about this is tragic, the photos and the story at the heart of it and the little elements of…despair in every single interaction Dave Jr. has with his daughter and his wife and the memory of his dad, and all the institutions and businesses who he comes into contact with over the course of the piece who, it will come as no surprise to learn, don’t seem to be able to help at all. This is a brilliant piece of writing and a superb profile, but, to be clear, very fcuking sad indeed.
  • False Passives: Another link that’s not exactly a barrel of laughs (sorry), but which is again superbly-written, this is an account of the migrant journey undertaken by people taking the Eastern Route, from Africa to the Gulf States, in pursuit of a better life. Your regular reminder that human migration under appalling conditions happens every day all over the world, because: “Climate change, experts say, is the primary cause of human migration on Earth. And so it is in the highland villages and towns along Highway 2, in the rafters of the world, where people have grown things for thousands of years and still do, and still rely for the most part on their increasingly unreliable harvests; where arable land is rapidly ceding to unpredictable weather patterns, drought, deforestation for biomass fuels, erosion, or heedless development, often by outside powers; where poverty grinds so much human ambition to barren dust.”
  • Beat Saber: An essay on The White Pube, about VR and videogames and lockdown and covid and health and play and escape – they write about games SO WELL, and this is just a brilliant piece of very intimate and personal writing overall imho.
  • Wood Sorrell House: Very quiet, creeping horror now, in this short story by Zach Williams in the New Yorker. You can take this straight or as an analogy for whatever part of parenthood you choose, but either way this is intensely-creepy and you could totally imagine how you might film it (or you can if you are me). I would be amazed if this hasn’t already been optioned by someone.
  • Fish: Finally this week, this requires you to download a small programme, unzip it and then click ‘Fish.exe’ – that will let you experience this short, tappable essay by PROPER AUTHOR Robin Sloane, who kindly said ‘yes’ when I asked them if I could feature this link in Curios. Fish is all about the wonder of finding something and focusing on it, learning about it, getting to know it inside out, in part as a response to the endless torrent of ephemera passing our eyes online each day. Which, you might think, might make it antithetical to Web Curios, being as this is the thickest, most clotted stream of ephemera any of you ever did see. BUT, the point of Curios, at its heart, is to present you with a bunch of stuff in the hope that one or two small bits will speak to you and become YOUR fish.

By Maud Madsen