Friday 01 September 2017

Web Curios 01/09/17

Mist! Mellow fruitfulness! Decay, rot, dampness and the annual reminder that everything tends towards entropy and entropy means, biologically speaking, death! That's right everyone, it's SEPTEMBER!

I mean, the seasons are all so banjaxed with climate change that this is sort of meaningless, but I though I might wax lyrical at the advent of the ninth month of the year and the fact that, once again, Summer is OVER. On the one hand, no more bank holidays until 2018 and the slow, creeping knowledge that we're going to have to put up with enforced jollity and familial proximity VERY SOON; on the other, you get to give your kids back to their carers and to stop pretending you actually like hanging out with them all the time (come on, there's a reason we as adults don't as a rule choose the under-tens as our conversational companions). 

So, then, a curate's egg of a month. Still, you've got back to back weekly Curios for the first time in an age, so, you know, BE GRATEFUL. Also, welcome this week to any new readers who might have been enticed here by Rob Blackie's very kind tip-off (the other newsletters he promotes are better, but this is by far the longest and, well, fcuk the quality, feel the width eh?) - yes, it really IS always like this. 

To the rest of you who know what to expect by now, let's get underway with this week's informational equivalent of a watercannon to the solar plexus - you'll be left battered and possibly bleeding from the eyes and ears, but you'll be CLEANSED BY THE LINKBLAST. Probably. This, as ever, is WEB CURIOS!

nicolo canova

By Nicolo Canova



  • Facebook To Stop Letting FAKE NEWS Pages Buy Ads: Interestingly (or not - I’m struggling rather to find anything particularly thrilling about any of this, but let’s see how we go as the fingers start whirring and I’m overtaken by the unthinking desire to just get some fcuking words down), Facebook doesn’t like the term ‘Fake News’ - they suggest it’s been politicised into meaninglessness and instead use the term ‘False News’; anyway, fake or false, those peddlers of misinformation sharing links to stories which aren’t just contentious but simply not true will soon find themselves unable to buy ads on FB, thus, they hope, limiting the ability for LIES AND PERNICIOUS UNTRUTHS to spread across Zuckerberg’s Big Blue Misery Factory. Obviously this won’t stop mouth-breathing simpletons sharing falsehoods regardless, but it’s A Good Thing in general. Feel free to make your own slightly indignant and unfunny gag about how you bet it’s not going to stop the Mail advertising, though, is it? EH?
  • Slight Changes To Facebook Memories: There’s seemingly no relevance to brands here whatsoever, but given the fact that someone was kind enough to write this screed up as being a GOOD SOURCE OF THE LATEST S*C**L M*D** NEWS I am now going to have to include absolutely everything that has been announced this week in fear of being found to be less-than-comprehensive. This is basically announcing a whole bunch of new little prompts Facebook is going to give you to DO MORE on the platform; tedious as you like, although the coda to the announcement, whereby they acknowledge that FB Memories are often VERY BAD THINGS and that the algorithm - whodathunkit? - isn’t ALWAYS good at working out which memories you want to see surfaced again and which, by contrast, you’ve spent a long time trying to wrestle into the lead-lined box in the dark storecupboard of your mind and which, frankly, you could have done without Facebook resurrecting thankyou very much but that’s fine, Mark, I’ll just sit here and cry as your platform ceaselessly presents memories of suicide and loss at me, thanks, THANKS, is so blandly blase that it serves as a shorthand for exactly how little Facebook cares about anything other than screwing as much advertising revenue and data out of everyone until the world ends. Oh God, I appear to have lost the ability to stop sentences; I’ll work on it, promise.
  • Some FB Ad Formats Are Being Retired: Don’t worry, though, it’s only the crap ones, like being able to Boost notifications that people are attending an event or suchlike. Here’s a full list - I guarantee that, unless you’re very much an edge case, none of these will matter to you one iota. Also, LOOK how many ad formats there are; seems like reasonable housekeeping to me, although no doubt there will be some people whose world is discombobulated to an uncomfortable degree by these SEISMIC ALTERATIONS.
  • You Can Now Access Insta Stories On Mobile Web: Not, seemingly, on desktop, only mobile. Equally, you will now be able to upload stories from the mobile website, not just from the Insta app (again, seemingly not desktop). I’m pretty much baffled as to the utility here, but smarter minds than mine have decreed that this needs to be a thing and lo, here we are.
  • Verified Business Accounts Coming to Whatsapp: Whatsapp as customer service channel should be bigger than it is, imho, but the infrastructure’s not really been set up to support it yet. This is potentially starting to change - the rollout, US first and then more widely, of verified profiles for businesses makes one imagine that they might start making it a more robust offering in time.
  • Snapchat Setting Up Verified Accounts For Influencers: Good news for ‘influencers’, and, potentially, good news for brands working with them on Snap - the deal is that a select group of ‘influencers’ (god I HATE that term with a blood-boiling passion) will receive the ability to create ‘Official Stories’ - to quote the blurb, “Official Stories accounts come with benefits. They feature a emoji symbol selected by the account holder and receive customized filters for special occasions. Perhaps most importantly, Official Stories accounts will be more visible in search results”. The search thing is a big’un for the brand tie-ups what with Snap’s legendarily poor discoverability - pay and influencer with an Official Stories account and you’re buying visibility, basically. Smart.
  • //">Giphy Adds View Counts To Gifs: LOOK! METRICS! NUMBERS! You can now add Gif Views to your Big Dashboard of Largely Meaningless KPIs! There’s literally no excuse for you not chucking all the gifs of your CONTENT onto Giphy is the upshot here, even if your ‘content’ is a load of video of middle managers giving Powerpoint presentations to a room full of disinterested Midlanders.
  • Giphy World: What has 2017 been the year of? HORROR! Well, yes, that, but also THE YEAR OF AR! Or at least the year of hype around the emergent possibilities of AR which is going to all be revealed to be largely vapourware in 2018 (at least that’s what I think - I reckon however cool all this stuff looks in prototype, we’re still 18m away from true mainstream adoption). This is a little video announcing Giphy World, which is a persistent AR layer onto the world, which will let users add gifs to stuff on their phone’s camera in the now-ubiquitous AR fashion, take videos of said AR dioramas, share them, etc. Which is nice, but the reason I’m including it here is because there’s obviously going to be the opportunity for brands to get in here to make sure THEIR branded gifs are available on the platform. Talk to YOUR Giphy rep today. Or don’t. See if I care.
  • GE Digital Volcano: When people ask ‘who’s really good at digital stuff in the boring, stuffy corporate space, Matt?’ I tend to look blankly into space and wish I were elsewhere. After that, though, I usually fall back on the tediously cliche answer of ‘GE’, and this sort of stuff is why. This is a site explaining how volcanoes work, all to the end of selling a GE data analysis platform. It’s not earth-shattering stuff, but it is nicely made, pretty, slick, and a damn sight more interesting than a bunch of grey prose talking about DATA IS THE NEW OIL or somesuch cant. Obviously GE spend shedloads on digital builds, but this stuff needn’t be expensive, honest. Come on, can we all try and make boring stuff more interesting-looking? Please?
  • Taylor Swift Is Not A Marketing Genius: I don’t particularly care about the woman either way - although the single is notable for being a portrayal of a woman who is keen not only to demonstrate that she is self-aware enough to laugh at herself but also savvy enough to charge us money to watch her laugh at herself, which is bleakly impressive - but to all those people wanging on last week in the service of #numbers  about how she’s a marketing genius...mate, look, no marketing genius would EVER do this brand partnerships stuff. UPS? REALLY? Noone’s new record needs a worldwide delivery partner.
  • This Is A Generic Millennial Ad: This is excellent - a parody of all the visual /  aural / thematic cues which ads targeted at ‘millennials’ feel compelled to hit. The shot of the beautiful, multi-hued kids dancing in the kitchen in their pants is so perfectly on-point that I actually winced slightly. One would hope that this would mark the final nail in the coffin of a certain type of visual, but it won’t, will it? Still, watch this and then hate yourself a little bit for all the times in the past year you’ve let someone get away with using the term ‘millennial’ as a target category without grabbing them by the lapels and screaming into their face with spit-flecked rage that MILLENNIAL IS NOT A MEANINGFUL CATEGORY FOR ANYTHING YOU LAZY, BOVINE IMBECILE.

julie renee jones

By Julie Renee Jones



  • Get Lauren: Well this is one my my favourite things this week. Artist Lauren McCarthy is offering herself up to people to act as their real-life, human virtual assistant for three days; Lauren will visit your house, install a bunch of smart switches, etc, and then act as a human Amazon Echo for three days - you talk to Lauren through speakers and she answers questions and basically acts as your human robot concierge. The switches will let all the ‘smart home’ stuff work, but the really interesting thing here is the way in which Lauren, as an actual person, will attempt to bring the humanity to the interactions between person and bot - to quote the site, “she will also do things for you without your asking. She will learn faster than an algorithm, adapting to your desires and anticipating your needs.” An actual, real-life interpretation of ‘Her’ (well, ish), and my favourite performance art thingy of the year. There’s a hidden-camera gag show hidden in here somewhere, also, if you wanted to go lowbrow with it (but why? Why would you do that? Jesus, you ruin everything).
  • The Smell Of Data: Another webdigiartthing to kick off with, the high concept here is the role that smell and scent have always played in alerting us as a species to danger - the smell of burning, say, or the fact that rotting food smells foul to us as a disincentive to eat it. The Smell of Data is a device that you put in your home and link to your phone - every time you visit an unsecured WiFi spot, or a website that doesn’t use https, or other such data unsafe browsing practises, the device will spaff out a spurt of THE SMELL OF DATA to alert you to your less-than-secure activity. I LOVE THIS, not least because of the potential to extend it - if you work for Airwick or somesuch other purveyor of chemical stench-maskers, PLEASE take ‘inspiration’ from this and make a domestic air freshener whose smells change depending on what people in the house are browsing at any given time. “Why does it smell of wet dogs and regret, Dad?” “Oh, that must mean John’s back on RedTube!” - see? How can this fail?
  • The Citibike Commute: We have Sadiq Cycles, NYC has Citibikes. This is a WONDERFUL site, visualising Citibike trip data across Manhattan and Brooklyn across 24h in early June, letting you see not only the quantum of journeys as they happen, but also allowing users to zoom in to a particular street or block and see the journeys which stem from individual streets. This is beautifully made, and I would be thrilled to see this for London, so pull your fingers out Santander and make something like this - it’s not like you can’t afford £20k’s webdev, is it, you appalling banking fcuks?
  • Second Hand Songs: Kudos to my LOVELY EDITOR PAUL (*waves* Paul’s nice, he runs Imperica and when I say ‘editor’ I mean he occasionally deletes the more libellous bits of Curios) for finding this - we were talking the other day about which songs have the longest ‘chain’ of covers (inspired by my earth-shaking discovery that ‘Torn’ by Natalie Imbruglia is in fact a cover of THIS - WHO KNEW?) and he pointed me at this site, which helpfully lists all the published versions of a song in chronological order and which has just led me to learn that there are 15 official versions of this song and OH GOD NATALIE I THOUGHT IT WAS YOU THIS IS CRIPPLING ME.
  • Formafluens: A selection of webtoys and analyses using the dataset from this year’s Google Draw experiments (you remember, the one where Google got us all to draw bananas and cats and then revealed that we’d all been training a rudimentary AI to draw and oh look we’re one step closer to the singularity how did that happen?), which let you examine the similarities and differences in the ways people drew certain images, explore the datasets and even download hi-res poster-quality images of some of the aggregated drawings. FYI, I would pay actual cashmoney for some of these printed on decent stock in case anyone fancies sorting this out for me thanks.
  • The Gif Polaroid: Wonderfully, pointlessly, this bloke made an actual, working Polaroid camera which spits out a little cartridge on which is captured a gif of whatever the camera has just shot. The link here takes you to the Imgur page on which he details the project and how he did it, meaning all the instructions are there should you fancy making your own. You won’t, but it might please you to know that in theory you COULD.
  • Uber Movement: Uber is doing SO WELL! They have a new CEO, you can now tip drivers to make up for the fact that they get gouged so hard by their employer (OH NO SORRY NOT EMPLOYER AT ALL), and now they’re making a whole bunch of anonymised data about their trips available to urban planners to help devise DATA-LED SOLUTIONS to the problems facing us as urban-dwelling bipedal apes. Sadly data for London isn’t part of the available set, which is a shame, but overall this is a huge resource for anyone interested in the mechanics whereby cities function. Also interesting from the point of view of where Uber’s business is going - these people aren’t stupid, they know that cabbies aren’t going to make them profitable anytime soon. Let me just say it again, thereby once more violating my ‘no more predictions, Matt, as 2016 made you look REALLY STUPID’ - Amazon will buy Uber. One day. Maybe.
  • La Tabla: This is ace. Prototype only at the moment, but a working prototype, this is a great project by games designer and Phd Chaim Gingold which has seen him create an interactive, multiuse tabletop surface which uses a combination of AR techniques to create...oh, look, here: “La Tabla introduces a groundbreaking way to interact with computers. Rather than using a finger to click on a mouse or poke at a screen, you reach into the simulation world with two hands, bringing the full force of your hominid dexterity and playfulness to the table. Because you can put whatever you like—coins, stones, books, drawings, yourself—into the simulation world, play is surprisingly improvisational and open-ended.” There are multiple use-cases demonstrated on the site, and, beautifully, the whole project is being done open source so anyone can fcuk with it. There is SO MUCH potential here for anyone involved in games and play, so do check it out.
  • Harvey In Pictures: Photographs from this week in Houston and elsewhere, ordered as a day-by-day series. Not going to opine on this except to say that CHRIST it’s lucky the US is a rich country.
  • Kick: I get that social anxiety is a thing, I really do - it can be a crippling problem and I’m all for solutions that help people live normal lives and not break out in hives at the thought of, I don’t know, ordering a coffee. That said, I’m not sure that this app - Kick, designed to help people develop their confidence in social situations - is necessarily the answer. It sets users daily challenges of various sorts designed to take them out of their comfort zone (an aside: look, it’s called a comfort zone for a reason - it’s COMFORTABLE. Who in their right mind wants to hang out in their discomfort zone? NO FCUKER, that’s who) and help teach them that interacting with other human beings is, you know, OK! Thing is, though, challenges involve things like ‘strike up a conversation with a complete stranger on the street’ and ‘compliment someone who serves you on their outfit’ which, fine, might be ok in the US but I guarantee if you try complimenting a waiter or waitress on what they’re wearing in the UK they will start avoiding you so hard you may never eat. There’s too much of this that reads weirdly like some sort of PUA forum instruction list, basically, which actually makes sense given the Venn Diagram overlap between these sorts of communities.
  • Google AR Experiments: Anything Apple can do...after Apple’s ARKit (see Curios passim) has shown us the exciting possibilities available to us in the glorious AR future, now comes Google’s version (called ARCore) which effectively offers a similar suite of tools for developers on Android and which is eventually going to be baked in to all future Android OS. This video showcases some of the demo uses, but it’s worth going to the actual Experiments page and clicking through in more depth; it’s all toy/gimmick stuff at this stage, and I’m pretty certain that noone really wants to be able to superimpose a screaming wall on their surroundings, but the potential is obvious and undeniable.
  • Callum Art: Callum is, apparently, 12 years old. Callum makes dolls from found stuff. Callum has the sort of dark imagination which you’d imagine has his teacher’s occasionally casting anxious glances at each other as they stare ashen-faced at the latest product of his twisted little mind. I mean, the kid’s obviously really talented but these are...unsettling.
  • The Trebuchet: Who doesn’t want a slightly shonky, old school website which lets you simulate - with real physics! - how trebuchets work? NO FCUKER, THAT’S WHO! Trebuchets, for the three people who might not know, are catapults, effectively, which use counterweights rather than springs to fling their mass; this features a variety of different sorts which you can meddle with, changing their payload, size, proportions, etc, to see how the different variables affect the flight of the boulder/cow you imagine it flinging. Sort of weirdly fun, and actually a really good way of learning about physics if you’re feeling all didactic.
  • Render Search: A great project, not least as it led me to thinkk of something I hvae honestly never contemplated before. You know when you see CGI mockups of urban developments, right, like shopping centres or public spaces, and they are always populated by oddly indistinct homunculi, blurry of face and generic of dress? WHO ARE THOSE PEOPLE? WHERE DO THEY COME FROM? This site is seeking to answer that question - it presents a variety of ‘people’ taken from architectural renders around the world - the goal of the project is to get people to find themselves in the renders. Where are the images culled from? Who has the ‘right’ to use them? Do any of us ‘own’ our physical image, particularly in a surveilled city like London? SO MANY QUESTIONS. Go on, see if you’re on there.

sander abemma

By Sander Abemma



  • Elephas Anthropogenas: Pictures of elephants drawn by people who have heard of the concept of an elephant but have never in fact actually seen one. To quote, “After the fall of the Roman Empire, elephants virtually disappeared from Western Europe. Since there was no real knowledge of how this animal actually looked, illustrators had to rely on oral and written transmissions to morphologically reconstruct the elephant, thus reinventing an actual existing creature. This tree diagram traces the evolution of the elephant depiction throughout the middle ages up to the age of enlightenment.” Wonderful, crap elephants.
  • Solitaire for DOS: I have no idea whatsoever as to why this exists, but I am all the happier for my ignorance; this is a now-funded Kickstarter which will send YOU, the lucky recipient, a copy of a game of Solitaire for PC, packaged on a floppy disc. This is probably ‘art’ of some sort, but WEVS - it’s solitaire! On a disc!
  • Carnival Photos: I felt HUGELY old on Monday coming back from the seaside into Victoria station and seeing a bunch of people coming into London off commuter trains to head to West London and enjoy Carnival and OH MY DAYS, girl, please put your bum away, you are about 12 and clearly from Surrey and HOW did your parents let you leave the house like that?! Basically my default reaction to women young enough to be my daughter wearing revealing outfits is now to worry about them and hope they get home OK and unmolested, which is probably for the best but which makes me feel practically methuselan. Anyhow, this is a lovely photoset from last weekend, and a lovely reminder of what a fcuking great city London is.
  • Cheer Up Luv: Oh men! Men! STOP IT, MEN! Cheer Up Love is a hugely dispiriting project collecting photos and anecdotes of women who’ve been on the receiving end of unwanted advances and degrees of harassment on the street. Seemingly collated from London and Paris, the anecdotes are depressingly uniform in nature - a reminder, should one ever be needed, that the answer to ‘what’s the best way to chat up a woman I don’t know in the street whilst she’s going about her business?’ is ‘there isn’t one, you prick’.
  • The Living New Deal: The New Deal, as those of you who did GCSE history will doubtless recall, was the post-Depression reconstruction plan instituted in the US by FDR in the 30s, designed to boost the economy, create jobs, etc. This map shows all the different projects which comprised the New Deal across the US - it’s astonishing quite what an undertaking it was, looking at the scale and scope of all the initiatives, and it’s fascinating not only from an historical point of view but also from a practical one; how does Government implement a strategy for growth on a national level through the implementation of discrete stimuli? Like this, turns out.
  • VR World NYC: When I was a little kid in the mid-90s and would come and visit my Dad living in London, one of the great treats was being taken to play on the arcades in the Trocadero. In amongst the cracked copies of SFII - LOOK DAD ON THIS ONE YOU CAN DO HADOUKENS IN MID-AIR why aren’t you excited oh god we have nothing in common do we? - was a HUGELY exciting set of machines which looked almost exactly like the sort of rigs made popular by The Lawnmower Man (and be aware that I am never going to mention that film without linking to the sex scene, like so) and which featured people standing up and wearing gigantic, wraparound helmets and holding exciting plastic controllers and...and then you looked at the screens, and saw what they saw, and you realised that all they were doing was flailing at C64-level blocky graphics of bats or wizards and you realised that the future was RUBBISH and everything was a lie and VR wasn’t like the Lawnmower Man AT ALL, and even VR sex was probably crap too. Ah, MEMORIES! Anyway, that tedious digression was by way of me realising that I have nothing to say about this link aside from the fact that a VR Arcade is opening in NYC and I guarantee it will be disappointing.
  • Barry & Joe: This is dispiriting. Over $100,000 has been raised on Kickstarter to bring a pilot animated episode of a cartoon in which a young Barack Obama and Joe Biden star in a Quantum Leap parody whereby they attempt to change history for the better to stop Trump getting elected. HO HO HO, HA HA HA, look, it’s got Neil Degrasse Tyson in it! POP CULTURE LOLS! Or, you know, you dicks who pledged all that money could have done something useful with it to actually take steps to address the way your country’s being run into the ground rather than simply turning everything into some sort of PoMo yukfest. You cretins. Also, this looks shit.
  • Startup Stars: This has to be, MUST be, the inevitable end of the line for ‘X as a subscription’ services, as NOONE can possibly come up with a worse idea than this (Take that as a challenge) - Startup Stars lets you pay a monthly fee to receive a new tshirt branded with a different startup logo each month. Yep, YOU TOO can have the privilege of having a poorly-printed Fruit of the Loom number with an ugly, vowelless logo emblazoned across it sent to you every 4 weeks. WHY?? Even startup cnuts think that startup tshirts are ugly and for losers. What, where, WHO is the market for this? Is baffling.
  • Botwiki: “Botwiki is an open catalog of friendly, useful, artistic online bots , and tools and tutorials that can help you make them.” Yep, that. Bots are really easy to make and, I think, underexploited from a CONTENT point of view - if you are interested in this stuff, you should talk to Shardcore or Rob who are really good at this stuff.
  • Yoko Ono Bot: Speaking of bots (SEAMLESS! Sorry Tom), this is Rob’s latest - taking the whimsical Twitter style of Yoko Ono and turning it into a stream of odd, cute and strangely pleasing instructions for artworks. “Kiss a friend and imagine they're Henry Kelly. Ask them their secret”, says Yoko; “Record the sound of Peter Parker singing. Hide it in Southampton on a wintery day.” I would honestly love for someone to spend a week actually doing some of these and writing them up - it would make for some top-quality #content, and almost certainly someone from VICE (it’d be Oobah, wouldn’t it?) is pitching this right now.
  • Pexels: A super-useful site which lets you search for photos which are available on a ‘no attribution, use this for anything’ Creative Commons 0 license. I mean, you can get them through Google too but this requires fewer clicks and thus is BETTER.
  • //[email protected]/sets/72157684110532315/">Jupiter: New photos of Jupiter, because looking at planets never, ever gets dull.
  • Timetree: I don’t pretend to actually understand this, but perhaps the evolutionary biologists amongst you - ha! - wil lget more out of it. Timetree lets you plug in any taxa you like (that is, species) and it will spit out its evolutionary history, showing you at what point millennia ago different species variants branched off onto their own evolutionary pathway. It’s quite cool, in a ‘I really don’t quite understand what’s going on here, but OH LOOK cats and dogs were once the same animal, that’s weird’ sort of way.
  • Impakt: This is a really interesting idea. Impakt is not currently a thing but will, imminent Kickstarter allowing, soon become one - it’s going to be a Chrome extension (I think) which will alert shoppers whilst browsing online to the ethical track record, or lack thereof, of the manufacturers of any goods they might be browsing. SUCH a clever idea and exactly the sort of thing we need more of to bring accountability to fashion supply chains and the like. The crowdfunding campaign’s not yet live, but you can sign up for alerts should you wish (you should).
  • Matt Sure Lee: The best Instagram account featuring hand-drawn comedy charts you will see all week. No, really, these are VERY FUNNY.
  • The Wooden Word Watch: This is...ridiculous, really. It’s a wristwatch on Kickstarter (OBVS) which is carved out of wood and features LED lights and which either spells out the time or shows it to you in digits and...oh, look, I am bad at describing stuff at the best of times, but I promise you that you just need to click the link to understand it. It will all make sense, and it’s very possible that at that point you will want one more than any other watch you have ever seen in your life. This is the coolest incredibly uncool timepiece I have ever seen, basically.
  • Contemporary Art Daily: Contemporary art from around the world, every day. Everyone should see a new artwork every day (he says, the patronising, didactic middle-class prick).
  • The Font Review Journal: “The Font Review Journal is home to reviews and analysis of typeface designs both new and old. This site is aimed at designers who want to discover new typefaces to add to their arsenal, or those who want to learn to appreciate old favorites on a deeper level.” Yes, that.
  • The Most Embarrassing Thing You’ve Ever Seen Someone Do Which They Didn’t Think Anyone Saw: A GOLDEN Reddit thread, this, containing some truly outstanding examples of unwitting embarrassment. Here’s the first one, to give you a flavour: “I once saw a girl holding an ice cream cone in one hand, and her phone in the other lick the screen of her phone. When we made eye contact and she realized I'd seen it happen, she looked like she was going to die.” It’s a bit like that very 21C phenomenon when you see someone taking a photo of themselves and then taking it again and again and again and again, trying desperately to achieve the correct degree of sexy insouciance whilst at the same time giving every single other person watching a view of that most private of faces - the one you make in the mirror when you look at yourself just before you go out (you know the one, we all do it), the one which up until about 6 years ago was genuinely private and known only to yourself and perhaps a handful of lovers but which now, thanks to the fcuking ‘selfie’ we all get to observe on each other - and then that person realises that everyone else has seen them and the selfie is forever RUINED kampf kampf kampf. Yeah, like that.
  • Dog Parker: This...this is spectacularly stupid, even by the standards of ‘internet connected stuff which doesn’t need to be connected to the internet’. Dog Parker is a box into which you can put your dog, locking it in with your smartphone to keep it ‘safe’ until you come back and unlock it with your phone again. Only YOU can unlock the box for your dog - which leads me to imagine frantic pet owners watching their canine pals slowly expire from starvation as they realise their phone’s run out of batteries. I have SO MANY QUESTIONS about this - who cleans out the prison inbetween uses? What happens to the inevitable crap? HOW DO THE DOGS FEEL ABOUT THIS? I’m right, aren’t I? This is idiotic.
  • Insert Coin: This will please you for about 5 seconds but you won’t be able to entirely explain why.
  • The Diana-Morrissey Conspiracy: So where were YOU? I was on the island of Lesbos with a girlfriend, not that you care, and immediately made some not-particularly-funny observation about how I bet Mother Teresa would die in the next few days and noone would care and LO! It came to pass, meaning for a few brief days I was convinced that a) I was psychic or could control fate; and b) it was my fault that poor old Mother T carked it. Anyway, this has nothing to do with that - instead, it’s one of the BEST internet conspiracies (up there with the whole ‘Paul McCartney Died Years Ago’ one) explaining how Morrissey was in fact responsible for Diana’s death. OBVIOUSLY.
  • The Bail Game: A clever little ‘game’ (not really a game) designed to demonstrate the iniquities inherent in the US justice system when it comes to the question of bail. I think stuff like this is underrated and underexploited as an explainer mechanism - try it, it’s really good.
  • Synesthesia World: Finally this week, a series of interviews with people with synesthesia, where they try and explain their experience of the condition, each accompanied by a downloadable VR experience which attempts to demonstrate each interviewee’s sensory overlap. Not only is this fascinating - I find synesthesia enthralling - but the use of VR as explainer companion content is really nicely done; this is very much worth a play if you’ve the kit to hand.  

Rusell MacEwan

By Russell MacEwan



  • Design is Fine: A lovely scrapbook Tumblr, collecting art and design inspiration; this is a really nice collection of stuff, cutting across styles and eras.
  • Trail Type: On the offchance that you’ve been hankering after a website which collates examples of the sorts of fonts used on signs in the great outdoors, THIS IS THAT SITE. God I’m good to you.
  • Cars On Film: Not really sure how much more I can say about this. Cars! In films!
  • Worst of Chefkoch: Some cursory research has led me to the discovery that Chefkoch is a German recipe site; this Tumblr collects the worst culinary aberrations from said site. You may never be hungry again.


  • The Love Affairs of Stan Laurel: This is a lovely account of Stan Laurel’s surprisingly turbulent love life, as recounted through the man’s prodigious letter-writing output. There’s something so wonderfully ‘golden age of cinema’ about all this - the idea that Stan Laurel (and I don’t care how much people insist to me he was in actuality pretty hot; NOPE) was a sex symbol and a ladykiller is fantastic, particularly when contrasted with the beautifully gentle personal that comes through in the letter excerpts here. Charming.
  • The History of ‘Ilse: She Wolf of the SS’: An account of the genesis and afterlife of the most notorious of all the Nazisploitation films, which spawned a hundred bongo imitators and which has been referenced by Tarantino, Rodriguez and others as an inspiration. Sexuality is WEIRD.
  • Egg Freezing: The first of two pieces this week taken from Catapult Magazine; this is a woman’s account of her experience freezing her eggs, discussing the reasons behind her choice and the coldly medical process she underwent to get there. It’s beautifully-written and, weirdly, incredibly sad and lonely.
  • Meet Schopenhauer: I love Schopenhauer, the miserable git - him and Kierkegaard are my two most favourite grumpy philosophers (in Kierkegaard’s case he had good reason - just look at poor Soren’s love life) - and this is an excellent primer on Schopenhauer’s philosophies - basically speaking, you’re meant to be miserable, there’s no way around it, so SUCK IT UP an enjoy the momentary distractions as and when you can. Pretty much the Web Curios credo, right there.
  • The Oral History of the Oral History: McSweeney’s once again absolutely nailing pop culture; this skewering of the ‘oral history’ format is perfect, and is far funnier than any dissection of a writing gimmick ought to be.
  • The First Social Media Suicide: This is a continuation of a piece which was recently featured in this section, all about Paris and the city’s death - this section of the essay focuses on the death of Oceane, a young woman who last year became the first person to stream their suicide live on social media. The writing here’s slightly odd, stylistically - it clunks like a poor translation in places - but the story it tells, of loneliness and alienation in les banlieus and how her death has become co-opted to mean anything and nothing, is a tragic and important one.
  • Victorian Monkey Tennis: SO GOOD! This is a collection of ideas put forward by the then-manager of Alexandra Palace in the late-19th Century to attract more visitors to the Pally and drum up some extra cash. These...these are just amazing, and are proof should ever any be needed that there are no new ideas under the sun. For bonus lols, please print these out and hand them to your friends at work and see who can be the first to get 10 of these into an actual brainstorm. Seriously, look at this one - man was a genius: “Big Strong aviary Macaws flying about...Bear Pit?”
  • What We Get Wrong About Technology: This was originally in the FT a month or so ago but is now available without a paywall - it’s a great article about how scifi never predicts the right tech, and why that is - the author, Tim Harford, posits that we’re inclined to dream of the flashily transformative when instead it’s the incremental which tends to succeed. Really interesting, not just from a tech point of view but also as regards design and systems thinking (no, really, it is interesting).
  • Sword Guys: Sword guys - that is, men who have a strong and demonstrable interest in swords, owning them and talking about them - are apparently a thing; this essay explores the subspecies. Very funny, and by the end you will be nodding in recognition. We have all met at least one sword guy, and I bet you work with one - why don’t you spend the afternoon speculating who it is?
  • Reviewing the ‘Wake Up Sheeple’ Meme: A far-too-in-depth exploration of the memeology of WAKE UP SHEEPLE, the rallying cry for all those who believe that we’re walking, phones in hand, towards some sort of ovine apocalypse. Recommended for lovers of the art of David Dees (see Curios passim).
  • The Neural Network Game of Thrones: For lovers of tits and lizards who simply CAN’T DEAL with George RR Martin’s failure to produce the final instalment in the saga, someone fed all the previous novels into a neural network and this is the result. It’s tripe, but so was the first novel and it hasn’t stopped millions of people from loving it, so, you know, fill your boots.
  • The Terrifying Truth About Journalists: More McSweeney’s, this time exposing exactly what sort of TERRIBLE POWER the mainstream media wields and demonstrating exactly why Trump hates it so much. WARNING: if you work in journalism it’s likely that this will make you cry, and not in the happy way.
  • The Best Dystopian Novels: An excellent list of 100 pieces of dystopian fiction, arranged chronologically from the earliest onwards and featuring some absolute stone-cold classics such as works by Ellison and Dick but also some outliers like Spinrad (seriously, I can’t recommend him enough, he is MENTAL and hugely upsetting) Ellis (it features Transmet, which is an automatic guarantee of quality). Basically if you have a teenager and you want to encourage them to read more, and they like the Hunger Games or similar, almost everything on this list could be of interest to them.
  • Fleece of the Century: If you want to read any more words about last weekend’s tawdry moneygrabbing mess, this piece in the NYT is an excellent (and suitably disgusted) look back at the Mayweather/Macgregor farrago.
  • Giving Out CVs at the Big Feastival: Making the position of ‘I’ll do anything to get a byline’ correspondent at VICE his own, column by column, is the improbably-named Oobah Butler, who this week wrote up a very funny and weirdly sort of poignant account of his attempt to get a job by handing out CVs to red-faced, pink-troused tools of capitalism at the Alex James/Jamie Oliver Toploader-led horrorshow that is the Big Feastival. The ‘festival’ looks and sounds AWFUL, by the way.
  • What Happened In Eden?: A fascinating exploration of what went on behind the scenes on cancelled reality show Eden - you know, the one that they kept going despite canning the broadcast, leaving the 15-odd survivalists performing for an (almost) nonexistent audience. Really interesting, not least because of the interplay between production staff and ‘stars’ - this will be obvious to anyone who’s done reality TV of any sort, but the showmaking elements and considerations inherent in much of what is described here were honestly new to me.
  • Talking To My Daughter About Racism: Second piece from Catapult this week, in which a woman describes the conversations she has to have with her daughter to explain what she has seen on TV and online from Charlottesville in recent weeks, and what it means for her identity, her child’s and how they both relate to the people screaming hate on television. Profoundly depressing, but such strong writing.
  • Signifying with Snakes: Possibly the best writing of the week, though, comes in this portrait of a preacher in the South of America who’s part of that weird subset of Christianity which involves speaking in tongues and, er, handling live rattlesnakes in the belief that God will protect you (it was in the scripture, you see - I mean, so was loads of other utterly mental stuff, but let’s not think too hard about it). This is a wonderful portrait of a very particular community, and the writing brings the flavour of the South across beautifully; if you’ve ever been to South Carolina, or Georgia, you’ll know what I mean.
  • Premium Mediocrity: This, though, is EVERYTHING. Welcome to the concept of ‘Premium Mediocre’, coming to every single brainstorm / planning meeting you will be in SOON. Premium Mediocre EVERYTHING, really, and it can be applied to almost any category, and it is distinct and different from ‘basic’ and I promise you you will be applying this all over the place once you’ve read this (long, but excellent and smart and also very funny) piece. “Premium mediocre is the finest bottle of wine at Olive Garden. Premium mediocre is cupcakes and froyo. Premium mediocre is “truffle” oil on anything (no actual truffles are harmed in the making of “truffle” oil), and extra-leg-room seats in Economy. Premium mediocre is cruise ships, artisan pizza, Game of Thrones, and The Bellagio. Premium mediocre is food that Instagrams better than it tastes.Premium mediocre is Starbucks’ Italian names for drink sizes, and its original pumpkin spice lattes featuring a staggering absence of pumpkin in the preparation.” Premium mediocre is ordering champagne at a chain restaurant. It is the whole world in 2017. You are premium mediocre. I am premium mediocre. Donald Trump is, perhaps, the ur-expression of premium mediocre.  

katie dunkle

by Katie Dunkle



  1. First up, possibly the apotheosis of the sadly-underexplored ‘choose your own adventure music video’ genre; this is punk outfit Pup, with their video for the track ‘Old Wounds’ - pick one of the band members and choose the right options to get them through the night. Fun, silly, and really impressively still sort of works as a way to listen to the song:


2) This is called ‘Harvard’, it’s by Diet Cig (I’ve ssaid it before, but such a good name for a band, that), the video’s super-cute and the song’s a proper jangly pop-rock number which took me right back to 1998 which is sort of a happy place for me as you might have gathered by now:


3) This is by Ardyn, it’s called ‘Throwing Stones’, and the song is rather lovely but this is here mainly for the animation which I ADORE; the bit with the birds is just glorious:


4) Phantogram’s song ‘When I’m Small’ is a proper classic (it IS, shut up) and they will almost certainly never write anything as good again; while they try, though, they still throw up some good’uns, and this - called ‘Funeral Pyre’ - is a good track accompanied by a video so beautifully shot I’ve watched it 4 times now and am still finding new things to love. It is GLORIOUS:


5) I don’t know why this song, by Tom Hickman, is about Istanbul particularly, but I don’t care - I think it’s beautiful. It’s called, er, ‘Istanbul’:


6) Last up this week, this is St Vincent with ‘New York’. This is another utterly lovely piece of music, and another visually arresting accompanying video, and a good note to end on this week. Thanks for reading, I love you - especially YOU - take care and have a good week and I hope you’re ok. BYE!:


Matt Muir

Matt Muir is interested in lots of different things, and as a result rather likes the internet. Web Curios is a weekly(ish) snapshot of what he has found interesting this week. You can find Matt on Twitter, where he's quite good. In his spare time, Matt tries to ignore the web as much as is humanly possible (not very much, it turns out).

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