Hello! Happy Friday! Welcome to another Web Curios, not the best, or most popular, or most-influential, or most-widely-read, or oddest, newsletter in the world, but I challenge anyone of you fcukers to find a longer one. FCUK THE QUALITY, FEEL THE WIDTH!
Ahem. Sorry about that. It’s been something of a fraught morning as I once again had to do a SoylentRun and so found myself engaging in the peculiarly Italian version of ‘queuing’ outside a local health centre at 8am (characterised in the main by people showing up every 3 minutes, asking ‘who’s last in line, then?’ and, invariably, then attempting to jump the queue anyway because ‘I just need to ask something, promise’ while 30 Romans volubly curse them with varying degrees of creativity. God I love it here), and I am tired.
Anyway, I’ve got things to do and you have LINKS TO CLICK! There are some good ones here this week, I promise, and you can neatly avoid anything relating to NFTs by just skipping the first 5 and pretending that they don’t exist.
I am still Matt, this is still Web Curios, and I still want to come home.
THE SECTION WHICH WILL NEVER FORGIVE VLAD IF HIS BELLICOSITY SAVES THAT PRICK’S JOB, PT.1:
- Superworld: One of the main things that puts me off the current frothiness around web3nftdeargotit’salljustmeaninglesswordsoup is the very real sensation that I get from every single project I come across that it’s about nothing more than making as much cash as possible as quickly as possible and hang the ethics/consequences (to be clear, it’s not like I actively avoid or disdain money – it has its uses, after all – more that I don’t necessarily class its ceaseless pursuit as something particularly…admirable, per se). That was very much the vibe I got from Superworld, a service which appears, as far as I can tell, to be selling a virtual twin of the world, piece by piece. Fcuk knows exactly what right they have to do this – to, say, sell you the digital rights to the digital replica of the exact spot on the planet where, say, the Taj Mahal sits – but, hey, why let that small question stop them from attempting to get IMMENSELY, MIND-FLAYINGLY RICH through selling geo-linked magic beans to idiots who really don’t understand how actual, enforceable ‘rights’ work. “SuperWorld is a virtual world where users can buy, sell, collect, and curate over 64 billion unique plots of virtual land. The SuperWorld virtual real estate platform is mapped over the entire surface of the globe, allowing users to purchase —literally—any place on Earth. From skyscrapers and stadiums to historical monuments and iconic structures including wonders of the natural world, when you step into SuperWorld, you’ll truly make a world of your own.” Leaving aside the entirely incorrect usage of the word ‘literally’ in that verb (it is, literally, not purchasing any place on the surface of the globe!), how exactly you will do that is, er, nebulous – as far as I can tell you can then add an AR layer over your ‘land’, but why you would want to do that is beyond me. As is exactly what you’re supposed to do with it, or how exactly the opportunity to ‘monetise the metaverse’ (AHAHAHAHA YOU DREADFUL FCUKING CNUTS!) is meant to present itself given that what you have effectively purchased is a receipt that reads (for example) ‘The Digital Eiffel Tower (Honest Guv, It Totally Is)’. Whilst on the one hand the people behind this are obviously total crooks and scam artists, as with a lot of NFT projects it feels like they’re perpetrating a victimless crime given the fact that anyone likely to buy this is themselves a grifter-in-waiting. Scams and scum, all the way down! Anyone fancy buying a star or a plot of land on Mars while they’re about it?
- The Masonicverse: Maybe, though, the prospect of spending several hundred pounds for a worthless certificate ‘promising’ that you ‘own’ the ‘digital Taj Mahal’ isn’t appealing to you. Maybe instead you would like to spend your real-world cash on some sort of token that confers you POWER and INFLUENCE and allows you ingress to a secret society of powerful people moving behind the scenes and pulling strings. While we wait for IlluminatiCoin to mint (it can only be a matter of hours, surely), we can instead get on board with THE MASONICVERSE! Leaving aside the truly fabulous name, this also earns WebCuriosMeaninglessSpaffPoints (may mint those as an NFT!) for coining the brand new concept of THE OMNIVERSE (for when the still-nonexistent concept of the metaverse is just too small and restrictive for you) and for this spectacular project description: “Members of all ages, races, religions, and cultures meet in individual Lodges in the esoteric extended reality Masoniverse. Through ceremonies with no political or religious affiliations, we empower our members to become better, be respectful and actively fulfil our responsibilities for building the omniverse.Governed by UGLM, the United Grand Lodge of Masoniverse, the Masoniverse is a unique and historical NFT collection of 11096 Masonsynths, masonic synths members can activate when attending meetings in the 333 Lodges. Each Masosynth can join multiple Lodges and evolve by progressing through the 744 Degrees of Masoniverse.” What does any of this mean? FCUK KNOWS, but I for one am thrilled at the prospect of being able to roll up my trouserleg and expose my left nipple in the glorious digital future that awaits. As an aside, why does so much of this stuff look so…well, fashy? Check the avatars and tell me that they don’t scream “terrifying future Reich”.
- Adidas x Prada x NFT: This is very much going to be the year in which big brands outside of fashion start dipping their toes into these (murky, potentially-bacterially-soupy) waters – and here are Adidas and Prada, combining for what I think is the first big ticket brand NFT thing of 2022.The basic concept here is marginally-less stupid than I might have expected – basically the brands have teamed up with digital artist Zach Lieberman to enable 3,000 users to participate in the creation of an ‘artwork’ which will then be sold as an NFT; the 3,000 participants will split a 15% cut of the sale proceeds, with 5% going to Lieberman and the remaining 80% being donated to a non-profit. Which, as these things go, isn’t a bad idea! It makes a lot of the theoretical positives of crypto and NFTs (co-creation, legacy resale income) tangible, and it doesn’t seem designed to scalp anyone. That said, take a moment to read the FAQ and try and make sense of the garbled word-salad, and then take a moment to think whether this actually, really needs the blockchain at all (I would contend that it in fact doesn’t). Oh, and the ‘artwork’? Sadly the initial application process has closed so you can’t see the aesthetic, but basically it’s going to be a collage of 3,000 photos that have been digitally fcuked with. Does that sound like it’s going to be…good art? No, it does not. Still, grudging respect to Adi for doing something that isn’t just ‘trainers, but on the blockchain’ (I imagine that’s coming in Q3).
- NFT Scratchoff: What if scratchcards but…ON THE BLOCKCHAIN?!?!?!?!?!?! This is yet to launch, but I really admire the chutzpah here – this is literally just a straight-up gamble, with different ‘qualities’ of scratchcards available, with different odds, which let you stand a chance to win up to 2,500 SOL (which at the time of writing is about $230k). “The average NFT is subjective in value, its price determined by speculation and market face-value. NFT Scratch-off seeks to change this by providing the market with an objectively valued NFT, driven by rare scratch off tickets with exchangeable crypto balances.” I…don’t hate this, mainly because at least it seems to be honest about its intentions – equally, though, there is once again no earthly reason at all as to why this needs to be ON THE BLOCKCHAIN (other, I suppose, than for the development of a secondary trading market in scratchcards). Still, NFT SCRATCHCARDS!
- The Blockedchain: This, though, this actually made me laugh, and not even in a mocking way – the Blockedchain is a silly-yet-real project that offers the opportunity to mint NFTs proving that you’ve been blocked on Twitter by a selection of tech luminaries, like Musk or Mark Andreesen, or the BAYC people – you need to link your Twitter account to the site to prove the block, at which point you can mint and claim your VERY OWN “I was blocked by this person” NFT (for free, gas fees excepted). Now, exactly why you might want to do that is still something of a mystery to me, but if you’d like INCONTROVERTIBLE BLOCKCHAIN-BASED PROOF that someone richer and more famous than you are thinks you’re a prick then I can think of no better way to secure it.
- The NFT-inator: The next time someone peddling whatever the latest avatar-based NFT shovelware starts wanging on about THE ART and the BOUNDLESS CREATIVITY, show them this site, which is both an easy way of creating your very own line of creatively-bankrupt almost-identikit cartoon faces to shill on-chain AND a clear indication of exactly how much ‘effort’ goes into coming up with these things in the first place. This lets you upload all your assets (base avatar, accessories, variant features, colourways, etc) and then create multiple variants which you can then make available for minting on the network of your choice – so there’s now nothing to stop you making immense bank through the creation and sale of your very own line of poorly-sketched cartoon porpoises (LOOK! THEY ALL HAVE DIFFERENT-SIZED BLOWHOLES!) or whatever takes your fancy. On the one hand, why not? On the other, well, why?
- John Peel Roulette: PHEW! Now we’re done with the inevitable NFT nonsense for another week, let’s reward ourselves by focusing on something LOVELY and PURE and GOOD. This is a project by serial-web-tinkerer Monkeon, which has taken the immense archive of John Peel Show recordings on YouTube and created a script which lets you, with the click of a button, be transported to a random moment from a random show. Which, fine, if you’re not familiar with John Peel or what the John Peel Show was, might not sound like much – so for the children or the non-UK people, it was basically a non-stop 90-180 minute selection of incredible, eclectic music that you would simply never hear anywhere else, and this webtoy basically lets you hit a button and get a brand new injection of sounds that you will quite likely have never heard before. Absolutely PERFECT archive usage, this, and the sort of thing it would be lovely to do with other stuff knocking around on YouTube – I would love to see it done for old BBC One show Tomorrow’s World, for example, so that with a single click we could get an amusingly-wrong prediction from 1987 about how by 2019 we were all going to be eating space leeks on Alpha Centuari or something.
- Cheezam: Seeing as my only professional skill in the world of advermarketingpr appears to be coming up with vaguely-punny names for things (never let it be said that I don’t spaff value EVERYWHERE, professionally-speaking), I am hugely disappointed that I didn’t think of this myself (although, in my defence, Shazam/Cheezam is a bit of a stretch). This is SUCH a clever/fun idea – take a photo of some cheese and this site will use AI to identify it for you. Perfect for those moments when you don’t know whether it’s a Roquefort or a Stilton and your life depends on getting it right. If you work for Jacob’s Crackers or one of those fancy oatcake brands, I suggest you use this as, er, creative inspiration asap.
- Tokyo Explorer: Would you like a link to a YouTube channel which consists of nothing more than first-person walks through various parts of Japan’s capital? YES OF COURSE YOU WOULD WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU? Yes, ok fine, ‘first person walking tours of faraway places’ does rather feel like a throwback to lockdown 1 – a happier time! A simpler time! Oddly enough both of those statements feel true, which is…weird and a touch depressing, if I’m honest – but these are genuinely great and there’s a pleasing mix of destinations which go beyond the stereotypical ‘look, so much neon and KAWAII!!!!!’ impression we were fed of Tokyo for much of the 90s and 00s.
- The Green Planet Experience: Ok, FULL DISCLOSURE, this was made by a team of people including a friend of mine who I used to work with at the BBC, so, you know, vested interests and all that, but if you’re after something to do with the kids in London over half-term in February then this may well be of interest (and if you’re not, then, well, ffs get over it). An ‘immersive experience’ to tie in with the next Attenboroughgasm (almost certainly the last, or at least the last to feature Real David as opposed to the inevitable CG/deepfaked revenant version who will be helming all nature content for the rest of time – I jest, but, equally, I don’t actually jest at all; the only possible hedge against that creepy vision is that Sir David is apparently a very savvy businessman and very good at keeping hold of his rights, so here’s hoping he’s applied that acument to his image as well as his output), this will let you “Travel through five digitally enhanced worlds – including Rainforest, Freshwater, Saltwater, Desert and Seasonal, as you explore our green planet as never before. Finally, all culminating in the human story and how we can all affect positive change.” The next load of free tickets are available on 11 Feb, so maybe put a note in your diary if you fancy dragging your spawn to an ‘improving family activity’ when all they want to do is lie slack-jawed in front of TikTok for a 12h-stretch.
- Discover Quickly: There have been a number of ‘a better interface for Spotify’ tools over the years, and this is yet another, but it looks particularly slick (at least to my largely-design-blind eyes) and rather useful. Discover Quickly is specifically designed to help you, uh, discover new music through Spotify, more quickly (I…I probably didn’t need to explain that, did I?), and features all sorts of features to facilitate the process – you can quickly scrub through your preferred artists and playlists, and easily dip into each to find related acts and tracks which you can then equally-easily save to your favourites or to new playlists. This is really slick, and a lovely piece of digital design (which once again begs the question of why Spotify’s own discovery tools – aside from the ‘push’ stuff like Mix of the Week – aren’t this good).
- The Weird Old Book Finder: A nice little webtoy by Clive Thompson, who explains the reasons behind its existence thusly: “Old books are socially and culturally fascinating; they give you a glimpse into how much society has changed, and also what’s remained the same. The writing styles can be delightfully archaic, but also sometimes amazingly fresh. Nonfiction writers from 1780 can be colloquial and funny as hell. And man, they wrote about everything. Back in those centuries they wrote books about falling in love via telegraph wires, and about long-distance balloon travel. They wrote books that soberly praised eugenics, and ones that inveighed against it. They published exuberant magazines of men’s fashion and books on how to adopt vegetarian diets. The past being the past, there’s a ton of flat-out nativism, racism, and gibbering misogyny — but also people fighting against that, too. It’s rarely dull.” Which description basically puts it right at the very centre of the Web Curios venn diagram of ‘stuff we like’ – this is joyous, letting you input whatever you fancy into the search engine and returning a single solitary book from the Google public domain archives each time. I just typed in ‘Strategy’ and got something entitled ‘Women’s Strategy’, a novel from 1867 which I think we can all agree sounds GREAT – please, please, please give this a go, it’s a superb timesink.
- The Duchamp Archive: This could well have been subtitled ;NOT JUST THE PISSOIR’, but depressingly isn’t. Still, if you fancy a trawl through the collected works of Marcel Duchamp then this is the place for you – this contains lithographs, etchings and all the sorts of collected ephemera that tend to characterise the lifetime archive, and it’s staggering to see the range on display here. He was quite good, Duchamp, turns out, even if you don’t ‘get’ the urinal thing.
- Definitely Not The Metaverse: This is a small 3d environment in which you can move and chat and play music and vaguely-interact with whichever other strangers happen to be there at the same time as you, and, whilst there is literally nothing remarkable about this at all, I am including it mainly because it shows up exactly how crap and pointless and empty the current rash of ultra-shiny ‘METAVERSE EXPERIENCES’ currently being shilled are (HI GAVIN!). This is literally just cobbled together by someone as a hobby project and STILL it is exactly as functional as the sort of crap experience that agencies are trying to flog you for five-figure sums – basically what I am trying to say here is that you might as well build your EXCITING BRAND SPACE like this rather than spending all of the cash on something functionally-identical but marginally-prettier. Also – and I strongly believe this – all virtual spaces from hereon in should include the ability to spray p1sslike graffiti all over the place as you can do here (NB – whilst at the time of writing the space is ‘clean’, when I popped in earlier it was a bit covered with hatespeech, so caveat emptor and all that – you can’t legislate for 12 year olds, turns out).
- DoomScroll: A Twitter bot which shares a single screen from a playthrough of Doom every hour. Because nothing says ‘timeline cleanse’ like occasionally being surprised by a highly-pixellated jpeg of a nearly-30-year-old videogame.
- Track: A neat little music visualiser, this, which generates a vagely-TRONlike set of visuals to accompany the song ‘Implant’ by Makeup and Vanity Set, which are slightly different each time you log on. This is simple but works rather well, and there’s something slightly-hypnotic about the vaguely ‘infinite conveyor belt’ feel of the whole thing. I imagine this would be pleasingly-immersive with a VR headset, so should you have one please give it a try and let me know.
- XKCD Search: There are certain bits of the web where it feels like hyper-maths-y comicstrip XKCD is basically like the bible, referred to as some sort of ur-text with which to guide one’s existence – it’s certainly true that the strip’s been going long enough that it feels as though it’s covered basically every aspect of the human experience (or at least those that are vaguely maths-and-data-adjacent). This website lets you run keyword searches against the XKCD archive, so you too can find the PERFECT cartoon to illustrate whatever mad/infuriating/bemusing things are happening in the world at this particular second – if nothing else, it’s a great timemachine back to memes and themes of the past. I just discovered a strip riffing on Rebecca Black’s Friday, which made me feel both old and very much like the ineluctable arc of human progress is trending in the wrong direction.
- Root Maps: An archive of arboreal root maps, collected by Wageningen university in the Netherlands (just take a moment to pause and say that placename out loud in your head – go on, roll the syllables around your mouth like it’s a Werther’s Original – good, isn’t it?) – you may not have been aware that what you needed today was to browse through a collection of pencil drawings demonstrating the insane complexity of How Roots Work, but I promise you that this is sort-of beautiful and will (if you’re anything like me) cause you to briefly spin out and have very stoned-feeling thoughts about how fundamentally freaky, weird and, well, alien these things look when you look below-ground. Trees are Triffids, basically, and we should all perhaps be more wary of their branchy menace.
- Hey, Look At Us: A website which does one thing and one thing only – it tells you how many people are currently logged onto it at any given time (4, currently). This is obviously totally pointless, AND YET… There’s got to be something fun you can do with this, right? Content unlocks for when a specific number of people visit a URL simultaneously, for example, or video easter eggs, or frankly any number of things – I’d love to see a film website which refuses to release the latest trailer until 100,000 rabid fans are all on the homepage at once, for example,or a prize for the 319th concurrent visitor or, well, I don’t know, I presume some of you are meant to be ‘creatives’ so why don’t you come up with something yourselves? Jesus, do I have to spoonfeed you everything?
- The Body International: The Body International is THE most 2022 magazine in the world at the moment (according to me, at least), being as it is a publication devoted to exploring the phenomenon of CULTS! Fascinating – contains both pieces about your more traditional cultish-type organisations (you know, the doomsdayers, the alien worshippers, the ‘I am the one true son of God and it is vitally important that I sleep with as many young men and women as is humanly (or, perhaps more accurately, divinely) possible’, that sort of thing) and the more modern manifestations of cultishness (so Multi-Level Marketing schemes and the like). I know I wang on about THE CULT being the defining cultural unit of the modern age more than is probably seemly, but, well, I believe it, and I think that learning more about how they work is a genuinely useful pursuit in terms of getting your head round certain aspects of How Society Works Right Now (or, more bleakly, in terms of How To Sell More Tat To Mooks).
- Modality: This is, fine, a bit ‘serious’, but it’s a hugely-interesting-looking piece of software. Modality is designed to help urban planners and transport network designers (and others) work out the sort of impact that specific changes to the urban landscape and mobility network will make to various aspects of life for residents in the area – so it lets you see how changes in bus routes, say, or train frequency, will affect travel times and congestion and likely traffic routes. Honestly, if you’ve ever played SimCity you will see the appeal here immediately – it’s obviously A Professional Product and if you want to use it properly you have to pay, but there’s a demo you can tool around with here which uses real data about transport in the Paris metro area and lets you mess around with trains and trams to see exactly how you can make the world’s most-overrated city (FIGHT ME) marginally-less unpleasant to live in. I could spend DAYS with this – it may be the only thing to ever make me wish that I had become a civil engineer.
- Temperature Textiles: Whilst it would be understandable to bury one’s head in the sand and attempt to ignore the creeping reality of Quite How Much We Have Fcuked Things, environmentally-speaking, it equally feels like we might want to start being a bit more honest with ourselves about how things are going (badly!). To that end, why not use your sartorial choices to communicate a constant reminder of exactly how the whole climate change thing is going with this range of garments and accessories from Dutch brand Temperature Textiles, whose designs all in some way reflect the changing nature of the planet resulting from our actions. Socks that reflect likely rising sea levels, so you can see exactly how damp your ankles are likely to be in a couple of decades’ time? GREAT! A blanket which represents through pleasing chromatic sections the troubling rise in global average temperatures over the past century? YES MATE! Admittedly there’s an argument to suggest that walking around with what is in effect a thinly-codified sign that screams “THE END IS NIGH” might be construed as, well, a bit preachy, but on the other hand, er, the end is a bit nigh, and perhaps we might want to do something about it (not, of course, that ‘buying some socks’ counts as ‘doing something’). Actually, I’ve just looked and there’s a blanket on there that sells for over 1000 Euros, so maybe I don’t like this project after all, on reflection. I don’t know, you make up your own minds.
- Legendary Reddit:One of those occasional Reddit threads where users reminisce about great/weird/awful stuff that they have seen on the site – ALL OF HUMAN LIFE IS HERE (if by ‘all of human life’ you mean ‘some examples of incredible kindness and creativity, but also some of the most disgusting things you will ever have seen or read’). There are some true gems/horrors buried in here – I promise you that, if you see it, you will never forget the ‘colourful’ description of the perineal abscess, however hard you try – and it sort-of gets to the heart of what’s amazing about Reddit, to my mind, which is the way it more than almost any other community online demonstrates the way in which the web has, if nothing else, offered us a quite dizzying perspective on the incredible gamut of human experience (whether or not that’s a good thing is frankly up to you to decide).
By Doug Johnson
THE SECTION WHICH WILL NEVER FORGIVE VLAD IF HIS BELLICOSITY SAVES THAT PRICK’S JOB, PT.1:
- Bookfeed: Simple-but-excellent idea, this, which neatly solves the (adnmittedly perhaps slightly niche and maybe a bit lazy) problem of ‘not being able or frankly even bothered to keep up with book publishing schedules’. Click the link, type in the names of any and all authors whose output you want to track and BINGO, the site will generate an RSS feed which you can plug into the reader of your choice and will alert you to when your favourite wordsmith has imminent new ish. I have a sneaking suspicion that this is a US service and as such might tease you with their publication dates rather than UK ones – WHY MUST I WAIT 3 MONTHS LONGER FOR THE NEW JOHN DARNIELLE YOU FCUKS? – but frankly that’s a minor quibble.
- Chess: Lovely little codetoy by V Buckingham, this – loading the page generates a chessboard, on which pieces automatically play out a game, but moving your mouse changes the size of the board, allowing you to see what it might look like for a chess match to play out on a board measuring, say, 128 by 128. I don’t know why it’s soothing to watch a gigantic, slightly-nonsensical chessmatch being played out by software but it is. There’s something particularly interesting about the way in which the expansion of the playing field changes the way in which the AI approaches the game – regular readers will know that I find ‘variations on the theme of chess which fcuk with the ruleset in esoteric ways’ fascinating, and this scratches that (admittedly very specific) itch.
- The Planetarium Museum: Ah, The Old Web – I do wonder about the people who maintain sites like this, obviously first built using Dreamweaver or similar in about 1998 and still using the same code and aesthetic despite it now very much not being 1998 and there being some…significantly easier tools to let you develop and maintain a web presence. Still, I am glad that they do – this site, the online home of THE PLANETARIUM MUSEUM in Big Bear Lake, California (place names like this just wouldn’t work in the UK, would they? ‘Slightly Aggressive Goose Pond’ just doesn’t have the same ring to it), is joyous. If you’ve ever wanted to learn about planetary projectors, or want to see a bunch of photos of a selection of said projectors from around the world, or just want to read about what the website describes as ‘our fearless planetarium creator’ (fearless? Is the collection of planetarium projectors a more fraught pursuit than we had once imagined? Please, someone, make a film of this man’s life!), then this will please you immensely.
- ICEF: I am not, as a rule, a particularly scatalogical person, and tend not to find gags about flatulence that funny (what can I say, it’s the Italian in me – humourless wop fcuks, eh?). That said, I can’t help but admire the effort behind the website for The Invisible College of Experimental Flatology – this is a lot of work for a gag that is, at its heart, just ‘farts!’ If you want a fart noise generating machine, blogposts about farts, fart recordings, and a stack of other petomaniacal distractions, then consider this your stinky, aerated nirvana.
- The Cease and Desist Grand Prix: MSCHF back at it again, this time with a lawyer-baiting bit of fun which has seen them produce a limited range of long-sleeve tshirts emblazoned with a selection of big corporate logos – Disney, Amazon, Subway, those sorts of fcukers – with the game being to see which of the companies whose logos were being used without consent would be the first to give the legal smackdown. The game’s now over, but the site explains how it works – I like this a lot, not least because it feels like a return to the ‘pull the tiger’s tail’-style stuff they were doing a couple of years back rather than the more ‘hey, we can use the hype machine to make massive bank’ stuff of recent drops.
- Public Vehicles of Ankara: I honestly have no idea AT ALL as to why the local government in Ankara, Turkey, decided that it was important for residents of the local area, and indeed anyone worldwide, to be able to see a driver’s eye view of rubbish trucks and snowploughs and other public service vehicles as they trundle around the metropolitcan area, BUT THEY DID! So now you can while away a pleasing few minutes of your day pretending that you’re, I don’t know, gritting the roads in Turkey rather than putting the finishing touches to yet another collection of pointless slides which could have been an email but NO, we must ALL MAKE SLIDES ALL THE TIME BECAUSE THAT IS THE LAW. Sorry, got distracted by how much I hate work – click the link, this site is GREAT and you will be surprised by how much you enjoy a very slow sightsee through downtown Ankara.
- Waymap: You’ll have seen, I’m sure, the recent prototype AR store navigation thing that M&S are trialing at the moment (fine, here) – I am personally quite interested in the idea of this sort of hyperlocalised mapping and guidance software, and Waymap struck me as a really interesting solution. “With Waymap, anyone can explore anywhere – simply, quickly and independently. Waymap, the world’s only navigation app that guides you both indoors and outdoors. Accurate up to 1m, with no signals required. With our app on your phone, you can explore the city, catch your bus, or go right to the aisle you want at the store. Installed across a city’s transport network, streets and major buildings, our app gives step-by-step guidance as soon as you step out your door. It works anywhere we have a map.” I think, as far as I can tell, this uses step data to track your position within space, meaning it can operate signal-free using only on-device processing – obviously it requires a degree of coordination between the tech and the space owners to set up, but the theory here is hugely interesting from an accessibility and mobility point of view.
- Soundcloud Sounds of 2021: Yes, I know that it is almost February and therefore technically too late to be doing anything looking back at the year we have already just forgotten about but, well, tough. I only found this this week, and I thought it was a nice look at new music that you might not necessarily have heard of already, what with Soundcloud’s status as ‘the place where less famous musicians tend to put their stuff’. Obviously I say this as a 42 year old man who was last culturally relevant approximately 26 years ago, but I found this a really interesting overview of ‘stuff that came out last year which I didn’t hear because I basically listen to Radio4 all the time’.
- Solutions Explorer: A vaguely-positive website! No, really! Solutions Explorer is a really useful site which lets you search through over 1300 environmentally-focused projects to help you find ongoing work which is looking to address specific issues relating to climate change and the environment. There’s text search and tagging, and if you’re looking for specific projects around, say, construction, or freight, or mobility, with an environmental slant, this could be super-useful.
- Tubewhack: “Pimlico is the only London Underground station which does not contain any of the letters in the word “Badger”. I’ve decided to call words or phrases like this — whose letters appear in all but a single tube station’s name — “Tubewhacks”. We know badger, sandwich, morgan, hammer and mongoloids are Tubewhacks but what others are out there?” This was sent to me by Jerry Latter on Twitter, who specifically asked ‘WILL THIS BE IN WEB CURIOS?” Yes, Jerry, yes it will. Now take your spotters’ badge and fcuk off. FYI Matt Muir is itself a Tubewhack – not sure what to do with that information, but I am vaguely pleased regardless.
- TubeTok: Confusingly, I am here using ‘tube’ to mean something ENTIRELY DIFFERENT than I did in the previous entry – here, rather than the London Underground network, ‘tube’ specifically refers to the incredibly weird and unsettlingly-biological phenomenon that is ‘how you clean industrial pipes’. Click the link and watch, mesmerised, as the blue tubing emerges, all hungry of maw, from lengths of piping, like some sort of seemingly-prehensile latex phallomonster. If you can watch these without a significant part of you making veiled innuendos and internally shouting ‘OO ER MISSUS’ then, frankly, you a better and more mature person than I am.
- The History of Mathematics: I’m not enough of an expert in maths (ha! Honestly, I can barely count) to be able to judge to what degree this is a hopelessly-hubristic description, but this site purports to offer a journey through the history of mathematical thought through the ages. This is a companion site to an exhibition being put together by the National Museum of Mathematics in the US, and offers you guides to the development and evolution of counting, algebra, pi and the like, and if you’re a mathematician or just maths-curious, or if you or your kids are studying the subject, this could be useful / interesting.
- Big Clive: Big Clive is a (presumably) large, bearded Scotsman with a gentle voice whose YouTube channel consists of him gently explaining How Stuff Works by breaking down cheap electronic tat and looking inside its innards. That’s it – but I promise you that Big Clive is basically therapy and should be available on the NHS. If you can watch one of these (and I say that as a man who really does not care about transistors or resistors or ohms) without feeling your shoulders relaxing and your eyes rolling back slightly as though someone was gently scratching you behind the ears then, well, you may be beyond help.
- Imagine Rio: “A searchable digital atlas that illustrates the social and urban evolution of Rio de Janeiro, as it existed and as it was imagined. Views of the city created by artists, maps by cartographers, and site plans by architects or urbanists are all located in both time and space. It is a web environment that offers creative new ways for scholars, students, and residents to visualize the past by seeing historical and modern imagery against an interactive map that accurately presents the city since its founding.” This is a fascinating way of looking at a city’s evolution – I would love to see something comparable for London, ideally also including all the stuff that almost got built but didn’t, so if someone could knock that up for me this weekend that would be great thanks.
- Heavenly Angels: I started trying to explain/describe this site, but after the fourth attempt I have decided to just give up and suggest you click on the link and bathe in the glory of what I can only assume must be a web presence with a direct link to the divine. Contains all sorts of useful information about what the angels think about putting chips inside people (they are not fans) and some lovely artwork depicting humans on spaceships meeting with their alien cosmic masters. There’s a strong whiff of the Aetherius Society about this, but also quite a lot of sui generis oddity – I particularly liked the warning from 2009 about how swine flu is a global saurian plot to chip people, which suggests that the conspiracists probably need to get some new stories.
- The Swatch Clock: If you work in advermarketingpr then you will at various points have had to deal with The Moronic Hubris Client, who says things like ‘we’re going to create a movement!’ with wild-eyed zeal and who will not under any circumstances listen to the naysayers and the haters who counter such ambitions with doom-laden statements like ‘but Alan, your company makes toner for printers and you would struggle to create a bowel movement let alone a collection of people united around your toner-based cause’. Fortunately the thing about Moronic Hubris Clients is that they are, as the name suggests, morons, and tend not to stick around long enough for their stupid projects to come to term – but occasionally they avoid the sack, and strange things happen. So it must have been in 1998, when Swiss watchmakers Swatch decided that the whole concept of ‘time’ and the 24 hour clock (which, let’s be clear, had by that point been working pretty well for everyone for a few millennia and which didn’t really need updating, occasional timezone confusion aside) needed reworking, and decided to invent the concept of Beats. “Instead of hours and minutes, the mean solar day is divided into 1000 parts called .beats. Each .beat is equal to one decimal minute in the French Revolutionary decimal time system and lasts 1 minute and 26.4 seconds (86.4 seconds) in standard time. Times are notated as a 3-digit number out of 1000 after midnight. So, for example @248 would indicate a time 248 .beats after midnight representing 248⁄1000 of a day, just over 5 hours and 57 minutes.” IMAGINE THINKING THAT YOU COULD CHANGE THE WAY TIME IS MEASURED AND TRACKED VIA THE POWER OF ADVERMARKETINGPR. Perhaps that’s what’s wrong with us these days as an industry – perhaps we’re simply just not dreaming big enough. Anyway, this website offers you a chance to see what the time is RIGHT NOW in beats – PLEASE can some of you spend the rest of the day or week attempting to send all meeting suggestions in beats? Maybe in 1998 we just weren’t ready, and maybe now is the time?
- Potato: Is this incredibly old? It feels very much like something from 2003 and reminds me a lot of the sort of thing Joel Veitch was spaffing out left right and centre back in the day. Anyway, if you want a short song and animation all about how great potatoes are then this is for you.
- Peloton Gone Wild: WARNING: THIS LINK TAKES YOU TO ACTUAL BONGO. Ok, now we’ve done the due diligence you can ‘enjoy’ this bizarre little subReddit in which fans of the insanely overpriced heart attack-inducing exercise torturebikes take it in turns to, er, post photos of themselves in various states of sweaty undress draped all over the kit. I am not someone who exercises – I think I last broke into a run in 2003 – nor someone who cycles, and so I can only feel a slight degree of baffled confusion as to how inexplicably horny the mere act of going for a bike ride appears to make these people, but, well, whatever turns you on I suppose.
- Knots: Simple-but-addictive little browsergame where you have to swap tiles around to resolve an image of a number of interlinked cords. This starts easy but quickly gets fiendish, and is PERFECT to keep on silent while you don’t listen to your colleagues and clients being irritating and stupid on calls.
- Vampire Survivors: Finally this week, a browser game so good that I legitimately lost over an hour to it this week. Vampire Survivors has a very simple premise – stay alive as long as possible. It’s a top-down, vaguely-Gauntlet-ish shooter in which you pick one of a number of unlockable characters and try and survive through waves and waves of increasingly-murderous undead. Shooting happens automatically, with different weapons and buffs available as you level, randomised per playthrough, so you only need to worry about movement, and this gets you into a proper flow-state after a while and you can seriously lose time with this so BE WARNED. I promise you, though, this is so good I would pay actual cashmoney for it and intend to have another go just as soon as I’m done writing this fcuker.
By Ruth Shively
THE CIRCUS OF TUMBLRS IS SADLY EMPTY THIS WEEK!
THE TROUGH OF (INSTA) FEEDS!
- Green M&M Fanfic: Only one Insta feed this week, but it’s one which collects fan-made art celebrating the unique appeal of the anthropomorphised green M&M (TOPICAL CONTENT!) and so therefore is probably more than enough for the moment.
LONG THINGS WHICH ARE LONG!:
- China 2022: This is very long, but also very readable – Dan Wang writes his annual(ish) letter about The State of China As He Sees It, taking in geographical differences, cultural trends, economic observations and some light predictions about what the coming year holds in terms of both the country itself but also how the rest of the world should try and relate to it. Fascinating, wide-ranging and more interesting (to my mind, at least) than pieces that focus solely on the economic or political aspects. Obviously it’s important to note here that this is ONE ARTICLE and ONE PERSON’S OPINIONS AND OBSERVATIONS, and as such making sweeping judgements about What China Is Like based solely on this is probably a bit silly – I sent this to a couple of people I know who’ve lived in China, and they had interesting observations about some of what he says about Hong Kong and Beijing in particular – but as an overview of some potential truths about the country it’s superb.
- Johnson and the Media: Mic Wright’s newsletter about the UK media is an interesting read, but often a deeply-frustrating one – not because of Wright’s writing so much as the fact that you keep on seeing the same arguments and themes cropping up again and again and again, due to the fundamentally rotten and broken nature of the relationship between the political classes and the 4th Estate in the UK. This is an edition from earlier this week which looks at the current self-important handjobs being handed out left, right and centre by the media establishment, so cheered at their ‘holding to account’ of the Prime Minister, and is a neat (if dispiriting) precis of quite how dysfunctional the political world’s symbiosis with Fleet Street continues to be.
- Web3: A Map in Search of a Territory: I am unabashed in my admiration for Evgeny Morosov – I like the way he thinks, even if I am slightly annoyed at how well he can write in what is his second language. This is a short essay explaining what he sees as some of the issues with Web3 frothiness – at heart, Morosov’s criticism is that the way the concept is talked about now is basically nothing more than a sales pitch for something that’s not in fact radically different from what we have now (other than being in certain small but significant ways potentially a bit worse). This para sums up the argument neatly, but it’s worth reading the whole piece: “The problem with Web3 is that the self-referentiality of its discourse renders the arguments of its genuine and well-meaning proponents flat and one-dimensional. Most of their paeans are deeply ahistorical; they just accept a very twisted definition of Web 2.0 and move on to make some points about the inevitability of DAOs or NFTs. They lack any engagement with the political economy of global capitalism or even a cursory analysis of the many social movements that are still contesting it. They reason, primarily, by drawing on examples from the worlds of art and computer games, hardly representative of how most people live and work. They are unable to view the state as anything but a rent-seeking and surveillance-obsessed pathology that cannot be reformed or repurposed; one could only tame or abolish it. They cannot even hint at a future where capitalism is not the order of the day, seeing their task as inventing new – perhaps, decentralized – ways of making it more tolerable. This is why, in the best of cases, the Web3 crowd would only give us the kind of cooperative stakeholder capitalism the Davos Man has promised a while ago, but has, so far, been unable to deliver.”
- The Real Estate Metaverse: A companion to the SuperWorld link up top, this takes you through the wonderful (not wonderful) world of people attempting to make a quick buck by selling imaginary title deeds to barely-existant virtual worlds to people with more money than sense. I think it’s this as much as my own fundamental inadequacy that means I will never win the great game of capitalism – HOW DO YOU SELL THIS STUFF WITH A STRAIGHT FACE? Still, there’s a lot to love in here – my personal favourite detail was the screenshot provided by the CEO of virtual world and ‘metaverse contender’ Somnium Space in which he proudly poses his avatar in front of, er, a fully-designed toilet which exists in virtual space. WHY ARE THERE URINALS IN YOUR DIGITAL PLAYGROUND? IS THERE P1SS IN THE METAVERSE? Is both a question I now really want an answer to, and the title of my forthcoming autobiography.
- Abuse on the Blockchain: I am linking this not because I particularly believe that one of the main issues with the application cryptoblockchainstuff is harassment and abuse, but more because it neatly-illustrates how complicated this stuff is – it’s not enough to imagine your virtual crypto paradise into being in a way that suits you, you have to think about the experience of all the other sorts of people who might use it and how their experience might best be optimised. Which, fine, sounds obvious, but as you will quickly find out if you try and use digital products and services as someone with a disability, or a language issue, or who simply isn’t ‘a bloke’, online experiences are in no way universal. All the points made in this article – about how the permanence of on-chain records can have significant consequences if people decide to harass or abuse other users – are, fine, perhaps not everyday concerns, but they are concerns nonetheless, and (and maybe I am being unfair here, but) I am not wholly-convinced that the people currently building out the cryptoparadises of tomorrow are necessarily thinking of.
- Our Animals, Ourselves: I am not vegan. I am not even vegetarian (though I don’t eat that much meat, on balance), and, honestly, I like eating meat and personally have no ethical problem with it, and figure that as a childless person who doesn’t have a driving license and basically buys very little I can allow myself a steak every now and again (and, please, if I am being selfish and wrong about this and it upsets you and you want to tell me about it then, er, don’t. Go and plant a tree instead). That said, I found this piece of writing absolutely fascinating, even if I didn’t wholly agree with everything it said – it’s a (long) treatise on the inherent links between veganism and feminism and socialism, and is basically an object-lesson in ‘how intersectionality works’, and it made me think an awful lot about How Stuff Works and How Concepts Interrelate, and, whilst that might not sound like what you need after a long hard week of work, I can promise you that it’s interesting and thought-provoking and very much worth your time.
- GPS: I’ve featured one of Bartok Ciechanowski’s explainers in here before (it was about how naval architecture works, I think), and here is another one all about the magic that is GPS (apparently not in fact magic and instead something to do with satellites, who knew?). Honestly, this is so so so good – there’s a real skill in setting our technical concepts like this with such clarity, and Ciechanowski’s use of little interactive diagrams and the like is perfect. Honestly, if I worked in explainer-y journalism I would hire this person in a heartbeat.
- The Metered Internet: In the Philippines, it’s apparently not uncommon to access the web via coin-operated metering systems – like the sort of ‘put a quid in the meter if you don’t want to freeze to death’ heating setups beloved of slum landlords, but for information. This article looks at how these coin-operated webcafes operate, and how they’re starting to die out as mobile data prices start to become vaguely-comparable – this is a snapshot of a world that probably won’t exist in 5-10y time, when highspeed mobile network coverage becomes ubiquitous and mobile data prices continue to fall, but which right now is both SUPREMELY Gibsonian (seriously, look at these pictures and tell me they don’t scream ‘certain paragraphs in Neuromancer) and temporally-liminal (yeah, that’s right, TEMPORALLY LIMINAL! Christ I’m a cnut).
- Noone Wants Your Virtual Trainers: It’s not going to stop Nike making the fcuking things (you don’t shell out millions on a company that makes virtual trainers and then not try and flog them, after all), but this piece suggests that the traditional whales that make up the trainer market are…not impressed by the idea of shelling out actual cashmoney for the digital equivalent. Which you could argue suggests that this is all TOO EARLY – but I would suggest that this article is actually looking at the wrong demographic. Your 30+ buyers might not be interested, fine, but there’s a whole coterie of coming consumers who have grown up customising their avatars with shiny digital gewgaws and for whom this stuff makes more sense; Christ, was that me being…bullish about the marketplace for digital tat? How queer.
- The History of iBeer: If you were of a certain age when the iPhone came out (or if you were young but VERY RICH) then you might remember iBeer, one of the big breakout apps for the pre-App Store iPhone which let you pretend to drink a beer out of your phone. Which, obviously, sounds silly now, but back in the day was the sort of jaw-dropping technological advance the like of which hadn’t been seen since a cinema audience was scared by a train in 1896. This is a really charming story with some jaw-dropping details – HE WAS MAKING $20k A DAY FROM THIS! $20K A DAY!!! – and it’s particularly-pleasing that none of the people involved appears to have become a nazi or anything following their success (not always a given with this sort of thing).
- The Tinder Lawsuits: Whilst stories about immensely-rich people beating the sh1t out of each other financially via the courts aren’t usually my thing, I will make an exception for this story which details the extraordinary falling out between the people behind Tinder, each and every one of whom seems to be a fundamental failure as a human being. This is packed full of great details, but this one from the opening segment stuck out in particular: “In February 2012, when Rad was 25, he took a job at a start-up incubator in Los Angeles at a salary of $160,000 a year. Rad was a USC dropout from a wealthy Iranian American family in the Valley with nothing much on his résumé except for a few stalled start-ups.” WHAT THE ACTUAL FCUK THOUGH HOW DOES A UNIVERSITY DROPOUT WITH NO QUALIFICATIONS LAND A SIX-FIGURE JOB? Man, being rich is fcuking crazy, isn’t it? Anyway, by the end of this you will be a communist if you have any sense, and be sharpening the flensing knives in advance of RichPurge2022.
- Resurrecting the Mosque: The story of the reconstruction of the Mosque of Banja Luka in Bosnia Herzegovina, razed to the ground by Serbian forces in the aftermath of the Bosnian-Serb conflict in the 1990s, but recently reconstructed as part of the broader work of undoing the damage that the war did to the country and its Muslim inhabitants. Reading this I’m reminded of the comparatively minimal collective memory the West appears to have retained of that war – possibly out of a sense of collective guilt. This is an important read, 30 years after the conflict started, about what modern genocide (or at least attempted genocide) looks like.
- Wee Man: A glorious, joyous profile of Wee Man from Jackass (real name Jason Acuña) a man who, as far as I can tell from this profile at least, is pretty much entirely at peace with themselves and has a wonderful life as a result. I promise you there is no way you can read this and not come to the end with a smile on your face (and a vague, nonspecific desire to ‘get into’ skateboarding, if you’re me).
- On Writing: Priscilla Long writes on the act of writing, presenting a series of thought fragments in alphabetical order, taking us from ‘Alphabet’ to ‘Z’, with stops on the way at Gods, Mesopotamia and Tombstones amongst others. This is lovely, whether or not you consider yourself a ‘writer’.
- The Whip: A personal essay about BDSM within marriage, and one person not being quite as into it as the other. Honestly, you will find this maddening throughout, but I promise that the payoff is utterly worth it. I hope against hope that this is a true story.
- Sex in Old Age: A brilliant article from the New York Times here, all about fcuking in one’s 70s and beyond and what it’s like and why it’s good and OH GOD I LOVE THIS! Everything about it is perfect – it’s humanely-written, in-no-way voyeuristic, heartfelt and poignant and sad and happy and (very vaguely) erotic, and in particular the accompanying photographs are so, so good. Honestly, this is almost enough to make me want to live beyond 50.
- The Only Hat You’ll Ever Need: Finally this week, a short piece of fiction about a woman whose boyfriend gets a Neuralink. Nicely-observed and just creepy-enough to leave you unsettled about what it’s going to be like when a certain subset of men all have Elon Musk in their head all the time.
By Owen Freeman
AND NOW, MOVING PICTURES AND SOUNDS!:
- Ok, so this is two hours long and therefore probably has a…limited audience, but if you want an explainer about NFTs and the current state of the hypecycle and why exactly they are something you ought to think twice, or even thrice, about getting involved with, then this is superb. If you know a bit about the scene and the objections to it then it’s unlikely to tell you anything new, but as a comprehensive primer it’s hard to beat.
- This is called ‘Birds’ and it’s by Bambara, and there is something wonderfully scuzzy about the vocal here, and the picture it pains of a particular type of aesthetic (“cut your teeth taking gritty portraits for the local zines” should give you all the clues you need about the vibe here). I like this a lot.
- OH GOD THIS IS SUCH A GREAT SONG! It’s by The Reds, Pinks and Purples, and, fine, it’s pretty classic indiepop, but there’s something very Smiths-y about the arrangements (or, more accurately, one of the raft of post-Smiths bands that stole and refined the style) but simultaneously also it reminds me of the Charlatans’ early stuff and, look, basically, if you’re a middle-aged man with a slight sentimental streak I challenge you not to adore this.
- I had never heard of the band ‘The Armed’ before this week and now I am slightly obsessed – this is a live recording of them from before Christmas doing a set for Adult Swim, and I cannot express how much I want to see them live. It reminds me a bit of early Titus Andronicus, fwiw, and there is SO MUCH ENERGY HERE.
- HIPHOP CORNER! This is absolutely the most-cheerfully filthy song I have heard in ages (and, honestly, it makes WAP sound euphemistically tame by comparison) – it’s called ‘Lick’, by Shenseea and Megan Thee Stallion, and I’ll leave it to you to listen to the lyrics and work out what it’s talking about. Honestly, the line about ‘put your back in it’ slays me every time – it’s impossible to be in a bad mood after playing this loud, I find.
- UK HIPHOP CORNER! I am reliably informed by people who listen to more Radio1 than I do that Hazey is already very famous, but I wasn’t aware of him when I came across this track, his latest single called ‘Packs and Potions’. Basically I fcuking love me a heavily-regional rapping style, and it would be impossible for this kid to be more scouse if he were called ‘MC La’.
- This is cheerfully-faded stoner-rock, sort of West Coast bleached out afternoons if you see what I mean, and the video’s a pleasingly-scuzzy animation, and basically if this were 1996 and I was preparing to spend much of the year not going to college and instead getting VERY stoned this is exactly what I would be listening to.
- Finally this week, this is in fact from October last year, but I only found it this week and I fell immediately in love. I honestly can’t quite work this out – it’s either an artful, slightly arch piece of character work in the style of Alex Cameron, or it’s actual, proper outsider art, but either way this is a fcuking GREAT song (I am not joking, it has hooks for DAYS) all about being too online, and it could quite honestly be the Web Curios anthem (and I am going to declare it such without further ado). This is by the fabulously-named Bungalow Jonathan, it’s called ‘Love Online’, and how it only has 1,200 views is a mystery to me. If you only click one link this week, make it this – and please make it famous. Oh, and, er, THAT’S IT THAT’S ALL WE HAVE TIME FOR I NEED TO GO AND GET ON WITH MY LIFE SUCH AS IT IS AND I IMAGINE YOU DO TOO SO LET ME JUST LEAVE YOU WITH THIS, THE KNOWLEDGE THAT I LOVE YOU AND I CARE FOR YOU AND I HOPE THAT YOU ARE AS OK AS IT IS POSSIBLE TO BE DESPITE ALL THE MESS AND THE HORROR I LOVE YOU I LOVE YOU AND I WILL BE BACK NEXT WEEK WITH MORE LINKS TO SMOOTH YOUR BRAIN AND MAKE THE PAIN STOP I LOVE YOU BYE!