Webcurios 29/04/22

Reading Time: 37 minutes

HI EVERYONE HI HAPPY FRIDAY! Are you excited about the imminent long weekend? Do you have plans? Will there be a barbecue? Maybe a party? Maybe a club?

Well screw all of you with your ‘friends’ and your ‘fun’, as I don’t get to do any of that – instead my weekend excitement probably peaked at 8am this morning as I queued outside the local health authority for my monthly supply of medicinal Soylent. So please ensure that you all go out and get absolutely spangled this bank holiday, and whilst you are so doing spare a moment to think of poor, lonely me here in Rome, stuffing my solitary face with icecream after icecream as the dairy congeals across my chin and the tears leave trackmarks across my chocolate-stained lips like some sort of etiolated, milky pierrot.

I am still Matt, this is still Web Curios, and I would honestly give a major organ or two to spend Sunday in a pub garden getting slowly battered.

By Maisie Cowell



  • Anonymous Animal: I am going to come right out and say that this is by far and away my favourite link this week, and I will take it as a PERSONAL AFFRONT if a bunch of you don’t click on it, so, er, CLICK, YOU FCUKS! Although you might want to know what exactly this is before you do so, so I will tell you as I am generous like that. Anonymous Animals is a piece of online…poetry? Art? Storytelling? ALL OF THE ABOVE! To enjoy it, you need to be at the URL as the clock strikes the hour (any hour – this is the web, sweetheart, and it’s open 24/7!) – as the hour strikes the page will change from its standard presentation of morphing illustrations of animals to become…well, look, I’m not going to spoil it for you, just know that it takes 15 minutes exactly to experience the whole thing, it’s only very slightly interactive, and it made me cry. Not in a sad way so much as in a ‘fcuk, being human is intensely odd, isn’t it, and isn’t the web an astonishing and amazing tool through which to foster a(n admittedly potentially-illusory) sensation of shared experience and togetherness in a world that is at its heart fundamentally solitary due to the intensely subjective and deeply-unknowable nature of personal experience’ way – but, I promise, it is loads better than that. I think this is SO SO SO SO SO BEAUTIFUL, both in terms of what it ‘says’ and in how it uses the language of the browser and websites to say it. I subsequently discovered that this is by Web Curios favourite Everest Pipkin, and that it’s part of a wider project called The HTML Review, which is ‘an annual journal of literature made to exist on the web’, which every year ‘will publish works of poetry, fiction, non-fiction, graphic storytelling, and experiments that rely on the web as medium. the html review was started out of a yearning for more outlets comfortable with pieces built for our screens, writing that leverages our computational networked tools, both new and old, for the art of language, narrative, and exploration.’ Not all the other pieces in this inaugural edition are as successful (to my mind, at least) as Pipkin’s, but all of them are interesting in the ways they use the form of the web to frame our interactions with language and text, and the meanings we derive from them, in interesting ways. Trust me, if you enjoy Curios (and if you don’t, what the fcuk are you doing here? Stop torturing yourself! Go outside! Life’s too short!) you will absolutely love this (and the wider project).
  • Digital Dogs: You may have witnessed the past 9 month or so’s frothiness about the metaverse and thought to yourself ‘yes, fine, this is all well and good, but the main problem with this digital future that you are all so desperate to sell us a slice of is that there don’t seem to be any dogs in it’ (this is very much my girlfriend’s opinion, and I don’t imagine she’s alone) – now, though, you can set those misgivings aside and jump into the metaversal future safe in the knowledge that THERE WILL BE DOGS! Or at least there will be if Digital Dogs succeeds in its ambition to become the, er, premium provider of canine companionship in whatever the fcuk the metaverse ends up being. I strongly encourage you to click the link and head straight to the ‘about’ page for some GREAT copy. I very much like the line about taking your digital dachshund (other breeds are apparently going to be available) on ‘journeys through the metaverse’ (“take Fido for a walk through, er, your digital office in Horizon Worlds!”), but was also very much taken with the stern notice that DIGITAL DOGS ARE NOT A GAME, as well as the section entitled ‘enjoy all the benefits of a real dog!’ (the implication here being ‘…without the tedious realities of pet ownership such as feeding and defecation and sickness and walks and THEIR INEVITABLE DEATH’), and ‘At the center of the Digital Dog ecosystem is the Treat Token ($TREAT), an ERC-20 token’…oh ffs OF COURSE THERE ARE DOGGY NFTs. So, look, it’s vanishingly unlikely that these people are going to end up creating the One True Canine, and that whatever not-particularly-convincing CG Shih-Tzu you end up paying magic cryptobeans for will end up being useful outside of the testing environment, but, well, it’s not totally impossible, and what are a few Eth in exchange for maybe (but probably not) having a code-based chihuahua to keep you company through the soulless corporate worlds we’ll be forced to spend time in to earn ZuckBucks with which to pay the very real heating bills come winter 2024? On the plus side, at least this way you can rest safe in the knowledge that your horrifically-overengineered pug hybrid won’t end up suffering throughout its short life because it’s been inbred to the point of no longer being a properly-functioning organism – see, there are benefits to the metaverse after all!
  • The Digital Models are Coming: We’ve seen a few digital catwalk-type things this year, with fashion houses showing off their digital and non-digital collections via the medium of infinite CG processions of mannequins, browsable and shoppable from the virtual frow. So it makes sense that parallel tech is being developed to enable the creation of digital clothes horses via GAN. This is very much work-in-progress tech, and so the link will take you to a bunch of examples of prototypical code and some videos of How It All Works In Practice, but I’m including to make you all feel better – after all, if you ever needed a reassuring thought to focus on in the face of growing uncertainty and future-fear it’s surely that even the really really beautiful people are going to be rendered unemployed by the ceaseless forward march of technology! What’s really interesting about this is the incredible ease with which you can alter parameters on the fly; there is no way in hell that ‘catalogue model’ is going to be a viable career in ~3y time, is there?
  • My Cage Space: I confess to not really ‘getting’ the Nicholas Cage thing – but that’s not really the point, I suppose, seeing as the actor (or, more accurately, the persona that exists around the actor) now exists entirely independently of his body of work or actions; I wonder what it must be like to know that there is an idea of you out there that is as real as you are in terms of the extent to which people relate to it and construct narratives around it, but which isn’t, in fact, you? Anyway, you won’t find any such DEEPLY METAPHYSICAL musings at this url – what you will find is a small, pleasing digital gallery of Cage-related stuff which you can browse using your phone; it presents as a light AR experience, meaning the gallery is rendered in 3d and you browse around it by moving your phone in real space, and there are various Cage artworks and digital sculptures and quotes from his latest film, and all that sort of thing, along with one very ‘Nic Cage’ sound effect which I am sure will thrill you if you’re the sort of person who thinks ‘so random lol!’ is an endorsement of anything.
  • Some Dall-E 2 Examples: In the intervening time since Dall-E 2 there’s been a host of examples of its work doing the rounds of the web – amusingly, I have also seen various people attempting to deny that this is the beginning of the end for photoshop monkeys the world over (cheers Cnut, let me know when you’re done sorting the whole ‘irresistible march of the tides’ thing). Rene Walter, who curates the Good Internet newsletter, has pulled together some of these into a post which you can see here and MY WORD. You can see various examples embedded on the Page, but there are also links out to all sorts of different people’s experiments with the technology and FCUK ME. Honestly, these are jaw-dropping – find your own favourites, but I was personally so amazed by the ‘Marie Curie sculpted in butter’ image that I had to go and have a small lie down (although it did make me think that there is an interesting future-job somewhere in coming up with good prompts for these things; effectively there will come a point in the not-too-distant future where having people who are ‘good at interacting with the machines and telling them what we need in language that produces the right outputs’ will become as useful a skill as ‘being slightly less sh1t at Google than everyone else you work with’ was a decade or so ago). Brilliant, wonderful, mad, and terrifying – also, I now want to play a videogame featuring playable version of the cat/helicopter chimeras please thankyou. Oh, and if you’re curious, you can play with a significantly-slimmed-down, open source version of Dall-E here – it’s nowhere near as powerful as the latest iteration, but if you’re not 100% certain as to how all this stuff works yet then it’s a decent primer on the tech.
  • Cleopatra Jeans: What do you think of when you hear the word ‘Cleopatra’? If you’re me, you think of the late-90s Manchester girl group who never quite got the global recognition they deserve, but I appreciate that there might be other things that spring to mind (noses, asses’ milk, asps, that sort of thing). It is…unlikely that your mind immediately gravitated to ‘designer denimwear’, but that’s because YOU’RE not a genius of marketing (you’re not, are you? Admit it to yourself, it’s fine) and never had the vision to ask ‘what would a pair of jeans look like if it were designed to fit the body of a woman who lived several thousand years ago and for whom the concepts of both ‘denim’ and ‘trousers’ would have been baffling and possibly heretical?’. Cleopatra Jeans is a project ‘using one of history’s greatest beauty icons to highlight sustainability in fashion’. How does this highlight sustainability in fashion? Er, no idea! The project took a bunch of women who, based on historical records, roughly matched Cleopatra’s physiognomy; it used bodyscans of them to create a composite avatar, which was then used as the model to create a bespoke pair of jeans with detailing that alludes to, er, some Ancient Egyptian stuff! This is quite remarkable – there’s obviously a lot of cash behind this, but, for reasons known only to the designers, there doesn’t appear to be any actual indication of who’s the brains behind it, or if (and if so, where) you can buy the jeans, or how in the name of fcukery this has anything to do with sustainability (whatever that even means anymore – does it mean…nothing, by any chance?), and the site is…cripplingly…slow…Still, if you ever wanted to know what sort of jeans Cleopatra might have slipped out of when deciding to enjoy some of that aforementioned asses’ lactose then, well, GREAT!
  • Sector 32; Ah, the very particular joy of a beautifully-designed personal portfolio website! This particular example is by Piet Dewijgaert, a Dutch developer, and it’s just LOVELY – you may need to click the ‘Menu’ button and ‘Intro’ to get it to start, but once you’ve done that it’s a joy to navigate. Fun design, gently-amusing copy (that sounds like I’m damning it with faint praise, but I’m really not – ‘gently amusing’ is something I can only aspire to, and I am slightly jealous tbh) and some really nice examples of different sort of graphics work and interactivity design – WELL DONE PIET!
  • The Wachowski Auction: I do love me an occasional auction list, and this is a particularly spectacular series of lots – the Wachowski sisters, they of Matrix fame (but also Cloud Atlas, and V For Vendetta, and the much-maligned Speed Racer, which, honestly, is the best film of a videogame (that wasn’t a videogame) that I have ever seen – it has also reminded me of the ‘Speed Racer’ mix by DJ Keoki that I was quite into a couple of decades ago and which you can listen to here should you so desire) have put a dizzying amount of memorabilia from their various projects up for auction, with proceeds going to a fund to protect the rights of trans youth who you may have heard are having something of a time. So if you’ve ever wanted the chance to bid on, say, a model of the Nebuchadnezzar ship from the Matrix movies, or an actual MTV Movie Award statuette (man they look cheap!), or a pair of pants which were once worn by Keanu Reeves and may still therefore carry trace elements of his ball sweat then, well, your Christmases are all here at once, my children! Bidding hasn’t really got going yet, so I think it’s only fair that I point out that some of the guide prices here look like they might be a touch on the low side, and you might want to perhaps consider  what the going rate for your kidneys is if you plan on going big on the Matrix maquettes. There is some truly amazing stuff in here, so it’s worth taking a few minutes to browse – if any of you outbid me on this there will be hell to pay.
  • HUDs & GUIs: This sounds very geeky (and in fact is), but it’s also super-interesting, partly as an exercise in ‘the changing state of our imagined futures and how we interact with them’ but also from the point of view of information architecture and hierarchies and suchlike. Also, design! “HUDS+GUIS was created as an inspiration and resource site for interactive designers. It’s a place where you can find the most creative and interesting examples of UI design. Sources can come from anywhere ie. films, games, concept design and real world developments. It focuses on the ways in which people interact with technology, particularly the way something functions, the way it looks, the way it moves and even the way it sounds.” Fascinating.
  • The Reddit Community Fund: I am generally a bit (too) sniffy about the idea of platforms paying us to ‘create’ for them, mainly because I have no faith that the economics stack (for the ‘creator, at least) at scale. This, though, I have a lot of time for, mainly as it has nothing to do with the ‘creator’ economy at all. The Reddit Community Fund is a pot of money Reddit will allocate, on a sliding scale from $1-50k, to projects proposed by subReddits. “Beginning in June, we will invite communities to submit ideas for projects, events, contests, giving, almost anything you can think of to bring people together for inspiration and delight. We will be accepting nominations for projects needing anywhere from $1,000 to $50,000 in funding, and selecting grantees based on their creativity, feasibility, and community impact. Until then, we will be building out more submission details and guidelines.” So, light on detail, but the examples in the promo video revolve around contest prizes, hardship funds or support slushes for the community, the creation of physical media and events (so publishing a book, say, or putting on a show)…Obviously the devil is in the detail of eligibility and judging criteria, but this strikes me as A Good Thing and a nice way of bringing the central ethos of the platform to life.
  • Totem: I’ve featured an awful lot of truly terrible NFT-related crap over the past 12 months or so, but I don’t think anything has baffled me quite as much as this website. Totem is…I have, honestly, no fcuking idea in the world what Totem is. It’s a currency? It involves NFTs. There is a roadmap. There is a lot of talk of the metaverse, and interoperability, and the ready availability of…things, things which will be transferable between worlds. We’re going to be “Building a new standard of ecofuture products & technological bridges that honor the earth and inspire its citizens”, which I’m generally in favour of in principle. There is a mission, of course, but there also might be spaceships (this is particularly unclear to me – I think the spaceships, if they do in fact exist, might be digital ones, but what you might do with them is again not immediately apparent). I’m not entirely sure how the focus on gamification is going to feed into ‘building a new standard of ecofuture products’, but it probably all comes together in the end. Oh, look, here: “Citizen has committed 7% of our token allocations for active and authentic social impact. We have secured, supported, and are expanding a list of hands-on & effective relationships for maximum social impact.” Great! “Planting trees, buildings wells…” This all sounds good, guys, well done! “…decoding animal language…” wtf? “…as we work to save species… our social impact will be on the blockchain for everyone to participate.” Well, there you have it – that clears it all up then. Look, I can’t stress enough how much you need to visit this website – it’s very shiny too, suggesting there’s at least a bit of actual money behind it. Truly, astonishingly stupid. Or maybe I’m the stupid one who can’t understand the brilliance of the concept – I honestly can’t even tell anymore (I can tell).
  • Post Secret Voicemail: Post Secret is still one of my favourite ever online projects, and I was genuinely happy just now when getting the url and seeing it seemingly still very much A Thing. This is an attempt to create a similar anonymous confessional space for voicenotes – a US phone number’s listed at the top of the site, and anyone can call up and leave a voicemail which will then be posted online for anyone to listen to (it feels pretty well-moderated, from my limited exploration). The project was launched in January this year, and it’s got a surprisingly large number of submissions, and it’s by turns funny and sad and utterly heartbreaking and kind and all the sorts of intensely human things I normally hate because I am largely dead inside. Also there are a lot of very stoned-sounding people who start out trying to be funny and then find themselves getting drawn into a mild therapy session, which I very much enjoy. A+ content, this.
  • All Things New: I can’t quite tell whether my appreciation of this Twitter account is driven overwhelmingly by my nostalgia for British supermarkets, but there’s something very comforting about seeing someone holding up a packaged set of shrivelled brown ovoid pucks captioned ‘Meatless Farm Steaks!’ with the exclamation mark suggesting that this is worth celebrating. Anyway, if you, like me, are endlessly amused (or even appetised) by new-in-store packaged food goods then enjoy your Muller Corner Creations!
  • Reveri: Perhaps unfairly, I burst out laughing when I first opened the webpage and was hit with the exhortation to ‘Hypnotise Yourself’. It feels very much last-ditch; like, look, you’ve tried all the other wellness sh1t, you may as well give it one last stab. HYPNOTISE YOURSELF INTO THINKING YOU’RE HAPPY! Leaving aside the deep psychophilosophical questions which that sentence absolutely screams at me, I am equally tickled by the fact that, despite the fact that you’re the one swinging the fcuking pendulum, they want to charge you $15 a month for the privilege (or $250 for a lifetime use license – I say…two years!). Still, if you think that your current best chance of happiness involves paying someone to show you how to trick your brain into thinking you are (gah, knots!), then you’re very welcome.
  • BeLeef de Lente: Sadly the title of the page here is a jpeg and so doesn’t translate – er…my Dutch isn’t so good…er…birds of Lent? Let’s go with that. Anyway, this is a twitcher’s (such a better term than ‘birder’) dream, featuring a bunch of different webcams all set up to capture views of the nests of various birds – owls, ospreys, oystercatchers and a variety of birds that don’t  begin with ‘o’ including bald eagles which are always cool.
  • Oldest Search: Thanks Ben for sending this to me – a nice search frontend that pulls results from Google in reverse-date order, pulling you the oldest results first. It works really nicely for things like ‘cats’, but I tried it on ‘nft’ and the results were a mess of new stuff (is there NOTHING  they can’t ruin). Still, it’s a fun, if slightly-wonky, time machine, and enabled me to find this odd little story from 2007.
  • Dracula Daily: “Bram Stoker’s Dracula is an epistolary novel – it’s made up of letters, diaries, telegrams, newspaper clippings – and every part of it has a date. The whole story happens between May 3 and November 10. So: Dracula Daily will post a newsletter each day that something happens to the characters, in the same timeline that it happens to them. Now you can read the book via email, in small digestible chunks – as it happens to the characters.” This sounds like a great idea.
  • Dr Dabber: When I was about 15-16 I was, as many teenage boys are, a bit obsessed with weed; we used to talk about trichomes and Jack Herer and all that stuff, and look at the adverts for the Silver Palm Leaf and think how unimaginably stylish we would be if we had one (a very, very small part of me still believes this to be true), and I had a small flashback to my teenage self when I opened this site because MY FCUKING GOD would I have thought this was cool. A bit tryhard, fine, but also very cool. These are very shiny-looking accessories for doing dabs – the super-strong waxy weed concentrate stuff that was super-big in the US a few years back – and they basically look a bit like dentists’ instruments repurposed as videogame weapons (no, really), and the website is all hi-tec and very much on-the-nose in terms of The Prevailing Aesthetic We Are Told The Kids Like Right Now, and basically this makes getting so stoned you can barely talk or move look like the most future activity possible (lol at the version that talks about ‘dabbing on the go’  – rather you than me). Or at least it does to me, who is very much still 15 inside, turns out.

By Jude Sutton



  • Solarcan: After last week’s slightly-risible ‘invisibility shield’ Kickstarter (I scoff, but will be less amused when someone inevitably uses one of those to mug/murder me at some point in the next 12m) comes what looks like a slightly-less pie-in-the-sky project for you to chuck your hard-earned pennies behind. Solarcan – thanks to Garrett for sending it my way – is basically a small device for taking images of the passages of the sun across the sky: “a camera in its simplest form…its purpose is to capture the Sun’s movement across the sky in an image called a solargraph – and does so with incredible ease.  Including everything you need to get started and requiring zero chemical processing, taking a photograph could not be easier.” This is a very cool looking little toy, and given it’s apparently infinitely-reusable and they’re asking what seems like a pretty-reasonable £22 to get one, this looks like it could be worth a punt (yes, fine, I am sure you could probably create your own using nothing but discarded coffeecup lids and some thrush spittle but, well, life’s short) – the sample images shown on the page look lovely, in a small, homespun sort of way, and depending on where you live and the sort of landscapes you have access to it looks like you can create some rather wonderful little pictures with it.
  • David Rowe: If you’re of a certain vintage (and from the UK), you may have memories of spending the post-school period wandering around the town centre, killing time by staring at the shelves of videogame retailers looking at all the games you couldn’t afford or didn’t have the kit to play and trying to imagine what AMAZING LUDIC EXPERIENCES awaited within their boxes by scrutinising the cover art for what was quite possibly literally hours (Swindon was not an exciting place when you were 12 years old and it was 1992). Should you fit into this (admittedly very specific) demographic box, you will probably recognise the work of David Rowe, whose art adorned the covers of innumerable titles from the 80s and 90s – Speedball 2, Populous, James Pond…basically if any of those titles give you a hit of nostalgia then you will love David’s site, where you can browse all of his work from games and elsewhere, and even buy prints of them should you desire to turn a corner of your flat into some sort of replica to the dust-smelling gamepits of your youth (lank-haired monosyllabic teenager sold separately).
  • Mazes: A classic ‘does exactly what it says on the tin’ subReddit, this – you want mazes? HAVE SOME FCUKING MAZES, THEN! Lots of these are quite fancy, illustrated numbers, but an even greater quantity are people simply posting the elaborate maze doodles that they make when they are distracted at work – it’s impossible not to love a community which is basically celebrating people being so skullcrushingly bored that they create small pen-and-ink analogies of their worktrapped status to run the clock down. Also my semi-regular opportunity to recommend to you the novel Larry’s Party by Carol Shields, which is the life story of a man who designs mazes and which I reread every few years because it is BEAUTIFUL.
  • Food Photographer of the Year 2022: Sorry – that really should read ‘The Pink Lady Food Photographer of the Year’, heaven forfend I should neglect to mention the corporate sponsor! Anyway, these are some GREAT images covering the gamut of food production and presentation and consumption – the variety on display here is quite dizzying, from images of fishermen casting nets in dawn light in South East Asia, to some astonishing examples of set-piece meal photography and some wonderful creative presentations of different meal types and foodstuffs (there’s an image of combed spaghetti somewhere on the page which is just glorious). If I were to quibble, I’d say that having a single tiny section about ‘the politics of food’ seems a bit of a token nod to ‘some of the problems inherent in how food is produced and distributed, and who produces and profits from it’ and gets slightly lost amongst all the very pretty images of cake, but, overall, these are pretty great (and a good way of scouting the next photographer for your ‘Faces Of Cheese’ campaign – sorry, no idea where that came from, but now I think of it ‘Faces Of Cheese’ is a fcuking great idea, so you can have that for free. No, you’re welcome!).
  • EarthClock: I think this is VERY OLD, but for whatever reason I hadn’t seen it before this week and so perhaps maybe it will be new to you too. EarthClock is, er, a clock – every minute it changes to display the time in numerals, the twist being that each number is represented by a shot from Google Earth that vaguely looks like it. So you might get a bit of arterial ringroad curving round the outskirts of a city to represent a ‘9’, for example, and a stadium for a ‘0’ – you get the idea. I am particularly taken with the fact that each number loads individually and zooms in in the now-classic Google Earth fashion – I could sit and watch this for hours, and you’re lucky that the rest of this week’s Curios is getting written at all, frankly (ha, ‘lucky’).
  • The Canon Camera Museum: All brands should do this (or at least all brands with a reasonably-interesting heritage, fine – perhaps, on reflection, the Rustler’s Burger Museum doesn’t need to exist). Canon have collected a HUGE repository of images of all the various different bits of kit they’ve produced over the past 70-odd years, from film cameras to digital video to digital compact cameras and everything inbetween – if you’ve any interest at all in video or photography and the history of the media, then you will very much enjoy this. If nothing else it’s a fascinating look at how the design aesthetic of photographic equipment has changed over the years, and a nice reminder of that brief period in the 90s when there was a brief acceptance that electronic goods come in colours other than black.
  • Unreal Keanu: This TikTok account is not Keanu Reeves, but whatever off-the-shelf deepfake kit they are using to make it look like Keanu is very good indeed. I’m not entirely sure why this exists – not exactly sure what the long-term appetite is for ‘videos of someone who is pretending to be Keanu Reeves doing gently-banal things’, if I’m honest- but I am glad that it does and I hope that Reeves is aware of this and gently approves.
  • Marbelous: Another Kickstarter! Does anyone remember the era of ‘executive toys’? I seem to recall there being a period in the 80s/90s when catalogues like ‘Innovations’ would show you pictures of devices like the now-legendary Newton’s Cradle, or one of those weird spiral paperweights filled with liquids of different densities which would see blue blobs race around a track if you turned them upside down, which were apparently designed to ease the troubled minds of senior executives who were addled after what I presume were long, hard days of taking cocaine and making inappropriate advances towards administrative juniors. Well this Kickstarter is looking to bring back those glorious days, when people at work had the time to just zone out and stare at something vaguely-kinetic for 5 minutes rather than constantly being forced to HUSTLE and GRIND and CHURN OUT CONTENT and MAKE A DECK (ffs) – Marbelous is, basically, a wire track inside a glass dome, which lets you run marbles around it while you watch them spin and swirl. That’s literally it – you press a little lever, it deposits a marble atop the run, it rolls down to the bottom again, you press the lever, AND THE CYCLE BEGINS ANEW! How much would you expect to shell out for something like this? Did you guess…$140? No, you did not, and yet that is EXACTLY what they are asking for (a reduction on the promised RRP of $200, which, well, LOL!) – on the one hand, fair play to them for the grift; on the other, HOW HAS THIS ALREADY RAISED NEARLY $250k WITH A WHOLE THREE WEEKS LEFT?
  • Frog Chorus: Another small webproject by V Buckenham, clicking on the link to the Frog Chorus takes you to The Big Pond – a page where everyone currently visiting is represented by a small frog, which you can click to make ‘ribbit’. That’s literally it, but there’s something very cute about this shared online space where you hang out with strangers and your only interaction is the occasional satisfied ‘croak’. You can create your own private pond by changing the name in the url, should you wish to create a small, private space for you and your colleagues to go Full Frog at each other (I am only halfway-joking when I say that this might now be my preferred method of interacting with my workmates).
  • Akiyoshi Kitaoka: “I am an experimental psychologist who studies visual illusions as well as makes illusion artworks”, reads the bio for the Twitter account of Akiyoshi Kitaoka – if you want an occasional timeline cleanse of ‘straight lines which inexplicably look like they are wavy but which, we promise you, are not’ then this is exactly the Twitter account you have been waiting for.
  • Espresso Machines: Someone here in Rome complained to me the other day that they’d been charged 1.50E for an espresso – lol mate COME TO LONDON AND WEEP. This is a great collection of images of espresso machines from history, part of the collection of Enrico Maltoni whose business repairs coffee machines. The turn-of-the-century ones in particular are beautiful – there are some coffee houses in Naples which still have these things on display (and possibly in-use) – but the real stars are the designs of the 50s and 60s with all the sleek, winged designs and the embossed brandnames in super-future fonts. Semi-related – can someone explain to me why it is that those people who rock up at outdoor events in England serving ‘fancy’ coffee from vans are literally incapable of making a cup of coffee in less than 6 minutes, and why when they do it invariably tastes slightly of licorice, and why it costs £4? Anyone?
  • The Interactive 4d Handbook: I might have mentioned in passing that there is a certain point at which I simply stop being able to understand concepts in physics or maths – I am fine up until the point where things like ‘imaginary numbers’ start to come into play, and then at that point my brain just goes totally smooth and all new concepts slide off it like so much melting cheese off oiled teflon (this is EXACTLY what it is like, I promise you). Which is by way of slightly-shamefaced admission that I really didn’t understand this AT ALL, and for all I know it might be complete gibberish and bunkum. Still, it seems legitimate, and whilst it obviously completely lost me by Page 3 you might be smarter than me and better able to use it to comprehend the brain-twistingly complicated world of fourth-dimensional concepts (but, if I’m honest, I sort-of hope that you’re baffled too). There are nice little interactives and things to try and help you make sense of what it might be like to conceive of a three-dimensional object in four-dimensional space – if this clears any of this stuff up for you, would you mind awfully explaining it all to me in words that a six year old might understand? Thanks.
  • Old Concept Cars: I don’;t really know much about modern car design, but looking around the streets at the moment it doesn’t strike me that this is a particularly golden age for vehicular aesthetics. This website collects a dizzying collection of details and images of concept models from years past, most of which never see the light of day dues to them being risibly impractical (big fan of the incredibly-froggy Honda Hondina concept from the 70s, for example, but this is not a car it is a rollerskate), and lets you imagine a slightly-more interesting motoring world in which everyone’s bezzing around in gull-winged sexwagons rather than the tediously-sterile boxes that surround me here in Rome (a city with more cars than people, and judging by what it sounds like every single fcuking morning in this city, more car horns than there are cars).
  • Sentimental Corp: Well this is odd. Sentimental Corp is…an art project? A collection of semi-sensical, deliberately ‘weird’ videos? Something a bit nastier? I honestly have no idea at all (but I rather suspect the third). Click the link takes you to a homepage with six clickable areas – each eventually takes you to a selection of unlabelled videos, which from my VERY LIMITED perusal seem to be a mix of low-fi bizarro performance art and teenage Chan-style shock projects. This is, to be quite clear, not very nice at all, and I get the impression that if I dug through everything I would quite possibly find some quite unpleasant stuff…so, er, why link to it, Matt? Well in part because I am always fascinated that stuff like this exists – it’s not like whoever’s put all this stuff together has just collected a bunch of vaguely-unpleasant memes from the recesses of the web’s dodgier messageboards and compiled them here. Instead there is literally HOURS of video arranged across multiple nested pages, with some sort of apparent taxonomy being applied…why? To what end? Maybe there is no point – I was doing some digging attempting to find out some details about what this was and why it existed and whether it was linked to something worse/darker, and I came up blank other than some anonymous comment which referred to this as being ‘like a pizza cutter – all edge, no point’, which feels about right. This is not a good link, necessarily, but it is a classic ‘why does this exist and who made it and how long did it take and WHAT FOR????’, and as such it possibly belongs in Curios (but, er, if anyone happens to discover something that suggests there is anything properly awful in here which means I ought to remove the link). A very, very big WATCH OUT attached to this one, basically.
  • Moveidle: Get an entire film condensed into one second of screencaps – then try and guess the title. Get it wrong, and you get to see a slightly-longer edit – rinse and repeat until you guess right. More fun if you know more films than I do, otherwise you will just end up guessing ‘Jaws’ at anything that looks like it was filmed pre-1985.
  • The Death of an MMO Game Jam: A collection of small game experiences created at a gamejam from February this year, where the titular theme was ‘A game jam about making a virtual experience that takes place in a fictional MMO that’s about to be shut down. There are a quite a number of massively multiplayer online games that have been released since the turn of the century. Sadly, fans have had to bid farewell to some of these games as they existed when the developers no longer saw the need to run the servers that keep these games playable. What was a huge part of people’s lives for years ends up becoming nothing more than a memory… at least until someone emulates the servers sometime later.” I have only played a fraction of the games included in this link, but there are some lovely, poignant pieces of design in here, and in general I find the very specific ‘death of a virtual world’ idea a really interesting one in terms of the emotions and feelings it evokes. There’s a piece here about how it feels when a ‘metaverse’ (lol) dies, which is a nice companion should you want one.
  • The Man Man: What would QWOP have been like if rather than playing as a mismatched collection of limbs attempting to run the 100m you were instead playing as a mismatched collection of limbs trying to crawl around someone’s apartment trying to murder them? This is very silly, very janky, a lot less horrific than the description makes it sound, and contains some pleasingly-repellent sound effects.
  • Rocket Bot Royale: Look, I could give you some long-winded sales pitch for this, but effectively it’s Worms, but in-browser and multiplayer. Yes, fine, you play as ‘tanks’, but it’s basically Worms and it is GREAT – very hard, and you will get annihilated by strangers when you start playing, but if you can persuade some friends to join you then this is a GREAT multiplayer timewaster while you wait for the Bank Holiday visit from your dealer.
  • Return of the Slimepires: Finally this week, and the last in a BUMPER COLLECTION of ludic pursuits for your long weekend’s entertainment, here’s a delightful little 2d, pixelish platformy shooter in which you run, jump, climb, shoot and puzzle through a variety of rooms and screens as you try and, I don’t know, defeat the slime king or something. This is LOADS better than it needs to be – apparently there are multiple endings and everything – but all you need to know is that it is the perfect size to fill the few hours that stand between you and the pub.

By Scott Daniel Ellison



  • Readme Dot Txt: “Titbits and curios from the video game mod archives. Curated by Alice O’Connor.” Notes from game mods – which, fine, you need to be a bit of a geek to enjoy, but there’s something lovely about seeing the short writeups people pen to accompany the patches they make to games. Big fan of the person who doesn’t mention the mod at all but instead writes a couple of lines about how much they’re  looking forward to the shepherd’s pie that their wife has made.


  • Tristan Dare: Tristan Dare is 19 years old, and makes knives. The knives are amazing, and made out of all sorts of insane stuff like meteorite fragments and mammoth tusks, and, honestly, if you’re the sort of person who’s always coveted the sort of shiny iridescent dagger that always gets fetishised in certain types of videogame (not judging!) then Tristan’s creations will make you swoon slightly (also, I have a crushed velvet picture of a jaguar you may be interested in).
  • VHS Revolution: Images of old films being played on VHS. Literally that – a shot of a telly feating a still from a film, with that films videocassette visible on top of the TV. Why? I DON’T FCUKING KNOW. Also caused me to think ‘Wow, Freddie Prinz Jr! He existed!’, which isn’t something that happens very often – maybe that’s why!
  • Collected Searching: This Insta shares images of anonymised searchlogs – the things that other people search for, knowing that it will forever remain a secret. These are from (I think) a dump of searchlogs from Yahoo! Which were leaked a few years ago, and this is just perfect and poetry and oh my how do I love it. Every single one of these is a novel or a play or a screenplay waiting to be written – I want to know the story of whoever it was that was searching “how can i find my daddy for free”, or the person who searched four times for ‘mark wahlberg wallpapers’ and then immediately afterwards for ‘suicide note’. I want to know EVERYTHING. Honestly, this is so so so so so so so so good.


  • The Elon Timelines: Look, I am sick of thinking about the man too. Is it not enough to be richer than God, must he attempt to become more ubiquitous too? Still, in the interest of Keeping Up With The Discourse I suppose we ought to at least nod to the takeover and What It All Means – there have been an awful lot of wasted words about this this week, but Charlie Warzel’s analysis of the different directions in which Musk might end up taking Twitter is worth a read as it neatly covers the potential ramifications from ‘it turns into a lawless hellscape of horror’ to ‘he adds subscriptions and just continues being a d1ck about everything but nothing substantively changes at all beyond taking us back to what Twitter used to be like five or so years ago’. FWIW I still think there’s a non-trivial chance that it might still not happen, but, well, who knows?
  • Elon’s Giant Package: Most of the ‘smart’ commentary out there about the deal has suggested that this is not a money play for Musk, seeing as he’s already richer than Creosus and Twitter is not, by anyone’s reckoning, a business that screams ‘massive cash cow’. This is an interesting counterargument by Ranjan Roy which argues that Musk is in fact setting himself up for something of a bumper payday with this via a series of moves and mechanisms which whilst not technically illegal might well be characterised as ‘a bit shady’. Roy’s conclusion is as follows – will be interesting to see whether he’s proved right: “My mini-grand theory is that this entire sequence of events: The Twitter purchase, the SEC escalation, Tesla’s blowout quarter – it’s all about the next giant package. Musk saw an opportunity at the beginning of the year. Tesla’s business was on a roll, his pay package was almost complete, the SEC was threatening his Twitter account, and Tesla’s stock had stalled out for six months. Every great entrepreneur understands the importance of momentum and he decided to capitalize on this confluence of events. At first, I was skeptical Musk was serious about buying Twitter, but I’m genuinely starting to believe it’s part of a larger strategy. We’re starting to see more pieces. The potential new “super-company”. He just raised a bunch of money for the Boring Company. Twitter is now both a potentially undervalued financial asset, a political asset, and a marketing tool. I think we’ll soon see something incredibly audacious, and breathtaking pay package that is far more creative and corporate boundary-crossing than what we saw in 2018.”
  • The Lost Thread: MORE MUSKTHOUGHTS! This time from Robin Sloane, who presents them as a series of Tweet-length soundbites (form! function!) – which effectively posits this as the beginning of the end for Twitter and invites us to think beyond it: “The amount that Twitter omits is breathtaking; more than any other social platform, it is indifferent to huge swaths of human experience and endeavor. I invite you to imagine this omitted content as a vast, bustling city. Scratching at your timeline, you are huddled in a single small tavern with the journalists, the nihilists, and the chaotic neutrals.” I like this viewpoint and wish I could be more hopeful about everyone suddenly doing as suggested and striking out to explore the great digital unknown – sadly, though, there are no maps to the territory and we have, over the past decade or so, lost the knowledge and tools necessary to explore without guidance, and I am not convinced that we’re going to get them back.
  • Angel-Haired Hipsters: The last piece about Twitter, promise, this is a lovely piece of writing by Emily Gorcenski which reads rather as a eulogy to the platform which seems, frankly, a touch premature, but does an excellent job of pinpointing the very real sense of lost hope that seems to have spread amongst a section of Twitter’s userbase at the news of the plute’s takeover. “People call Twitter a social media site, but in reality it is a global chatroom. Twitter is optimized for throwaway bullsh1t. That’s not new. We have always had ways to revel in bullshit, we trafficked in irony and ennui smuggled in fixed-width font. We have always had an outlet for our most mundane thoughts, our passive bemusement at the absurdity of life. Twitter’s innovation was simply making it practical to put it all in one place, by abstracting away the complexity of whose bullsh1t you would see.” I love this – it neatly captures what Twitter is good at, and why (to my mind, at least) it’s actually slightly more futureproof than, say, TikTok or the Meta product stable. It is, fundamentally, impossible to conceive of a more efficient and effective mass-communication tool than Twitter short of ‘inventing telepathy’, and until that changes it feels like it, or some version of it, will continue to have relevance and utility, whatever Elon may or may not decide to do to fcuk it up.
  • How To Plant A Meme: Joshua Citarella writes about how he tried, over a period of several years, to introduce young people in certain sh1tposty sections of the alt-right internet to the book ‘Capitalist Realism’ via memes, in an attempt to counter the prevailing right-wing socioeconomic viewpoints circulating around them and as a general experiment into how memes can be used to shape politico-economic debate and consciousness. This is a really interesting read, though it has (rightly) been pointed out to me that it is very anecdotal and rather light on actual ‘proof that it actually worked in the way he says it did’. More generally, though, it’s an excellent primer on how one might generally go about infiltrating and ingratriating oneself to a particular in-group to the point where you can start attempting to mess with their heads via memetic information warfare – which, yes, fine, does sound a bit creepy when you put it like that, but if you just take these lessons and put them to use selling people a new brand of soft drink, say, or eyeliner, then we’re probably ok, morally-speaking.
  • Digital Apartheid: One of a series of pieces published by MIT Technology Review this week as part of a series on “AI colonialism, the idea that artificial intelligence is creating a new colonial world order”, this article looks at how surveillance technologies are being deployed in South Africa and how their deployment and control and data-usage is entrenching old power dynamics and racial divisions. Absolutely fascinating, both in the specific and the abstract – the point here, or course, is that we do not in general ask enough detailed questions about who owns the technology and the data, and who it is being used on, and it is these questions that end up being significantly more important than the more obvious ‘so what is this kit and what can it do?’ discussions which we often focus on when exploring questions of new tech deployments in urban centres. If you have any interest at all in tech/society questions, particularly in terms of rights and governance, then you really should take the time to read the whole collection.
  • Democratic Finance: This is quite heavy, for which apologies, but I found it properly interesting – Noema Magazine looks at the current vogue for ‘Decentralisation’ in finance, and asks what it practically means, what it has to do with web3 (DAOs get a mention, as you might expect), and how it’s going to help render the world of finance more equitable for all. SPOILERS – it’s not, necessarily! The article does put forward a really interesting conception of how we might conceive of better, more democratic deliberation on the allocation of finances for public goods – the idea of ‘minipublics’, “smaller, representative groups of citizens brought together through random selection to discuss and decide on key questions”, isn’t a new one per se, but its application inh this particular context struck me as intelligent and a (fine, maybe a bit utopian) way of thinking about questions around democratic allocation of funds.
  • Viral Mobility and Moral Geography: This is VERY LONG and VERY INVOLVED, but it’s also an absolutely brilliant dissection of the way in which China has chosen to respond to covid, and the measures it’s taken locking down the citizenry in Shenzhen and elsewhere, and the slightly-chilling (ok, very chilling) realpolitik decisions being taken about how to differentiate approaches based on the perceived ‘value’ of the location in question. This is in part an interesting read about covid, but if you’re not into it from that perspective then it’s also a really deep look at how significant public health systems management works at scale, and how you do something as difficult and complex as ‘compelling literally millions of people to stay very, very still for weeks at a time’. This contains LOTS of properly-chilling ‘dear God I am personally glad I do not live in China’ bits, including a slightly-throwaway line about wife-trafficking which stop me in my tracks as I read: “the story of a Xuzhou wife who was apparently sold twice and forced to bear eight children. She was discovered chained in an outdoor shed, wearing insufficient clothing against the cold.” I’m sorry, what??
  • The PPE Supplychain: Every single country in the world will have its own version of the PPE supply scandal from The Covid Times – in the UK these mainly seem to revolve around exactly which government-adjacent businesspeople managed to get rich off the back of public fear and logistical scrambling, but in the US the moneygrabbing was in large part being done by ‘entrepreneurial’ individuals who saw an opportunity to make some quick bucks as middlemen arranging shipments from shadowy warehousers in the Far East. This is the story of one such middleman’s quest for riches in the midst of a global pandemic – this fascinated me, partly because the idea of working like this, everything based on ‘vibes’ and ‘feelings’ and the constant uncertain hope that noone in this chain is going to do a runner with everyone’s cash, sounds SO STRESSFUL, and partly because, as with lots of grifts like this, it actually seems like really hard work. I work a 9-5 because I am too lazy to do crime, is the basic fact here.
  • It’s Not A Dead Cat: If you happen to spend any time following UK politics on Twitter you will be aware that anytime the government does anything particularly stupid or callous or cruel which ends up cathcing the media and public’s attention for a few hours it is immediately leapt upon by galaxy-brained BIG THINKERS ready to classify it as a ‘dead cat strategy’ and suggesting its part of some MASTER PLAN OF DSTRACTION from what is really going on. In this post from their newsletter, Sam Freedman neatly explains why that is almost certainly not the cas – the main point being that assuming that there is a sufficient degree of planning and oversight in Government communications to allow for this sort of obfuscation and diversion is…optimistic at best. I can vouch for this – when briefly working as a press officer at Department for Work and Pensions, I once receievd a call from Number 10 at around 545 on a Friday asking me to provide a comprehensive list of all the then-Secretary of State’s pronouncements on the party’s previous manifesto commitments, as the PM was expecting a tough week in the Sunday Papers and wanted a decent overview of potential attack lines. Except the SPAD calling me up spent the duration of the call referring to the previous Secretary of State, who had in fact left the role a whole 7 months prior. Noone has any idea what the fcuk is going on, basically, and that’s why, when the Government looks like it is being stupid or ignorant or needlessly-cruel, it is almost certainly because that is exactly what it is.
  • A Long Walk In A Fading Corner of Japan: This is a piece by Craig Mod, whose writing on Japan I have linked to in here before but who I will happily include again because I adore the way he talks about his experiences of walking around and through small, not-particularly-significant towns in Japanese backwaters and just observing what’s around him. This is a wonderful piece of travel writing about a series of places which might not exist much longer, told with genuine warmth and affection and a sense of place that’s often lacking from this sort of piece.
  • Posters’ Disease: Posters’ Disease is a condition I think I first saw identified by Hussein Kesvani but which is perfectly-described in this Gawker article – it might be the defining psychological condition of the modern age (/hyperbole, fine, but). We all know the symptoms in others, and yet it is impossible to recognise them in oneself – look: “To have poster’s disease, you have to believe that posting has an action: posting is a job; posting is giving; posting is achieving; posting is a game, intramural or otherwise, that must be won. Poster’s disease is linking a public tragedy to your own non-tragic experience (posting will achieve proximity and perform empathy), or providing commentary on a conversation that you eavesdropped on (posting will show that you lead a public life in which you are a folk hero observing the whims of the common man). Poster’s disease is tweeting at airlines to get better service. Poster’s disease is “today I learned” for the off-Reddit crowd, perusing Wikipedia or IMDB for a fact that can be shared for #knowledgeclout (posting will equate to intelligence, or if not intelligence, then humility in ignorance). Poster’s disease is threading more than two tweets in a row. Poster’s disease is cross-promoting tweets on Instagram. Poster’s disease is sharing a podcast from the New York Times and writing, “This is so important,” so that people know that you listen to the newspaper of record and also have the intellectual authority to decide what is and is not important.” I bet you know loads of people like that online, but that that’s not you, oh no no no (it is you. It is me. It is ALL OF US).
  • Insomnia Technologies: On why sleep-tracking technologies and the data that they provide do not actually do the thing that they think that they do when we are buying them, about the inherent contradiction between tracking rest to enable greater productivity – or, more broadly, you could read this as an argument as to why measurement and data do not automatically make everything better or grant us perfect knowledge, however much we might accrue. This isn’t really about sleep at all, to my mind, so much as it is about the limits of what the measurable can tell us, and the differences between what we say something is for and what our usage of it really tells us.
  • The Puzzle That Will Outlast The World: A short extract from a forthcoming book all about puzzles, in which the author writes about a specific creation he commissioned from a master puzzlemaker in Holland designed to be the most complex ever created, and which would take so long to solve that even completing one step a second without pauses would take approximately 40 septillion years. I am in AWE, and am absolutely going to start investigating having something like this built into my gravestone.
  • The Simpsons: A wonderful article about the longest-running cartoon in history – I know you’ve read loads about the Simpsons before, but this is a really lovely article, which focuses on the show’s genesis and astonishing rise to global ubiquity, but also addresses the ‘it’s not actually been any good for 15 years!’ haters. Best of all, it reminded me of the title of one of my favourite ever episodes which I am going to watch again as soon as I have finished spaffing out this fcuker (“Selma’s Choice”, in case you’re curious).
  • Thinner On Paper: I loved this article – funny, self-deprecating and a time capsule back to the Old Days of UK journalism and Fleet Street and boozy lunches and all that jazz. I then got to the end and saw it was the work of Peter Hitchens. The man might be a cast-iron prick, but as long as he keeps it light he can still turn a phrase – if the byline offends you too much, just avoid reading the final line and pretend it’s written by someone whose politics you hate less.
  • Opening: Finally this week, a short, sad, beautiful piece of writing about parental ageing and frailty and inevitable death, and the shape of the relationship that gets left behind by evaporating memory. Because I like to leave you on a high (really, though, this is gorgeous writing by Sarah Grimes and deserves your attention).

By Hiroshi Sato