Webcurios 27/08/21

Reading Time: 37 minutes

HAPPY PARALYMPICS EVERYONE! Yes, given how terribly everything else seems to be going this week, let’s focus on the positives shall we?

How have you been? My past seven days have largely been characterised by immigration-related panic and the feeling that, even by the standards of modernity, stuff is happening at a pace that is frankly unsustainable. So what better way to counteract the jittery, overcaffeinated, ‘did I just bomb some speed and forget about it?’-type sensations of LIVING IN THE NOW than by taking a whistlestop tour through some of the best – and if not ‘best’ than certainly ‘most eclectic and least-discerningly-curated’ – websites of the week, lovingly (if it’s not love than it’s something at least adjacent – lust, maybe?) hand-selected by ME, Matt, once again here to act as your digital Virgil.

So come my Dantean proteges, let us once again embark upon a guided tour through the seven circles of the web – don’t look too closely, don’t touch ANYTHING, and don’t worry too much about the long-term effects; after all, at the present rate of progress, all of this is likely to be ashes before we’re able to make any sort of useful assessment of what it’s doing to us.

This, as ever, is Web Curios. It is TOO MUCH, but you knew that already.

By Elizabeth Pich



  • Candyman: Candyman is definitely one of those films which benefited from being watched on a pirate VHS round a mate’s house when you were skiving off from school, drawing the curtains in the mid-afternoon after doing bongs in the garden all morning to heighten the claustrophobic paranoia. Or at least that’s how I experienced it for the first time – I can’t speak for you and nor would I want to. Anyway, the now-traditional ‘reboot’ is out now, and this is a promo site that takes the central premise and MAKES IT REAL thanks to the magic of technology (and, er, voice recognition). Visit the site, let it access your mic and camera and then SAY THE MAGIC WORD 5 TIMES and see what hook-y horrors puncture your meaty carapace! What actually happens is that you, er, get to see an ‘exclusive’ trailer and then send the website to your friends – not going to lie, I feel that they could possibly have done…more with this. Maybe doing this in AR so you could see the Candyman creeping up on you over your shoulder? Anyway, obviously I am being miserable and churlish by complaining about something competently-made and reasonably-fun – I like the use of voice-recognition, really I do! – but, equally, there’s something very funny about the fact that the voicerec software is loose enough in its interpretation of your speech that it will work perfect well if you say ‘handyman’ – a very different sort of horror film, that.
  • Talk To God (Virtually): Let’s be clear – this is not in fact a portal to talk to the divine, unless you subscribe to the viewpoint that the divine is within all of us and therefore all people are in some small way manifestations of the ultimate Godhead (is that what you believe? It sounds comforting, can you…teach me faith?). Instead, this is an intriguing art project, born out of Burning Man which once again this year is a virtual rather than physical event (interesting, by the way, that the proliferation of ‘here’s a website that will let you experience the Playa in digital form!’ projects that characterised last year burn don’t seem to have been replicated this year, or at least not at the same sort of scale – you can check out what is happening here, if you’re curious), which lets you talk to…well, a stranger on the other end of the phone line, cosplaying as God. This year the phoneline isn’t connected to a booth in the middle of the desert – instead, it’s manned by a series of volunteers from around the world who are available day and night to chat to you via Zoom. Want the complete Burning Man experience? Get naked, cover yourself in dust, take more mushrooms than you feel entirely comfortable with, put the original Mad Max on in the background and prepare to have a conversation with a complete stranger about how ‘the oneness in us is the oneness in everything…and that’s why I felt compelled to start my disruptive company in the communications space!’. I am being a w4nker here, obviously – this could be a lot of fun, although I fear that the participants won’t quite be in an altered enough state to make this really fly.
  • Square Eat: It feels a bit like the past year has rather slowed down the conveyor belt of totally mad startup-type ideas flying around the web, so perhaps the appearance of Square Eat this week is a sign that NATURE IS HEALING or something. Anyway, this one’s a DOOZY – perhaps the best thing about it is that its creators obviously based the whole idea on the concept of a ‘SQUARE MEAL’ (do you see?!???) but then realised that there was already quite a large business with that name and so were forced instead to adopt the…less catchy Square Eat moniker. Leaving the name aside, though, let’s just judge the idea on its own merits. Square Eat offers meal plans – choose your preferred flavours and ingredients and you will be sent a delicious, nutritious box of food…BUT THE FOOD IS ALL SQUARE! That’s right, someone has decided that Soylent, Huel et al aren’t quite miserably-dystopian enough, and has decided to take the old scifi trope of ‘the meal in pill form’ and make it REAL. Except they’re not pills, they’re SQUARES! Squares of REAL FOOD (they seem worryingly keen to convince you of this – methinks you doth protest too much, food geometricians), processed into, er, SQUARES (do you see now?!???) which will last for up to four weeks and can be eaten hot or cold and come in flavours with names like ‘Mediterranean’, ‘Fisherman’ and the mysterious-yet-sinister ‘Treat’. So, to be clear, you are paying a premium price for 240g servings of normal food which has been processed, chopped and shaped into squares – WHY??? WHY IS THIS NECESSARY OR GOOD??? WHY IS THE SQUARENESS NECESSARY??? There’s a lot to love on the FAQ page too – I particularly liked the response to ‘how do you make this sh1t?’, which reads: “Our Squares are made with 100% natural and healthy ingredients only. Thanks to our innovative cooking methods (low temperature based) we are able to preserve all nutrients.” That definitely doesn’t sound sinister or evasive AT ALL. The best thing is that there is an AI angle (of COURSE there is!) – according to the investment presentation (of course there is an investor presentation!) there’s some vague flimflam about AI-powered nutrition plans in the mix also. If you’ve read all this and your overriding impulse is ‘wow, what an amazing idea! I must get in on the ground floor’ then a) stop reading my newsletter, you are a moron; and b) you can do so here. The worst thing about this is that the people behind it are all seemingly of Italian descent – MY PEOPLE WHAT ARE YOU DOING?
  • Invisible Universe: A while back I mentioned that TikTok starlet Charlie D’Amelio had a spin-off CG character made of her and her sister’s childhood toys, as an extension of their terrifying juggernaut of a media empire; this week I discovered that there is a whole company dedicated to just that – spaffing out CG animated branded characters, loosely tied to existing real world celebrities, to further extend their media empires. These are the people behind QaiQai, a CG Instainfluencer based on Serena Williams’ daughters’ real-life doll, and Crayzinho, a CG Instainfluencer based on, er, a monkey owned by Brazilian footballer Dani Alves (this one’s a bit harder to parse tbqhwy). Is this a good thing? I mean, to be clear, it doesn’t matter at all – who cares? – but there’s something a bit saddening in the idea that all future kids’ characters will inevitably be created out of this sort of lab-style development process where a team of consultants will extrapolate the sidekick’s personality from the original celebrity’s while an AI takes care of creating the look and the animation style…Also, maybe it’s just me but Crazyinho very much looks like the sort of monkey that would be flinging its scat around the living room within minutes and not the sort of chap I personally want to hang out with.
  • The Sainsbury Archive: This is obviously a bit of promo for UK supermarket Sainsbury’s, fine, but it’s also a wonderful piece of social history and a great bit of archiving. This site collects photographs and information and memories about the supermarket’s history, from old branches to the recollections of previous managers and staff – it’s managed by the Museum of London, and I think this digitisation process is relatively recent (it’s very much an ongoing project). This will, in the main, only be of significant interest to people from the UK with a significant affection for a particular chain of supermarkets, but it’s a wonderful example of using brand heritage well (if you’re the sort of person who cares about that sort of thing, and who am I to judge? NO FCUKER, that’s who!).
  • Bruce Up Your Wedding: I don’t really understand this. I mean, I understand the underlying basic premise – imagine if Newcastle United football manager Steve Bruce showed up at weddings! Wouldn’t that be hilarious! Imagine if there were a range of Steve Bruce-themed wedding merch! So RANDOM!! – but what I don’t understand is why Twitter (because it is literally Twitter who made this) decided to make a whole website devoted to a single-note Twitter account, offering actual, real products to order for a limited period of time (sadly all the Steve Bruce merch has run out, but I would imagine it’s currently failing to find a secondary buyer on eBay RIGHT NOW!), and promoting it really hard all over the UK TL this week. To be clear, I am not saying it’s not sort-of funny, more that, well, it’s not that funny, and I don’t really understand what Twitter is doing here. Is the point to show ‘look! There’s fun stuff on Twitter, it’s not just racists and people shouting loudly about topics on which they have nowhere near the expertise they claim!’? In the unlikely event that anyone from Twitter reads Curios then please could you explain it to me (in simple words)?
  • Webwed: Apparently this has existed since 2015 – I am MORTIFIED that I have never featured it before, but better late than never I suppose. Do YOU want to get married, but, well, without any of the fuss and ceremony (or family, or friends, or guests, or celebrants, or venue)? Do you want the legally-binding contract without any of the pointless fun and problem drinking? Well then Webwed may be for YOU! This service lets anyone get married online, and whilst the marriages are recognised under US law they are apparently legally binding worldwide (please, do not take Web Curios’ word on this and, if you are considering getting hitched for legal reasons, perhaps get a lawyer to check whether this is in fact legit). I could write more but, honestly, the copy from the site’s ‘About’ page does a better job than I ever could of communicating the vibe: “WebWed Mobile is a cross-platform mobile application that will revolutionize the wedding industry, by providing an optical indirect human experience. Our objective is to merge the three most powerful elements of the world: Love, Law, and Technology, to afford individuals from all walks of life and corners of the world, the opportunity to wed on an affordable global platform. Uniquely, the development of our raw technology has unlocked the doors to a new way of sharing special moments with family and friends. Therefore, WebWed Mobile is dedicated to ushering couples of all socio-economic backgrounds into the new marital digital world, on their time schedule, through a virtual stage. As a direct result, the judicial system will be eternally altered as the evolution of technology and law fuse to accommodate the new normal, where roaming-o meets emolji-et [AUTHORIAL INTERJECTION – I AM IN AWE AT THIS; IN AWE]. In an age where divorce rates are skyrocketing due to debt obligations from the wedding ceremony, WebWed mobile offers a necessary avenue to diminish debt and redirect the economic focus back onto love and family. Providing marital freedom, financial freedom, marriage equality and a resolution to marriage discrimination’s across the country, are major fundamentals that WebWed Mobile stands for. Our ultimate aim is to encourage the local and global communities to move from the mindset of the “impossible” to a statement of “I’m possible””. You’re tempted, aren’t you? I can tell. I’ll be your witness!
  • The Sad Girls Bar: The NFT artthing continues to rumble on, not dead but not quite as mainstream-frothy as it was 6m ago. At one end you have people paying 7 figures for clipart rocks, at the other you have small collectibles projects like this one, which has created a sort-of emo-punk aesthetic around the idea of the Sad Girls Bar where the collectible Sad Girls hang out and drink and, I presume, cry. So far so standard NFT – there’s a set number, they have a set number of traits which combine to create unique collectibles, etc etc etc, so far so CryptoPunk – but there’s something interesting in the way there are Patreon/Kickstarter-like stretch goals that will be unlocked as the editions get sold, like cocktail books and physical merch for those bought-in. Basically this feels a little more like a community/club-type thing than a straight up ‘buy and flip’ grift, and I am starting to see more projects like this cropping up which feel a bit like a digital sticker club. To be clear, I still think that the vast majority of NFT stuff is terrible and a con, but it’s interesting watching the space evolve.
  • Flowers For Sick People: This is almost heartbreakingly-lovely. Flowers for Sick People is a project by artist Tucker Nichols whereby they paint bunches of flowers in vases – some of the paintings are posted on this site, each bunch being dedicated to an individual (“Flowers for anyone who woke up handcuffed to a bed”, “Flowers for teenage panic attacks”), and some will be sent to those who need them as actual, real paintings. “Know someone struggling with illness? I will mail a small flower painting on your behalf to a loved one in need. Send an email with the name and complete mailing address of your loved one and I will send them a small original painting.” This is almost inconceivably sweet – the site supports donations, and it feels like this is something worth chucking a fiver at if you can afford it, simply because it’s such an incredibly kind thing for Nichols to be doing.
  • Metaphor: This is really interesting, and one of two things in Curios this week that made me quite excited (I mean, that should read ‘excited’ – there are limits, after all) about the future of search. Metaphor is an experiment in using language models in search – effectively it’s a piece of software that’s trained to predict webpages in a context where someone is describing them. So it’s a search engine that will respond to questions like ‘A webpage people were talking about a lot in 2018, it was about cartoon cats being sold’ (CryptoKitties) – this page talks a little bit about the project and lets you search freely using the engine. The results skew tech – the model was trained on links posted to Hacker News – but it’s a really interesting look into different ways in which search might function in the future, and a surprising window into unusual parts of the web.
  • The Commissary Club: A social network designed for people who used to be in prison and who would like to be able to connect with other people who also used to be in prison and get what it’s like being on the outside again. This is a US app and so it’s US lags only, afaict, but I was fascinated by the fact that there is still space for specialist-interest stuff like this (although I bet if you try hard enough you can find yourself on prison TikTok, which I imagine is a very special sort of place).
  • The Black Film Archive: “[The] Black Film Archive celebrates the rich, abundant history of Black cinema. We are an evolving archive dedicated to making historically and culturally significant films made from 1915 to 1979 about Black people accessible through a streaming guide with cultural context….The films collected on Black Film Archive have something significant to say about the Black experience; speak to Black audiences; and/or have a Black star, writer, producer, or director. This criterion for selection is as broad and inclusive as possible, allowing the site to cover the widest range of what a Black film can be. The films listed here should be considered in conversation with each other, as visions of Black being on film across time. They express what only film can: social, anthropological, and aesthetic looks at the changing face of Black expression (or white attitudes about Black expression, which are inescapable given the whiteness of decision-makers in the film industry). ” This is super-interesting, both as an overview of black cinematic work throughout the 20th Century but also as a way of discovering and exploring said work – where possible, the site features links to streams of all the films it features, and much of the older material here is available on YouTube (that fact tells its own interesting story about the commercial value placed on Black filmmaking).
  • Crochet Pasta: I have never met anyone in Italy who owns a pasta maker, and the general vibe around the idea of making your own tortelloni tends to be ‘lol, why?’ – I have, though, no idea how Italians might feel about the idea of knitting spaghetti (I will ask them, I know you’re anxious to hear). If YOU are the sort of person who has long-dreamed of being able to knit and purl some lovely wheaten shapes, though, then this link is likely to be a long-dreamed-of prize – the Etsy page of the ‘Copacetic Crocheter’ (copacetic – a word I have never heard an English person use and which for reasons I can’t adequately explain irritates me beyond all imagining) offers a variety of knitting patterns for sale, patterns which will open the door to a world of KNITTED LINGUINE and KNITTED PENNE and, er, KNITTED DEEP-FRIED MOZZARELLA CHEESE STICKS! If you’re bored of scarves and are yet to master the heel-turn required for socks, perhaps this will provide a new knitting challenge for you (be aware, though, that knitting does not equal personality, however cute Tom Daley looked doing it).
  • Romania: Back in the heyday of Twitter (when was that? A brief period circa 2010?), there was a vogue for the creation of national accounts, where countries would have a Twitter handle which got rotated around the population at random each week. Most of them have stopped now (beautifully, though, the Dutch are still at it, and it’s honestly still one of my favourite accounts on the platform, do follow it if you’re not already), but I now wonder whether the new hotness in national-level PR is creating a TikTok account for your country to showcase the majesty of your nation via the medium of shortform video. So it is with Romania, whose official TikTok account offers viewers the chance to “Experience the raw beauty of Romania”, which in practive means “here’s loads of lovely bucolic footage of the Romanian countryside which very much leans in to certain tropes about the Central European region and features rather more women in headscarves than you might expect to encounter in downtown Chisinau (NOT CHISINAU! Thanks to Ale who emailed me to point out that this is in fact the capital of Moldova; I feel very ignorant) Bucharest in 2021” – one-dimensional depiction of Romanian life aside, this is rather cute. Is there an ‘England’ TikTok? It very much feels like there ought to be….oh, there is, but it’s for the fcuking football team. How tedious.
  • Librivox: FREE AUDIOBOOKS! Ok, so admittedly these are all volunteer-recorded and so the quality of reading may be…variable, but they are FREE and there are 15,000+ of them, and the site has been going for 16 years!!!! This is honestly so lovely, and I think I am going to download audio of a stranger reading Aesop to me as a way of coping with life. Beautifully, some of the 15k audiobooks on here are academic textbooks – I have no idea who the altruistic lunatics producing audio recordings of a 400-page guide to organic chemistry for strangers to ‘enjoy’ online are, but I am glad that they exist.
  • Cofounder Quest: This is unquestionably the greatest recruitment website I have ever seen – not only that, but the music it uses is reminiscent of that in SimCity2000, which took me momentarily to a very happy place. You probably won’t be qualified for the job – unless you’re a developer living the Bay Area – but you will appreciate the beauty of the website made to find someone who is. Honestly, do click this, it is JOYOUS and such a wonderful homage to late-90s videogames.

By  Lilou Oh Yeah



  •  The Dance Music Archive: Or, perhaps less hubristically, a Dance Music Archive – it’s not like the web is short of places which seek to chronicle the evolution of repetitive beats, after all. Still, this is a great project which has been put together by Any Durrant to chronicle the evolution of the genre(s) over the past 4 decades. A lockdown project, this is a truly stupendous trove of year-by-year overviews of the scene in the UK, with scans of dance music mags, mixes of the best (or at least most ‘iconic’ tracks from each year, images of old rave flyers, links to legendary sets by some of the most famous DJs of the era…honestly, if you’re the sort of person who has vague, fuzzy memories of double-dropping to Oakenfold in Lakota bitd (for example) then you wil absolutely lose yourself in this, and quite possibly spend much of the weekend boring your partner and friends with reminiscences about ‘the vibes, man’ and ‘mitsus, the pill that saved clubland!’ (a Mixmag cover I still can’t quite believe ever happened). Wonderful stuff, though it made me feel VERY VERY OLD indeed (plus ca fcuking change).
  • Love: I think I said this a few months ago, but it’s interesting to see a new wave of proto-social-networks springing up again in 2021 – this is another attempt to break the FaceTokChat hegemony, admittedly more messaging/chat app than network, which offers users the promise of an ad-free experience with some neat visual effects (the ‘bubble’-type visualisation of who’s talking on videocalls is a nice touch, for example) and then some vague guff about how the whole thing will be turned over to its users via some sort of DAO-type setup should the platform reach 100m Daily Active Users within 5 years. Look, er, I think that that last ambition is possibly a bit of an overreach, but I quite like the concept behind it – if you’re after a non-FB messaging platform and think you can persuade your friends to try it, this might be worth a go; and who knows? In 5 years’ time you might own a fractional stake in the next big thing. You probably won’t, to be clear, but it’s nice to dream.
  • Macro: This feels a little bit like it might have missed a boat, but what do I know? Macro is a layer which you can add on top of Zoom to personalise your appearance in videochats – it lets you create frames for your presence, so that rather than simply appearing as a face in a square you can instead appear as, er, a face within a frame in a square! I am possibly being a bit unfair – there are lots of interesting effects you can apply, turning your face into all sorts of interesting, arty designs and letting you create canvases for your call appearances with animations and effects and flourishes and stuff – but the lines about how this software lets you MANIFEST AS YOUR TRUE SELF ON ZOOM made me do all sorts of internal cringes (it’s a generational thing, I know). Basically this is a series of slightly-fun videocall filters which are inexplicably (to me) being sold as a means of ACHIEVING PERSONAL ACTUALISATION – what can I say? If all you need to be able to finally become the fullest and best version of you than can possibly be is a series of rainbow effects to wear in your next meeting then, well, I am glad the bar is set so comfortably low for you. In a similar vein, by the way, is this product, which does the same sort of thing but for livestreaming – in fact this strikes me as significantly more useful for those of you who have do do streaming professionally, whether as an individual or a corporate.
  • Marvel or Font?: A game that challenges you to guess whether something is a font or whether in fact it is a Marvel character. Several things: 1) this is more fun than I expected; 2) man, do Marvel characters have some silly names; 3) based on this, there are seemingly enough secondary Marvel characters out there that Disney can keep the MCU going until the heat death of the universe, which is obviously GREAT news for the future of cinema and mass entertainment oh god can we please make the superhero thing stop or at the very least slow down a bit please?
  • Our World of Pixels: Another in the occasional series of ‘projects that let anyone from anywhere on the web contribute to an infinite online canvas’, this does that exact thing but with PIXELART (much like the now-legendary Reddit ‘Place’ experiment from BITD). This is amazing in part because, at the time of writing at least, it is still pure and seemingly untouched by Channers and Nazis, and also because of the absolutely insane skill on display by some of the artists involved. Honestly, scroll around and gawp – there’s some anime work on here in particular that is boggling in terms of its scale and execution and which must have taken some poor fcuker days to complete (also, when did the tipping point occur at which manga/anime-style art became this ubiquitous, like the visual lingua franca of online experience?).
  • Hexopress: Turn Google Docs into a blog – that’s literally it, but it’s a really nice, simple, clean idea and a nice low-friction way of publishing online. Curios is done in a similar way, should you be interested – I write in GDocs and then there’s some MAGIC CODE that Shardcore wrote which takes that copy and formats it for the website and newsletter. For those of you interested in self-publishing stuff online but who don’t have the skill with HTML to do something entirely-homespun, this might be worth a look.
  • Hate Raid Response Tools: I find this fascinating – hate raids are an increasing problem on Twitch, apparently, with streamers finding themselves being brigaded by armies of trolls who invade their chat and kill their streams with copypasta and pr0n and hate and all the usual wonderful internet gubbins that we’ve all come to expect (it’s…sort of miserable, isn’t it, that our modern experience of being online is always, inevitably, characterised by the expectation that someone somewhere will attempt to ruin it for us). This website offers a selection of tips and tools to help streamers guard against such instances, and to deal with them should they occur – what’s interesting to me about this is that it’s yet another instance of services being developed to deal with platform problems that the platforms themselves seem incapable of, or unwilling to, deal with. There’s a growing space for businesses and products that set themselves up to solve niche-but-growing issues such as this one – any of you who do ‘strategy’ or other such pointless, made-up jobs could do worse than use this as an example of spaces inbetween services which can usefully be exploited for community benefit and reputational gain.
  • Karencheck: Similarly, Karencheck is an interesting proposition – designed for Etsy sellers to be able to see whether the person leaving crappy feedback on their products is in fact a genuinely-aggrieved customer or whether in fact they are the sort of person who habitually does the complaining thing all over the web because that’s just the sort of joyless horror they are. It pulls all of the reviews associated with an Etsy profile and displays them in one place, giving sellers a quick way off telling whether they are dealing with a reasonable person or, frankly, a w4nker. Leaving aside the debate around whether the ‘Karen’ thing should be left to die (it should), this feels like the sort of thing that could actually be used in a positive way – why not use this to find the nicest Etsy users and reward them in some way? I mean, noone will ever bother to do that, but it would be nice, wouldn’t it? Eh? Oh.
  • Mike Strick: You may not have realised that what your significant other wants most in the world is a small, grotesque figurine depicting Hugh Jackman in his Greatest Showman getup but with Hugh’s handsome antipodean features replaced by those of a tardigrade (the TARDIGRADEST SHOWMAN!!! DO YOU SEE???), but I can assure you that that is EXACTLY what their heart desires. Sadly that particular piece is sold out, but there’s a wealth of weird sh1t on Strick’s site and they even do commissions – if you want a custom version of one of your vinyl figurines (THEY ARE TOYS! TOYS!) then this is the place to come (also, worth checking out the Young Ones statuettes, which are genuinely ace).
  • Niche Museums: I am very sorry that I didn’t come across this at the start of the SUmmer, as this is perhaps THE perfect website for torturing your kids with. “What shall we do this week, kids? I mean, it’s the Summer holidays and you can’t possibly spend all 6 weeks using the kitchen as a set for TikToks that will never, ever get more than 5k views. I know, let’s go to the Museum of Funeral History!” The Niche Museums website is a trove of small, unheralded museums and archives from around the world – you can search for locations near you, or just put in a few search terms and browse – a cursory search under ‘London’ has thrown up some great-sounding places I’d never previously heard of, including the London Jukebox Museum which I am absolutely visiting when I am back in the country and have some semblance of a life again.
  • How I Experience Web Today: This has done the rounds this week, but if you’ve not seen it it’s a simple-yet-depressingly-accurate depiction of what it’s like using the modern web. It’s also a really good example of how effective a simple piece of webdesign can be at communicating a very particular experience, and the sort of thing which really ought to be sponsored by some sort of adblocking software or ‘modern and better web browser experience’, so those of you with clients in that camp, GO! START A BIDDING WAR!
  • Sleeping In Airports: A doubtless useful website whose existence I find deeply-depressing, Sleeping In Airports not only offers general tips about how to get a good night’s kip when stuck in the liminal non-space that is an international transit hub, but it also offers specific intelligence on where exactly in, say, Heathrow Terminal 5 you should bed down for a bit of shut-eye. Regardless of your personal interest in the subject matter, I can heartily recommend the ‘Airport Stories’ section of the site for some occasionally eye-raising anecdotes about what people get upto when on a layover (“Another story about inappropriate personal grooming. Where is the best place to shave your legs in the terminal?”).
  • Infinite Canvas: I know I always bang on about how more brands should make browser games (or, frankly, games in general) as a marketing tool, but I equally appreciate that it’s not that easy to know how or where to start with such a thing. Infinite Canvas is a company that works with brands and creators and platforms to make bespoke game experiences based on your brand and assets – it’s (as far as I can tell) a sort of connector-marketplace where you can approach them with your need and they will pull together a useful team of people drawn from their rolodex to assist you – I have no idea what sort of vig they charge for the service, but it’s an interesting idea and something that it might be worth bookmarking if you can ever persuade your clients to do something less skullfcukingly-dull than ‘let’s do a white paper – in an INTERACTIVE PDF!’ (kill me now).
  • 90s News Screens: A Twitter feed posting screencaps from US news in the 90s. Sort of like DaytimeSnaps if that were historical, American and news-focused (but it is not as good as DaytimeSnaps). Still, this is good meme-fodder, should you be in the market for such stuff.
  • Flixgem: Not the first ‘ffs why is it so hard to find anything good on Netflix and why won’t the algorithm show me any of the subsidiary categories so that I can search through every single film tagged ‘shark-based murder comedy’?’ (this is literally my girlfriend’s ideal film genre), but certainly one of the more useful ones – tell this website where you live, and what you’re into, and it will spit out all the relevant films that are available in your Netflix region. Fine, it doesn’t appear to be 100% comprehensive, but if you’re after ‘animes based on light novels, available in the UK’ (for example) then this will help you find the perfect match (apparently there’s something called ‘is it wrong to pick up girls in a dungeon?’, which actually on reflection does make me rather doubt the quality of the algo here because, really, that was a novel first?).
  • DJBiddy: Not, sadly, the personal website of the UK’s premiere Women’s Institute DJ (I now can’t get the image of a tearoom fitted with a massive speaker stack, and a 70-odd woman in a twinset doing incredible things with four Technics), but instead an app which lets you quickly an easily find and book DJs from across the world, spanning a range of genres, to play at your…thing. OnlyDJs, if you will. I really like this idea, and specifically the fact that this means you can now book a Guatemalan reggaeton set for your next Teams meeting – PLEASE can someone do this for their next office all-hands (I am so so pleased that I do not and have never worked for an organisation that does things like ‘all hands’ meetings, the very concept makes my teeth itch). “Monthly accounts meeting? This calls for a high-octane gabba set from DJ Motherfukcer!” Or something like that.
  • Missing Maps: This is a wonderful project: “Each year, disasters around the world kill nearly 100,000 and affect or displace 200 million people. Many of the places where these disasters occur are literally ‘missing’ from open and accessible maps and first responders lack the information to make valuable decisions regarding relief efforts. Missing Maps is an open, collaborative project in which you can help to map areas where humanitarian organisations are trying to meet the needs of people who live at risk of disasters and crises.” Again, though, it’s an example of where big tech fails and volunteers have to step in – every time I see something like this I can’t help but wonder what all the other massive lacunae are in terms of global service provision that I haven’t even begun to conceive of. There is interesting and useful work to be done in identifying and filling said gaps, basically (which I appreciate is not a new or in any way helpful observation, but one which just occurred to me as I was typing and, well, that’s how Curios works, isn’t it? I TYPE MY BRANES! God, I bet you wish it worked differently. Sorry).
  • LudoTune: Latest in the seemingly-infinite procession of browser-based synthtoys comes LudoTune, which per all the others lets you pull together loops and beats using a drag-and-drop visual interface, but which does so IN 3D! Effectively this is musical LEGO (I know that that is a lazy description but, well, I am a lazy man, what do you want from me?), where you snap together different effects and sounds and delays and triggers and then see what they sound like – pleasingly, you can also see some of the better creations made by other users, which will make you feel hugely inadequate but will also demonstrate quite how flexible the tool is. There’s something rather lovely about the way in which it creates digital sculptures as a side-effect of composition, and I would rather like to see this idea explored a bit further (but, obviously, I don’t really know how – I’M A BIG PICTURE GUY, OK, I DON’T DO DETAIL).
  • Hogwarts Is Here: No it is not. Hogwarts is a fictional school. It does not exist. You cannot learn magic at Hogwarts, because it is not real. And yet, here we are! My girlfriend is a millennial (just), and as such has the same sort of slightly-insane relationship with Potter as all of those of her generation (she self-identifies as Slytherin, and while I love her very much there are some aspects of this that I confess to finding troubling in the extreme), and even she would probably draw the line at this site. NO, HOGWARTS IS NOT ‘HERE’. Ahem. Should you have less of a problem with the obsessional arrested development that has seen every adult between the ages of 30-40 attach undue and frankly insane importance to a series of books for children, though, then maybe you too will want to enrol in a class on this website? As far as I can tell, this is basically a portal to a sort of digital Hogwarts LARP (except not live action, so, er, Digital Experience Role Play? DERP? Sounds about right) where you can roleplay as a student and…take classes in made-up subjects? Look, one of the main tenets behind Curios is that there is nothing odd or boring, and all interests and pursuits are equal and should not be mocked (apart from teledildonics; mocking teledildonics is literally fine), but this really does press right up against the limits of my tolerance. Still, if you want to roleplay as a new student at Hogwarts, inventing a backstory for yourself and attending Herbology classes and doing homework and effectively participating in a modern version of a MUD then YOU GO! In all seriousness, if anyone reading this happens to know exactly how this all works then please tell me as I am fascinated.
  • Quora Adult Content: There’s an old internet dictum (I forget which Rule it is exactly) which states that all platforms will at some point (if not always) be used to house bongo. I wouldn’t necessarily have thought that this applies to question and answer bonfire Quora and yet, well, HERE WE ARE! This is, to be clear, a collection of pictures of naked people, most specifically their genitals, in various states of arousal – it’s bongo, so, to be clear, DO NOT CLICK THE LINK UNLESS YOU ARE COMFORTABLE SEEING SEX PICTURES. It’s reasonably mixed in terms of gender and sexuality, but what I find most odd/charming about the whole thing is that this is a bunch of online exhibitionists who found each other because of their other shared interest – answering questions about stuff! Truly, the nested venn diagrams of humanity and human interest are rich and dense and multilayered. There is one particular gif about halfway down the page that made me do a proper double-take, by the way, and I say that as someone who has seen a LOT – it’s not horrible or bad, more…’blimey, you don’t see that that often, do you?’. And if that doesn’t tempt you to click then I don’t know what will.

By Ling Yung Chen



  •  Moviedromer: Moviedrome, for the UK-based kids of the 90s amongst you, was a genuinely amazing film programme – it showcased arthouse or ‘odd’ films that you wouldn’t necessarily have seen elsewhere on TV, and each was preceded by a bit of introanalysis by Alex Cox and Mark Cousins. This site collects transcripts of all those introductions, along with reflections on the films – if you want a decent way of exploring some classic, odd, occasionally niche cinema, this is a wonderful way of building a watchlist.


  • Math Is Noiz: Mixing AI generative art with scifi aesthetics isn’t something I’ve seen done that much; this account posts a really interesting mix of GAN-ish aesthetics and fractal-based future-ish art. Idiosyncratic and rather cool imho.
  • Helga Stentzel: Food, domesticity and whimsy here – there’s a very recognisable vibe/style about this work, but Stentzel executes it beautifully.
  • Brendon Burton: Photos of gothic-ish americana. Lots of ‘places in the middle of nowhere’ and ‘the blasted reality of the midwest’-type shots, but, again, executed particularly well.
  • Yann LeGall: Programming and generative art – but the sort of CG stuff that is so hypnotic I could lose myself for days watching some of these. The physical/digital kaleidescopy of it all (can you believe I used to work in arts PR and actually write press releases about this sort of stuff? No, me neither – I was terrible at it, fwiw) is mesmerising to me, and there’s something pleasingly-tactile about much of this despite its 100% digital-ness (see previous parentheses).


  • Green Gadgets: Or, perhaps more accurately, ‘on the inherent impossibility of environmentalist consumer technology’. This is a piece on Protocol, which means it’s very business-sympathetic, but the underlying message here struck me quite starkly – there is literally no way of doing all this stuff (making gadgets, phones, devices, doodads, gewgaws) in a way that doesn’t, at heart, continue fcuking the planet with knives. There are some lines in this that stood out to me as almost parodic in their cluelessness – I don’t doubt for a second that the people at Razer mean well, but this in particular made me scream/laugh in frustration: “Razer also began selling a stuffed animal version of its snake logo to raise money for the planting of roughly half a million trees, and released a limited edition apparel line made from reclaimed ocean plastics.” Say it together, kids: MAKING MORE CRAP DESTINED FOR LANDFILL IS NOT IN ANY WAY A USEFUL SOLUTION TO ENVIRONMENTAL CHALLENGES! There are many potential takeaways from this, but the biggest for me was the extent to which the word ‘sustainability’ is literally meaningless in 2021.
  • Brandcoins: Look, I’m bored of talking about crypto and NFTs and web3.0 – YOU’RE probably bored of reading about it all. Still, I know that enough of you reading this are in professions where having an opinion about this stuff (and, crucially, how you can sell your consultancy’s ‘knowledge’ (ha!) in this space to credulous clients who think that THEY CAN OWN THE METAVERSE) matters. So thanks to BBH, then, for producing this very useful guide to the lay of the land when it comes to brands and coins and NFTs and the whole shebang – the TLDR here is ‘if you have a brand that people care about and which has ‘fans’ then this may be worth exploring; otherwise, tell your CEO that just because he saw an article about it on Forbes doesn’t mean that your water company needs a metaverse strategy’, but there’s lots of really useful detail here should you need a primer or a general guide.
  • Trans Kids and Inclusion: A rare Guardian link now (I don’t usually link to their stuff, mainly because I sort-of assume that all my readers are also Guardian readers and you will be all over their stuff already, but will make an exception in this case as this is such a good piece of writing), to an extract from Shon Faye’s book about the transgender rights and justice. This is SO illuminating, about the experiences of young people and their families dealing with the issues faced by kids who know from a young age that their assigned gender is ‘wrong’ and how they deal with that – it’s a sober, sensitive look at one of the hot-button issues of our age, and feels like it ought to be required reading.
  • Airline Seats and Ownership: This is a wonderful example of an article about an ostensibly-boring topic that made me think SO MUCH MORE than I had expected. The central question here is a simple one – who owns the space between your knees and the chairback of the person in front of you on a plane? AND IF YOU SAY IT’S THE PERSON IN FRONT OF YOU, WHAT SORT OF A MONSTER ARE YOU??? – but it spools out into all sorts of questions about how monetisation of space works, how companies conceive of customers, and even broader conceptions of rights and ownership. Honestly, this is a really, really deeply-interesting piece, and will also provide you with a guaranteed argument-starter next time you’re at a boring dinner.
  • Introducing MUM: Technical-but-interesting, this is a blogpost by Google announcing an evolution of its search tech – MUM, or the Multitask Unified Model. “Take this scenario: You’ve hiked Mt. Adams. Now you want to hike Mt. Fuji next fall, and you want to know what to do differently to prepare. Today, Google could help you with this, but it would take many thoughtfully considered searches — you’d have to search for the elevation of each mountain, the average temperature in the fall, difficulty of the hiking trails, the right gear to use, and more. After a number of searches, you’d eventually be able to get the answer you need. But if you were talking to a hiking expert; you could ask one question — “what should I do differently to prepare?” You’d get a thoughtful answer that takes into account the nuances of your task at hand and guides you through the many things to consider… MUM could understand you’re comparing two mountains, so elevation and trail information may be relevant. It could also understand that, in the context of hiking, to “prepare” could include things like fitness training as well as finding the right gear.  Since MUM can surface insights based on its deep knowledge of the world, it could highlight that while both mountains are roughly the same elevation, fall is the rainy season on Mt. Fuji so you might need a waterproof jacket. MUM could also surface helpful subtopics for deeper exploration — like the top-rated gear or best training exercises — with pointers to helpful articles, videos and images from across the web.“ This is, I would imagine, quite a long way from reality at present, but it’s a fascinating look at what will come.
  • The History of Google Messaging Apps: Fine, this is VERY geeky, but it’s also a super-interesting retrospective on all the different ways in which Google has tried (and largely failed) to make messaging work as a product over the years. It gets quite techy at points, but it’s worth a skim even if you’re not a coding or product geek, simply as a reminder of all the different fcuking products you bothered to learn about before they got killed after 9m, and as an example of why sometimes the Google way of doing things isn’t always the most effective in terms of working culture and practice.
  • Toys and Surveillance: This is a bit of a depressing read, or at least it was to me – and I don’t even have children. If you’ve spawned, though, I imagine this article – about the increasing normalisation of the state industrial surveillance and control apparatus via the medium of Playmobil, essentially – will have a slightly greater impact. I find analyses of this sort of soft propaganda fascinating, as well as the mechanisms by which they come into being – who pitches this stuff? Here: “The most expensive [Playmobil set] — yours, or your child’s, for $120 — has six guns, two batons, three different computers, video cameras, aerials and a panopticon-style control tower. One of its miniature computer screens appears to show a Google Maps-inspired layout of an unnamed urban center. Even the most basic Playmobil police play set ($7) includes CCTV cameras on top of a tiny police station and a mugshot displayed on a laptop.” Is that ok? It doesn’t feel ok.
  • The Hardest Part of Making Games: …is everything! This is an indepth look at the games design process and why it is so fcuking hard – if you’ve ever worked in the industry then you will know most if not all of this already, but for laypeople this may well be a usefully-eye-opening look at how incredibly complex and multilayered the process of game creation is, and how the sorts of nested dependencies inherent in gamecode mean that everything basically falls over all the time until one day it doesn’t and often you don’t really understand why. This made me want to go back and apologise to everyone who I ever worked with in my earliest days in games PR for saying things like “So why don’t we put this in the game?” and not understanding why the smiles of everyone around me tightened by about 3cm and a cold silence filled the room.
  • Netflix and Games: Another essay by Matthew Ball who I imagine has no gone stratospheric after Zuckerberg cited him in his metaverse chat last month but who I have been reading for ages and I FOUND THE CONCH, OK MARK? Ffs. Anyway, this is his look at Netflix’s mooted move into games, and how that might work, and what the challenges are – it’s less a prediction of how Netflix might do it than an overview of how hard it will be, but as a primer on the current state of the games publishing market and where it might develop, it’s worth a read. His closing paragraphs about the lack of innovation in TV as a medium is interesting to me in particular – I spent quite a lot of time at the BBC a few years back exploring ideas for technologically-augmented storytelling using clever video and audio techniques, and the upshot was, basically, that there simply wasn’t the demand to warrant that sort of experimentation within the public sector. Maybe Netflix will be the outfit that has the money and the reach to experiment with innovation at the intersection of gaming and passive, sit-back entertainment.
  • Matt Furie vs NFTs: Matt Furie, you will doubtless recall, is the comics artist who created Pepe, and who subsequently saw his creation co-opted by some of the worst people on the internet and fought to get control back (if you’ve not seen it, the documentary ‘Feels Good Man’ is a great account of both this specific story and a certain mid-10s period of online culture, check it out). Furie is now attempting to block people from minting NFTs of suspiciously Pepe-adjacent cartoon frogs, and this piece details the back and forth between Furie, who is now making bank out of Pepe NFTs – and, frankly, who can blame him? – and the ‘creator community’ who want to be allowed to attempt to sell digital cartoons on the blockchain for Ether. This is a bit inside baseball, fine, but in microcosm it’s an interesting look at the sorts of debates around IP and ownership that are likely to plague this space for the foreseeable. It also features this quote, which I keep rereading because, well the last line is possibly one of the greatest phrases ever uttered, ever: “I’m also disappointed that Matt and the devs couldn’t find a way to work together and find a solution that would have allowed the project to move forward in such a way that respected the artistic integrity of both parties and frog meme culture in general.” WILL SOMEBODY THINK OF THE ARTISTIC INTEGRITY OF FROG MEME CULTURE????
  • StripTok: Rule 192098 of the internet – for every subculture and interest group, there will be a TikTok bubble. So it is for strippers, apparently – this is a nice, wholesome look at the community that exists around stripping on the platform, although again it contains a line that made me do something of a doubletake and which even now gives me quite strong WTF vibes: “”I have a lot of privilege,” Taylor says. “I’m white; I’m actually bisexual, but I look straight””. Wait, so there’s an accepted bisexual lookbook now? Really? We’re gatekeeping sexuality based on aesthetics? Smh.
  • Big Balls: Apparently there’s a trend happening amongst DEFINITELY well-adjusted men (ALWAYS MEN) towards attempting to, er, increase the size of one’s testicles via the medium of testosterone supplements and the like. I can only imagine the glee with which the author committed the line “Kevin is trying to supersize his balls” to digital paper. This is objectively mad, and a prime example of how the web has in many respects been awful for male sexuality – does anyone interested in going to bed with someone who owns testicles fussed about how large said testicles are? Actually, don’t answer that, I am comfortable not knowing.
  • Naval Architecture: VERY TECHNICAL, but I am including this because it’s yet another wonderful example of making an instructional webpage infinitely better via the medium of interactive graphics. This page is all about how boats float and how, therefore, they are engineered and built – at every step of the way there are small interactives which let you explore the relationships between the hull, the water and gravity, which as you read give you a (small, if you’re me and find the maths baffling) degree of understanding about how the whole ‘floating’ thing happens at scale.
  • The Federer Brand Legacy: A portrait of Roger Federer, not as a preturnaturally-gifted tennis player but as the best, most-committed, most-amenable brand ambassador that has ever lived. There’s something intensely-joyless about this piece, which speaks the language of sponsorship and money rather than that of sport, and it paints a picture of Federer as a lovely person who is literally every sponsor’s dream – I remember when I was at the agency that did this that everyone described him as the perfect talent to work with, always willing to do pickups and never stroppy – and who obviously decided at a certain point in his career that he was very interested in being violently rich and that The Federer Brand was the way to go about it. If nothing else, it’s interesting to think of him as something of a precursor – I imagine every teenage footballer on a Premier League team’s books has a scrapbook of designs for their logo, and dreams of which brands will beg them to be their face.
  • The Plot Against Fiction: As the literary hype machine prepares to chew up the latest Sally Rooney, this essay in the Hong Kong Review of Books is timely – in it, Susanna Kleeman writes about the plot against ‘plot’, and the manner in which the work we read is shaped by capital as much as anything else. “This conformist and retro business strategy bleeds down to advice given to prospective authors, who are increasingly numerous. We might not read novels, but more and more people feel they can write one. And why not, since their stories have become familiar and the instructions for their creation more and more clear. Getting a novel published has never been more proscribed and professionalised. Gone are the days of novelists as bad boys, askance from the culture. Cocks can no longer be snooped. Look at publisher, agent, and other industry websites and social media: you will find many rules and regulations about structure, plot points, genres, hero journeys, queries, pitch letters, etiquette, comp titles and so forth, plus instructions on self-promotion, DIY marketing, newsletters, blogs, how to build followers, social media decorum, extending even to advice about not using social reading sites to ill-review potential peers. This is the “precorporation” of novelists, Mark Fisher’s term for the “pre-emptive formatting and shaping of desires, aspirations and hopes by capitalist culture” (Capitalist Realism). And it is necessary even for those who plan to self-publish: the identical metadata, marketing, discoverability and sales strategies will apply since Amazon is the marketplace and there’s no alternative publishing ecology. Self-publishing authors who want readers must be canny businesspeople, as all authors are best advised to become these days.”
  • The Real-Life Mr Toad: On the boorishness of the early driver, and specifically on the boorishness of one William K. Vanderbilt II, an American millaire and turn-of-the-century car enthusiast, whose rollcall of bad behaviour is genuinely eye-popping and includes highlights such as “In 1899, during a visit to France, he killed two dogs that were attacking the tires on his vehicle and had to flee from an angry mob”. Will please those of you who, like me, try and pitch their inability to drive as some sort of moral choice rather than a simple fact of a lack of interest and probably coordination.
  • The Mascot Whisperer: As REASONABLY ONLINE PEOPLE (you are reading this, after all) I imagine you’re all familiar with Gritty, the new-ish mascot of the Philadelphia Flyers whose monstrous-yet-friendly orange countenance – like some googly eyes stuck onto an orange supermop – has become one of the hallmarks of being on a certain part of the web post-2019. This piece profiles Dave Raymond, a consultant whose job it is help sports teams develop mascots and who is the person who helped develop Gritty along with countless others. SO interesting, even if the fact that mascots are born of exactly the same rigorous process that births, I don’t know, new brands of toothpaste, made me a tiny bit sad inside.
  • On Immortalising Ex-Partners In Fiction: A sort of anti-companion-piece to the ‘My ex was the guy in Cat Person!’ expose’ from a few months back, this is a short article about what it’s like talking to your ex about your appearance in their new novel. Fascinating, not least because I really disliked both author and interlocutor in this piece in a way that felt almost-intentional.
  • Khansama: Or, ‘What It’s Like Being A Chef In India After Being On Masterchef’. I loved this – if you have any interest in cooking, and specifically the business of doing it, you will adore this. Even better, if you have any interest in the Indian celebrity chef scene I bet this will be pleasingly-gossipy for you.
  • Eating A Whale: In which the author travels to Alaska to eat whale meat. This is an odd piece insofar as it felt to me while reading it that it’s a sort of journalism that is unlikely to exist in the not-too-distant future – partly the subject matter (indulgent meat eating is very un-green), partly the authorial voice (middle-aged white bloke goes exploring!), partly how commissioning (doesn’t) work these days. I mean, I can’t imagine this being a video, is all I’m saying. Regardless of all that, I found this beautifully-written and oddly peaceful and elegiac – do have a read, it’s very much a ‘grey afternoon with a cup of tea’-type piece, if you know what I mean.
  • Booking Nas In Angola: This links to part 1 of a three-part series (just swap the ‘1’ for ‘2’ and ‘3’ to read the other segments if they’re not hyperlinked at the bottom) about what happened when an attempt by an enterprising but down-on-his-luck New York promoter to book Nas to play a New Year’s Eve concert in Angola went wrong. This involves crime, addiction, redemption, kidnapping, and a lot of sitting around – it could use an edit, fine, but I enjoyed every single word of this (and there are a lot of words).
  • The Dresden Job: Finally this week, another story from Germany about TRUE CRIME, and another rip-roaring yarn – after that one a few months back about the blackmailer and the bombings, I’m starting to wonder whether Germany simply has a more entertaining class or criminal. This is about diamond heists and smuggling and fencing and sting operations and, honestly, it’s great fun (and I say that as someone who generally has no personal interest in true crime stuff whatsoever).

By Alessia Morellini