51 minutes reading time (10142 words)

Web Curios 12/04/19

Web Curios 12/04/19

We had a species-defining moment this week - one of those rare times within a lifetime where you can step back and say “yep, that felt pretty significant, shame I’ll be worms by the time the long-term implications of it are known”. Yet did we stop staring at our jizz-filled navels long enough to enjoy it? Did we BUGGERY. Although on reflection, “a significant moment which I will be long-dead before the significance of which is fully known” seems increasingly like it could apply to FCUKING B****T as well, so, well, wevs I guess.

Anyway, WE HAVE MADE IT TO THE FIRST PAUSE OF THE YEAR! That’s right, twelve consecutive weeks of 6am Friday morning starts and next Friday I GET A LIE-IN (yes, I am aware that for all of you with small children the mere fact of 12 weeks of getting up early one day a week is nothing remarkable, but, well, I don’t care)! Thanks, Jesus! This is the last Curios til after Easter, what with my (I think reasonable) assumption that next Friday you’ll be too busy doing chocolatey bulimia to bother with any of this crap.

This weekend I am going to a wedding which means I need to get a move on and iron my one shirt and hope that the new pair of trainers I bought actually fit and try and work out what acceptable small talk topics are when you’re the sort of person who spends far too much time on the web and who as a result is far more likely to want to talk about the nature of extremely online discourse than, say, the groom’s buttonhole or how nice the bridesmaids look. My girlfriend is SELFISHLY staying home with her SPECIAL LITTLE GUY (cat) to celebrate her mother’s birthday so I’m not even going to be accompanied; in the unlikely event that anyone who reads this also happens to be going to a wedding in Devon tomorrow, therefore, please look out for me as I’ll likely be looking wild-eyed and distressed and like I’m wearing someone else’s clothes and I will probably need someone to show me some gifs or something to help me through the day.

Anyway, Once again, it’s Friday; once again, there are too many words and too many links to come; and once again, Curios is straining against the barely-adequate casing of html and css that tries to contain it. PIERCE THE SKIN AND LOOSE THE LINKSPAFF! This is Web Curios, next weekend is Easter, I’m back in a fortnight, try not to die (unless you’re Jesus, in which case please DO die, it’s sort of important if I remember my scriptures properly).

By Linsey Levendall



  • The Online Harms White Paper: Yes, fine, this isn’t really to do with advermarketingpr at all, but it’s sort-of about Facebook and stuff so, well, humour me for a minute. The UK Government this week published the Online Harms White Paper, in which it set out its plans to REGULATE THE WEB and protect us all from The Bad Things that fester in the corners; if you’re not in the habit of reading documents of this ilk then it’s worth a quick skim, if only to get a sense of quite how...well...theoretical all this stuff is. There will be a regulator! It will regulate! How? What? Where? NO IDEA! Turns out you can get a good 10 minutes on the Today programme for a little bit of covert electioneering (don’t think we don’t see you, Sajid!) to bolster your ‘tough on the bad guys’ credentials based on something INCREDIBLY flimsy! Here’s the a taste: "The regulatory framework will apply to companies that provide services or tools that allow, enable or facilitate users to share or discover user-generated content, or interact with each other online.... o ensure a proportionate approach and avoid being overly burdensome, the application of the regulatory requirements and the duty of care model will reflect the diversity of organisations in scope, their capacities, and what is technically possible in terms of proactive measures". So, er, this will apply to every single company with anything to do with either a) person-to-person communication; or b) UGC, but regulation will only be applied based on what is 'technically possible'. I SEE SOME PROBLEMS HERE, KIDS.
  • Facebook Is Trying, Honest!: I don’t for a second think that Facebook is, at a corporate level, particularly bothered by the UK’s attentions, but it was an interesting coincidence that these updates to its content and newsfeed policies were announced this week. There were several announcements; this one, about how the company is set to work on tackling ‘fake news’ more quickly through collaboration with ‘experts’; its continued focus on reducing the spread of ‘low-quality content’ (there’s an interesting note in here about how FB will start depreciating links that get big traction within FB but which don’t receive comparable levels of traffic from outside; effectively trying to prevent Facebook hoax storms from breaking out, but also tacitly accepting that Facebook is, in many ways, designed specifically to promote weirdo outlier sh1t that wouldn’t get traction anywhere else); and the way it deals with ‘problematic’ content across its platforms. None of this is particularly relevant to you, advermarketingprdrones, but it’s interesting in a general sort of way. Oh, and one of the points Facebook makes explaining why it’s incapable of stemming the flow of fakery through human means is that “there simply aren’t enough professional fact-checkers worldwide, and like all good journalism, fact-checking — especially when it involves investigation of more nuanced or complex claims — takes time.” One might, perhaps, ask oneself why a company which in its most recent earnings reported profits of nearly $7bn couldn’t maybe hire and train more fact-checkers istelf to fill the shortfall.
  • Small Updates to Facebook Memorialisation: Small tweaks to the ways in which Facebook deals with the process of Page memorialisation - that is, the post-mortem locking down of a user’s profile to prevent trolling, hacking and the like. All good, sensible stuff, and worth looking at if you happen to be in charge of a loved one’s digital legacy (you know, I really don’t like that term fwiw; I want a PROPER digital legacy, not a bunch of photos of me drunk with people I don’t remember. Maybe some sort of multilayered CurioWiki or something; I’ll leave it up to you. DON’T LET ME DOWN).
  • Twitter Lowers Daily Follow Limits: You can now only follow upto 400 new accounts per day on Twitter, in a move to undermine those autofollow/unfollow bots designed to artificially inflate your numbers which I know NONE of you would ever contemplate using.
  • TikTok Spotlight: This has launched in Japan and Korea and it’s yet to get a global rollout but it does feel like the future rather. I’m obviously looking at this through a hugely old media filter, but think of it a bit as X Factor but that kids might actually care about - Spotlight is TikTok’s newly-minted artist discovery programme, designed to surface (and, one suspects, ruthlessly monetise) the exciting unsigned talent which is all over the app. “ TikTok Spotlight collaborates with 21 major industry players to discover and support the growth of independent artists. TikTok will work with partners to feature rising musicians and their best work on TikTok and various music platforms, bringing them direct exposure to music fans as well as industry leaders, such as labels, publishers, artist management agencies, agents, topline songwriters, producers, and more. TikTok Spotlight will officially launch on April 5. Musicians who participate in the program can create an account and submit their original content through the TikTok Spotlight Portal (www.tiktok.com/tiktokspotlight ) during the submission period. Once cleared, the original music will go up in the app and be promoted in TikTok's featured playlist, and shared with TikTok users for content creation. TikTok musicians will also be officially verified on their pages with a unique badge.” I think this is going to be HUGE, and an absolutely massive area for brands and advertisers, but I also think I am probably not really the target audience for this and so therefore you might want to take my opinion with the requisite truckload of salt
  • You Can Now Share PPT and .doc Files Directly On LinkedIn: Nicely-jarring platform juxtaposition there - LinkedIn really is the diametric opposite of TikTok in many ways, though now all I can think of is how genuinely amazing it would be to see Oleg lipsyncing his way through “Money, Money, Money” or something of that ilk. Anyway, you can share documents through personal profiles or company Pages, and (as far as I can tell) then boost said posts - I reckon there are probably two or three genuinely quite interesting (for LinkedIn) promotional things you can do with this - I don’t know, advertising your manuscript at literary agents, say - if you hurry up.
  • Our Planet: A couple of years ago I did a (tiny, miniscule) bit of work on Blue Planet II, just on the social/digital bit of the series; seeing Netflix basically stealing the format wholesale has been a bit miserable, from a purely beeb-loving point of view, but it’s hard not to admit that they have done a brilliant job. Case in point is the accompanying show website - simple, but it’s shiny and full of decent content clipped from the shows, and some lovely interactive bits, and it’s exactly the sort of site that the BBC can never make for all the sorts of longwinded and convoluted reasons you’d expect, the sort of things that make all the people who work at the BBC and love it throw their hands up in frustration and then go and have another three-hour meeting with a nice-but-slightly-ineffectual humanities graduate from Bristol about ‘goal-setting’ or similar. Really, the stereotypes ARE true.
  • The Art of Shares: This is pretty much perfect as far as I’m concerned - shiny, ‘arty’, overengineered, and the sort of project where I would love to hear the brand manager explaining to me why it was a really good use of the money, honest. “The Art of Shares is an interactive tool that enables you to visualise share prices as beautiful 3D sculptures. It was created by IG, the world’s No.1 provider of spread betting and CFD trading,* to help you make sense of the unpredictable world of shares and visualise data in a way that has never been possible before.” Yes, that’s right, a spread betting company has created a webtool that lets you create 3d-sculpted renderings of share price data that you can, er, look at! Rotate in virtual space! Compare with other sculptures of share prices you might also care to render! This is SO BRILLIANTLY SILLY and it’s exactly the sort of thing I’d pitch to a client because, well, I just really like this sort of stuff and quite like the idea of wasting an gambling company’s filthy lucre on it.
  • Play Galeries Lafayettes: It’s getting to the stage now where I feature so many beautifully-made, overengineered French websites that I am beginning to hubristically wonder whether the entire country’s webwork industry is geared towards providing content for Curios (to be clear, I do not in fact do this). This is a game made to promote the Galerie Lafayette department stores across the country, and it’s simple and really rather lovely in its design and art style - click and hold to launch the ball from one pillar to another; the longer you hold, the further the ball leaps. Good, clean, healthy fun.

By Viviane Sassen



  • The Brexit Wargame: This has - FULL DISCLOSURE - been made by friends of mine, but they’ve not paid me to include this (the fcukers) and I think it’s a nice idea and, well, IT’S MY BLOGNEWSLETTERTHINGY. The Brexit Wargame is the online version of a real-world game you can sign up to play - this is designed to mimic the SLIGHTLY COMPLICATED trade and industry-type questions that, let’s be clear, we’re not even CLOSE to thinking about the answers to yet! See what sort of Brexit deal YOU’d negotiate! Interesting, simply-but-effectively designed, and worth a look if you have to think about Brexit professionally (noone should think about it personally).
  • Google World Draw: Embarrassingly I think this has been around for ages and I’m only just discovering it now; whilst I like to think that I am very much aligned with the general idea that ‘the internet is not a race’, it turns out that in my heart of hearts I don’t believe that AT ALL and in fact want to establish some sort of speed-curatorial dominion over all things online. Anyway, slightly-terrifying hubris to one side, this is great fun; part of Google’s overall ‘let’s trick the humans into teaching the machines how to think!’ AI farms, Google World Draw is a gorgeous and charming little platform, which lets anyone anywhere in the world log on and draw a simple shape of a thing in 2d, which thing will then be rendered as a 3d object by the software and dumped into this charming, blocky, navigable 3-d environment along with all the other slightly misshapen creations by hundreds of other people across the globe. The AI tidies up your sketches, thereby ensuring that the landscape isn’t populated solely by horrific-looking post-apocalyptic lumps, and generally this is so supremely cute and whimsical that it makes me a little sick (in a good way). Oh, and the ‘Game’ section is fun too. Basically this is great, and if you have kids you can probably distract them with it for a good 5 minutes on Saturday morning.
  • Speedgate: Technically this probably ought to sit in the ‘stuff vaguely about advermarketingpr’ section, what with it being a piece of work by AKQA to show off to Nike with; as far as I can tell, it was developed to accompany some sort of big event at Nike HQ in Portland, and this site has spun out of that. Anyway, it’s interesting and AI-ish and I thought it would be a shame if I buried it in the dull stuff up top. Speedgate is (sort-of) a new sport, generated by AI - AKQA basically fed a whole load of rulesets of various games and sports to a neural net, got it to spit out a whole bunch of variants based on said rulesets, employed an AWFUL lot of human oversight to clean up and sort the outputs, refined, repeated and then….VWALLAH! A new sport is born! The site talks you through the steps they took, and then does an admirably clear job of explaining the game - if ‘Quidditch’ can become an actual thing that people play (not people you’d actually want to spend time with, fine, but nonetheless) then this feels like it ought to stand a chance. The commitment the agency seem to have to their creation is rather lovely - they’re even offering people help with starting local leagues and the like if there’s demand. Were it not for the fact that I last broke into a run circa 2006 I would TOTALLY give this a go.
  • Change A View: You know what the past couple of years have taught us? No, not that, the other thing! Yes, that’s right; that existing methods of discussion and debate online are, well, a bit crap, a bit broken, a bit shouty and a bit toxic (what’s depressing is that we knew this already; we just didn’t care because it wasn’t materially fcuking our country)! Change a View is a fascinating idea which hopes to address that, spun out of the subReddit /r/changemyview - an astonishingly non-awful corner of Reddit where people would have long, nuanced, respectful and open discussions on often contentious points of theory and belief, laying out arguments and counterarguments in clear fashion and coming to the table with an open-minded desire to be challenged. The site is simple in theory - users state a position in 500 characters or more, and others, in a threaded conversation, get to present counterpoints. Kudos can be given to posts which present an argument that caused the original poster to question or rethink their original position, and there are other gentle nudge-type tweaks to keep the discussion moving intelligently. As a primer on debating and logic and how to argue, this is honestly excellent; as a place to learn about a plurality of views, it’s also great. Do check it out and have a dig - this deserves to grow, I think.
  • Boomplay: Apologies to everyone who’s known about this for years; to the rest of you, Boomplay is basically Spotify in Africa (sorry, I know that that’s a hugely sweeping statement - A CONTINENT CONTAINS MULTITUDES - but it’s sort-of how they describe themselves) and is a great way of discovering a totally different (to me, at least) slice of musical culture.
  • Thaw: Another week, another potential antidote to the gnawing void growing within you! Thaw is an app designed to make that tricky process of making new friends as an adult marginally easier; it’s designed in a similar manner to a dating app (although they are very keen to stress IT IS NOT A DATING APP), insofar as you tell it your location and your interests and it tries to match you with suitable others to share your passion for hiking / grouting / primal scream therapy with. This seems like it could be a good idea, but I can’t help but wonder exactly how it plans to stem in the inevitable flood of guys (it will, always, be guys) who think “Well, I know it says it’s not a dating app, but what better way to make someone fall in love with me than by engendering a strong, hobby-based bond which may one day blossom from Agape to Eros?”. Still, if you want to find someone else in Tooting who likes playing Euro Truck Simulator then this might be the app for YOU!
  • The Most Beautiful Construction Set In The World: Not my personal opinion, you understand, but the somewhat-hubristic name that this Kickstarter has decided to give itself. Still, if you’re in the market for an INCREDIBLY-SHINY kit-type construction set, from which you can make cars and trucks and planes and other things that go then this might be your catnip; the models will ship in what I think are flat-pack, twist-apart component sets designed to be assembled in the manner of Airfix-type things, except this is all cogs and springs and metal as opposed to plastic and bostik and the weird, specific pain of taking several layers of epidermis off your fingers with superglue. These are very impressive, but at the same time I can’t help but imagine them sitting on the mantelpiece in a room with very heavy brown leather furnishings and some slightly distressed-looking box-canvas prints featuring CLASSIC BRITISH SCENES up on bare-brick-style walls. Do you know what I mean? You don’t, do you? FINE.
  • Martin Pirongs Walking Self-Portrait: “Taking a line for a walk, nearly 200 miles long, over the first 10 days of April and creating a unique connection with a city and land. Harnessing the art of GPS technology and the age-old power of walking - by pavement, path, road and occasional field - Martin is aiming to configure the outline of his own body, with his own body on a giant scale. You are invited to witness the live GPS trail as it is created, slowly revealing an image that will inhabit the M25 and become the size of London.” Pirongs finished his walk two days ago - MARVEL at his silhouette spanning the M25! Anthony Gormley WISHES he’d thought of this.
  • Edible Games: I make it a point of pride (Ha! ‘Pride’! Maybe I had that, years ago, but marijuana has since destroyed any remaining vestiges that lingered) that I don’t feature the same thing in Curios twice (annually-updating events excepted); I’m going to make an exception here, though, as last time I included this it was only a Kickstarter whereas now it’s available to buy and it looks ACE and I think it’s the sort of thing that anyone who likes baking and either a) has kids; or b) likes games (or even c) both) will enjoy. Edible Games is a cookbook and game book in one, presenting various games you can play with or around food; whether you’re making a boardgame out of biscuits, or making disgusting chocolate truffles in disguise, the games and fun and interactive and silly, and you can get a feel for them with the various examples collected on the site. Still, if you have a few spare quid I would be amazed if you didn’t know at least one person or household for whom this wouldn’t make an excellent gift (NB just to be clear, I have NO IDEA who the author is or anything like that - this is honest-to-goodness unfeigned enthusiasm, which NEVER happens and probably why I feel the need to explain and caveat it to this degree).
  • Library of Congress Serendipity: Hit ‘Refresh’ and this site will spit out another random selection of links from the website of the Library of Congress. I just got, amongst other things, a scan of a 19thC collection of ‘Myths of the Rhine’ and something intriguingly called ‘A Scientific Demonstration of a Future Life’, but your selection of stuff will be entirely different. As a way of losing yourself in obscure historical corridors, this is pretty much unbeatable.
  • A Spreadsheet of Covers by ‘Alternative’ Musicians of Songs by ‘Alternative’ Musicians: I mean, it’s not a catchy title but at the very least it’s accurately descriptive. Here’s the compiler’s description: “There's nothing unusual about musicians playing songs by their peers. But in between punk and the mid 90s, there was something sort of interesting about the way so many bands used covers to stake out a whole audience and canon and set of shared references around what was still called "alternative" music. By the end of the 80s, as that whole realm gathered up into a thriving thing, there were a lot of those covers. It's hard to capture, from today's perspective, how much they presented as a kind of shared secret, badges for a club.” As its creator admits, this is not exhaustive, but there are a lot of links to cover versions in here if this is your thing, or if you ever wanted to know whether The Wedding Present covered Pavement (they did!).
  • The Vagina Museum: It feels like the people behind the Vagina Museum have been seeking a venue for years - at the time of writing, they’ve launched a crowdfunder which isn’t going hugely well and could use a boost. In case you’re not aware, the Vagina Museum is intended to be a physical, bricks-and-mortar venue acting as the world’s first ever museum dedicated to the....er...vagina (there is a joke here about vulvas but I think we’re probably all tired of that one by now, no?), intended to educated and celebrate all things...er...vaginal. If you like the idea of a place where people can go and celebrate the...er...vagina (sorry, it’s not that there’s anything weird or embarrassing about the word, it’s more that after you’ve typed it a certain number of times it loses all meaning and starts to look very weird indeed) then chuck them a few quid.
  • Applight: An app which lets you compose carefully-formatted Insta captions and then copy them into Insta whilst retaining said all-important formatting. You may thing this is silly or pointless or frivolous, but which amongst us hasn’t struggled for untold minutes with the appalling and finicky Insta text-input tool to get the appropriate line-breaks to display just the appropriate level of post-internet ennui in our captions? NO FCUKER, THAT’S WHO.
  • Immersed: I think that at least a few of you who read this are into, or do, game design on a professional level; this is for YOU, or even those of you who are just into the idea of game design as players or as theoreticians. Immersed is a podcast which each episode talks to a different designer about their game, its genesis, its mechanics, and its relationship to the issues it’s about. As per usual I’ve not listened to this, but it was recommended to me by a site whose opinion I trust and so, here, TAKE IT.
  • Other Places: A YouTube channel which each episodes posts a slightly dreamy, dialogue-free, pseudo-travel guide through a videogame world. The high graphical fidelity of modern AAA titles means that these take on the slightly surreal sheen of an imagined travelogue from a film you’ve never seen; the Hitman one, for example, could legitimately be the trailer for a very particular type of Hollywood film with the V/O turned right down. These are wonderful as an overview of game aesthetics and how the contrast, but also as pieces of wordless storytelling; whilst nothing happens in any of the films, there’s a real sense of narrative throughout which I personally find really impressive.
  • CSS Battle: This is *so* geeky, but if you code then I imagine it’s also pretty fun. CSS Battle is a series of small coding challenges - the idea is that you have to edit the code on the page in such a way that the two images match; the skill here is to do so with the most minimal and elegant instructions you can. This is a really clever way of teaching, I think - you learn the basics of how the code actually functions, how commands work and stack, etc, but also, after that, how to refine and improve your work. SUCH a clever little toy, and just about simple enough that even I, a know-nothing code bozo, was able to muddle my way through a few (ok, one) scenes.

By Tish Barzanji



  • Targeted Shirts: If you’ve spent even three minutes on Facebook in the past couple of years you will at some point have been served one of those hypertargeted ads which presents you with an INCREDIBLY UGLY piece of clothing, usually a tshirt, which lists a bunch of qualities based on what the advertiser can tell about you based on FB data; so, for example, they’ll make one that says “Single, gun-loving, Texan Aries in her 30s - KID ROCK IS MY BABYDADDY!” (I mean, fine, that’s possibly a bit of a stereotype) targeted at “30-39 y/o female kid rock fans in texas who also like the NRA’. Anyway, this subreddit collects some of the best (worst) examples that people have been served and you think “wow, surely noone buys this stuff?” and then you realise “well, if noone bought it then noone would advertise it would they?” and you come to the realisation that there are almost certainly entire backwoods communities clothed only in this type of gear and that perhaps, actually, we ought just to end it all. If you want a pretty compelling argument for narcissism having become the defining quality of the age, this sort of stuff isn’t a bad start.
  • Public Sans: God I love me a publicly-available font. Developed by the United States Web Design System, Public Sans is designed to be readable, flexible and free - the linked Github repository contains all the file types you need to crack right on and use it, should you so desire. IT’S MARGINALLY MORE INTERESTING THAN HELVETICA.
  • Special Bricks: I honestly love it when people email links in for inclusion in Curios - it’s genuinely pleasing to know that a) people actually read this bastard thing, or at least bits of it, or at least they pretend to; and b) they care enough to want to submit things for inclusion. So I was hugely cheered when XXXXXXXXXXXX got in touch yesterday to suggest thi...eh? What? Ah, right, yes, the name. So they got in touch and sent me this link and when I thanked them and asked if there was a project or website or social feed they wanted me to link to in acknowledgement thought about it for a bit and then replied with “ok, but with the caveat that I am not and have never been and am not a member of the Nazi party” and then with a very quick follow-up of “Actually on second thoughts my boss is a subscriber so no”. So, Web Curios - A DIRTY LITTLE SECRET BETWEEN COLLEAGUES. How lovely! Anyway, this long discursive non-desciption is a roundabout way of introducing Special Bricks, a company modifying LEGO figures and selling them - the twist here is that they are modifying them to be things from WWII. Things like the Wehrmacht, and the SS, and the ‘German Brick Dictator’ (you can probably guess who that’s meant to be). In fairness, it also sells models designed to look like Allied troops, suggesting this isn’t a website for Nazis so much as one for people with a weird desire to replicate Stalingrad in blocky, modular plastic, but I can understand XXXXXXXXXXX’s reticense to have their name forever linked to Nazi LEGO online. Can I recommend, by the way, you check out the landmines? They are weirdly adorable and yet deeply sinister at the same time.
  • Design Census: It’s that time of year again - the annual survey of the world’s designers, intended to take a snapshot of the global industry and the people who work within it. Designers, fill it in!
  • Dissection Font: I love this rather, not least because the overall aesthetic is halfway between Mondrian and the animation they used to play on Sesame Street of the pinball machine that was all done in pastel pencil crayons (you know the one I mean)(I promise that will sort of almost make sense if you click the link). Each letter is made up of tesselating parts which can be rearranged into a cube; honestly, I love this, and there’s actually quite a cool code system you could employ using this, with a bit of tweaking.
  • Titter: This week’s ‘Link Matt saw in B3ta last weekend and which he’s nicked for his newsletter but which now is a week old and so perhaps less interesting FFS MATT IT’S NOT A RACE WE’VE BEEN OVER THIS’-type thing is Titter, made by longtime B3ta legend Monkeon and which has one, simple gag at its heart: “In order to seek out double entendres on Twitter, I grabbed any response tweets which mention "oo-er missus", "fnarr fnarr", "Finbarr Saunders", "that's what she said" or "is that a euphemism?", and then loaded the message they were replying to.” This is just an endless stream of entirely innocent and yet the same time oddly filthy statements and questions, very much in the seaside postcard style; the only way to improve it would be to add an image-search function so it created captioned images from the Tweets, but, honestly, that’s just me being greedy.
  • Dust See: Generally speaking in the UK, air pollution’s not something you can actually see (in difference to the terrifying footage Alex used to send from Shanghai, where he’d document his commute by showing the horrifically-milky chemical clouds wafting past his speeding train) - why not change that and get REALLY SCARED about what we’re ingesting into our lungs, with this app which uses AR to present a visualisation of the current air quality where you are. The working version is only available to Korean users, but people elsewhere can check out a demo to see how it functions; the combination of air quality data, wind speeds and associated other vectors make for a really quite comprehensive reading, although that will be little comfort as you once again begin to cough up near-translucent slivers of lung.
  • Scootermap: A map app designed to help people in US cities with high concentrations of electric scooters (Lime, Spin, etc) track them and, if they are so inclined, find the ones that need returning/redocking and do so for cash. Not an interesting app at all, per se, but I am fascinated by things like this that spring up at the margins of an industry as an unintended and presumably unforeseen parasite economy; I’ve featured a longread in Curios before about the weirdly competitive Lime-charging economy in LA, with people aggressively fighting over the ability to earn a few bucks for returning /recharging abandoned scooters, and this is basically the souped-up version of that. If any of you are the sort of people who firmly believe that they DO have a successful business in them, you could do worse than spending a bit of time thinking about the industries that are being disrupted RIGHT NOW and now you might work to make cash in the wrinkles of the fallout (does that make sense? It did in my head but now I’m not so sure. Hey ho!).
  • A Personal Anthology: What a glorious idea. “Each week a guest is invited to pick and introduce twelve of their favourite short stories and, where possible, link to them online. You can browse guest editors and featured authors in the sidebar, or just start reading below.” If you want a regular, well-selected list of free reading material online, curated by some of the most feted contemporary authors of our time, then this is superb (and, also, why wouldn’t you?). The breadth and range of subjects who get to choose means that the range of stories you’re exposed to is vast; for each that doesn’t speak to you, you’ll find three that do. This is a treasure.
  • The Far Side of Trump: Trump’s Tweets as captions to the Far Side cartoons of Gary Larson. Do young people still know/recognise the Far Side? It was so ubiquitous in the 80s and early-90s, but is it still a thing? Please tell me that Larson never went all Scott Adams redpill, it would be too sad a thing to bear.
  • The Wolfman Museum: Oh WOW. This is pretty much peak Curios, right here. The Wolfman Museum is an online museum which basically exists as a sort of weird maze of pages and links, all hidden behind a slightly weird conceit that you’re wandering round the somewhat mysterious Wolfman Museum; clicking around will move you from room to room, and you can click on exhibits to see them more closely - the real fun, though, comes through exploring all the tiny interactive incidental details that you can discover, and which take you to some genuinely wonderful online art world rabbitholes. Video archives and digitised catalogues and shops and artist sites and so much more are all nested within this - play around on here for 10 minutes or so and you’ll realise quite how much stuff this leads you to. Just play around - it’s glorious, like the best ever arty CD-ROM you never got to play with in 1994.
  • Super Aspen: Do you remember SkiFree on old PCs? No? Well this is JUST LIKE THAT, but playable in your browser. Quick, silly, disposable fun - and developed by Frank Force, veteran games developer, who also made a quite preposterously small ASCII version which if you’re of a more code-y bent you can also find out about and run here.
  • Ancient Greek Punishment Teaches Typing: Pippin Barr returns with another tweaked iteration of his Atari 2600-style games based on the punishments meted out by the Ancient Greek Gods to those who defied or displeased them. You will, I promise, never want to type faster or more accurately than when you are being Sisyphus. Or Prometheus, waiting for that BLOODY EAGLE. I love this gag SO much, no matter how many versions of it he does.
  • Sok Stories: Finally in the miscellania this week, Sok Stories is a series of very small, very simple games developed as part of the recent Now Play This festival of experimental games and play in London which took place last weekend (and which I annoyingly totally forgot about til it was finished, chiz). All the minigames are made with the Sok Stories engine, which lets you create simple sprites, add rules to them, and make games from those components, and the titles here collected demonstrate the weirdly extensive flexibility that such simple premises afford. All of these play differently, and none of them have instructions - just play and see what happens. So, so nicely done - do try them all if you have a chance, they’re literally a minute or so each.

By Raymond Lemstra



  • Antigravity Bunny: The music blog of a person (nameless, that I can tell) from Salem in the US, who likes music, goes to loads of concerts, and posts regular and from what I can tell excellent mixes to this occasionally-updated site. The word ‘eclectic’ doesn’t even begin - there is some VERY obscure stuff on here.
  • La Petite Melancholie: I’m not quite sure how to categorise what’s on this blog - it’s mostly turn-of-the-century entertainers and burlesque dancers and models and creatures of the demi-monde, that I can tell, with some excellent short biographies of some of the more interesting characters. Wonderful photos here if you’re into that period (and even if not). VERY occasionally NSFW, but not so’s you’d notice.


  • Millennial Labs: Personally speaking I’m not convinced by the concept of the Insta-Zine - it feels very much like the sort of thing that works in very specific instances for specific audiences but formatwise isn’t actually very good - but this is interesting nonetheless. It’s by ‘Millennial Think Tank’ Common Vision, and it’s an Insta-only thing sharing insights and information about the ‘millennial’ demographic which surely noone cares about any more because they’re all now in their 30s and it’s all about the Gen-Z kids anyway. Still, if you have to pretend to care about this sort of thing then this might be of use.
  • Alia Bright: Lovely cut-out 3d paper lettering which will make far more sense when you click the link, promise.
  • Into The Polaroid: Polaroid shots taken by Bret Watkins. Kids, this is what inspired all the photo filters we now recreate with software! Wild, isn’t it? *cries*
  • Throw & Co: Personally I don’t really understand the appeal of an Insta feed sharing images of woven rugs, but, well, Curios is a broad church.
  • Alexandre Luu: Rather excellent pencil/watercolour illustrations and the occasional animation. Beautiful style - thanks Dan for the tip.
  • Preachers’n’Sneakers: Photographs of firebrand pastors, preaching and wearing some fancy kicks (or rocking some fancy gear, footwear or otherwise). Nothing says “humble soldier of Christ!’ like an equally-humble $5,000 pair of trainers, amiright lads?
  • Crime Scene Cleaners: TO BE CLEAR, DO NOT FOLLOW THIS ACCOUNT IF YOU DO NOT WANT TO SEE AWFUL THINGS. It’s protected, so you can click the link without fear, but be aware that if you choose to follow it you’ll probably see quite a lot of bloaty corpse. This is the Insta feed of a company that cleans up crimescenes and all that that entails; it’s very much the sort of thing that makes you grateful that smell doesn’t yet travel electronically. I don’t know why you’d want to follow this acciount but, well, if you want an occasional reminded of the fact that we are all made of meat and we will all decay, sprinkled amongst the chiaseed-turmeric lattes and the weirdly self-aggrandising posts about mental health and fragility, then this is for YOU!


  • How Murdoch Won The World: If you only have the appetite for one ‘serious’ longread this week, make it this one (unless you read it last week, of course, or if you’d prefer not to be dictated to by a faceless webmong hiding behind a keyboard in his kitchen). This is a brilliant, sprawling piece of journalism by the New York Times, presented in multiple parts and taking a forensic look at the Murdoch empire - its genesis, its victories and (notably few) defeats, and the extent to which the man at its head has to a greater or lesser extent been one of the great architects of the latter half of the 20th, and first quarter of the 21st, Century. It’s extremely well-written and straddles the line between familial power struggle soap and objective reportage pretty well, given the inherently divisive nature of its subject matter. So, so good.
  • The End of the American Century?: Almost a companion piece to the above, this from the LRB asks whether we’re seeing a real end to American international dominance on the political and economic stages or whether instead the current spats with China et al are simply presaging a messy, loud and ultimately destructive attempt to cling on to primacy in the face of increased, superior competition from other nations. Which do YOU think?
  • Tax vs the Ultrawealthy: This is, fine, an American piece about a very specific case which the US taxation authority - the IRS - attempted to bring against one individual billionaire; as such there’s rather more detail about legal/tax stuff than I’d normally be able to stomach. It’s worthwhile, though, for the overview it gives of you of exactly why ‘we’ll just tax the rich / corporations’ isn’t quite as simple an answer as pinko lefties like me wish it were. The piece does an excellent job of laying out the base facts, namely that if an individual (or, by extension, corporation) is rich enough, it can afford to hire enough excellent legal counsel that they can filibuster any investigation to the point where it just sort of dies. The thing about the violently ultrawealthy, turns out, is that your prosecution will run out of money and brains before their defence does. Which is quite staggeringly depressing if you think about it too hard, so let’s not.
  • The Man Behind the Biden Memes: I don’t particularly care one way or another about joe Biden and his Presidential tilt, other than to say that I’m not 100% sure that he’s the change the US could probably do with right now, but it’s fair to say that his somewhat handsy approach to interpersonal relations might have fcuked him rather. This piece profiles the random guy who’s become the go-to source of large-traction Trumpian memes on the web, and who made the ‘Biden Snuggling Biden’ video that was Tweeted by half the Trump family last week. Less interesting about the specifics than it is about the very, very weird flattening of political discourse that has occurred when self-described know-nothing shlubs like this guy, alongside genuine lunatics like Rachel Swindon over here in the UK, can become actual, proper avatars for whole movements. ODD.
  • The Amazon Games: Amazon is introducing ‘games’ to its fulfilment centres to help motivate the workers to PACK HARDER and BE MORE EFFICIENT and FEED THE MECHABEZOS MONSTER, and it’s exactly as bleak as you’d imagine it to be. Go on, read this piece and try not to feel guilty about spending so much money with that bastard company - it’s impossible.
  • How ASMR Became a Sensation: ASMR is a genuinely weird cultural phenomenon insofar as it’s simultaneously massively well-known if you’re a certain type of (extremely online) person and yet absolutely not known at all if you’re more of a normie. It feels slightly like that boundary is being blurred slightly - one of my favourite ASMRists in Italy has just been signed up to do ASMR podcasts by Audible, there have been multiple PR activations based on it, etc - but it’s still not quite the sort of thing that your mum will have heard of. Anyway, this is a reasonably good primer on the movement’s evolution - actually, on reflection, is there any other online community that’s been around for this long and hasn’t in any way pivoted to alt-right horror? Take a bow, non-fashy ASMR people!
  • Blood Chocolates: One to add to the bulging folder marked “very weird stuff that was considered totally normal under command economies of the 20thC”, this is the slightly unsettling story of how as part of the drive to ensure the general health of the people under Communism, the Russian party produced a large number of foodstuffs that were supplemented with ACTUAL BLOOD to ensure the population was getting enough iron. Want a sweet treat but feeling a touch on the haemy side? No worries, YAM A HEMATOGEN BAR! It wasn’t just chocolate, either - drinks, powders, sweets, you name it, you could get a blood-enriched version of it. It’s almost worth seeing if you can find a job lot of these online, purely to taunt your kids with. “You want a chocolate, Susan? OK then, but it HAS to be one of the bloody ones”.
  • The Pac Man Dossier: Do you want the definitive manual on the original Pac Man game - how it works, how it plays, how to memorise the patterns so you too have a shot at a world-record score and the chance of being featured in one of those slightly-sneery Raindance-nominated docs about obsessive retro videogame competitors? OH GOOD! This is surprisingly interesting, honest, but I appreciate you might not want to read every word.
  • A Brief History of Internet Bongo: You will read this and you will be briefly heartened by the stories of some of the earliest people getting rich of online bongo services being women; you will then, if you are anything like me, get irrationally annoyed at the fact that you were neither old enough or savvy enough to register any of the good urls back in the day; if only I’d had the foresight to lock down www.urolagnia.com back in the day.
  • Burundi Beats: Fascinating anecdote about the genesis of Adam and the Ants, and how Malcolm Maclaren ended up sampling - basically thieving - tribal music from Burundi for Bow Wow Wow’s song “Burundi Beat”. I promise, even if you’re not interested in 80s music this is an honestly great read - the ideas it raises about fair use and appropriation are interesting, and it’s always fascinating to read abot Malcolm McClaren who really does seem to have been a truly monstrous individual on almost every conceivable level; there are quite a few details in here that give that vertiginous “wow, the past, eh? Different country and all that” feeling, not least the stuff about the creepy sexualisation of the barely-pubescent Bow Wow Wow singer.
  • Food In Antarctica: Fascinating piece about what it’s like being the cooking team at the Arctic station at Rothera, where the population varies between 100 and 20 people depending on the season, and the entire area is entirely locked away from human contact for stretches at a time. The challenges faced by the chefs are pretty much unique in terms of the restraints placed on them regarding the availability of produce and the pressure of cooking in an environment when meals really can be the highlight of a day or week; this sounds incredibly hard but, honestly, I would absolutely do this job given the option.
  • 2025: I am ASTONISHED that this hasn’t received more coverage - presuming it’s real and I’ve not fallen for an April Fool, this is honestly the most batsh1t evolution of the reality TV beast that we’ve yet seen. I’ll have to C&P the description here, it’s simply easier: “In the middle of a small, gated desert town looms a large digital scoreboard. It doesn’t display sports scores, traffic delays, or safety alerts. Instead, the 20-foot-tall screen broadcasts something a bit more sinister–what each resident is worth–in actual currency. Each person is ranked, their name aligned with a hard, cold number. This is not any small town. For one thing, the paved, tree-lined streets give way to a mishmash of design styles: an idyllic Craftsman-style house sits alongside a sleek hotel, while a Brooklyn brick bar corners a flashy Art Deco bank. If you’re hungry, a marble-floor restaurant with top celebrity chefs can satisfy your cravings, but so can a meal vending machine. Talking holograms routinely appear throughout many of the interior and exterior walls. Here, 12 contestants enter an isolated Israeli town to compete in a societal experiment: What would happen if all of your day-to-day decisions were judged monetarily? The newly minted residents are tethered to wristbands that both monitor their moves and display their financial balance. Meanwhile, everything costs money, including housing, food, beverages, clothing, even hot water. The scores change second to second depending on cash spent. It’s as much a reflection of human behavior as it is an exploration of modern society. What do people spend their money on? How does it affect their relationships? Will it impact their status?” Honestly, I would watch the fcuk out of this - it sounds AMAZING. Although based on this report about viewing figures in the first month, I may not be representative.
  • The Disturbing World of Sonic Fanfic: This piece presents a series of short extracts from a variety of Sonic the Hedgehog fanfiction. SEXY Sonic fan fiction. You will wish you’d never clicked but you won’t be able to stop reading. THIS IS WHAT YOU WANT, DON’T FIGHT IT.
  • What Are Nerds?: I confess to reading this and agreeing with it VERY HARD. It’s a piece all about the slightly annoying tendency of people in modernity - an era in which performative demonstrating membership of a tribe or strata is as important as feeling that membership, or so it would seem - to self-describe as nerds and to do so loudly and continually and oh god, look, basically just this: “The woman wearing big sassy red spectacles who I introduced myself to at a dinner party and she said, “Um AWKWARD. We’ve met before.” When I said sorry, and that I was bad at faces, she said “NO NEED TO MAKE THIS EVEN MORE PAINFULLY AWKWARD. I’M JUST GOING TO STAND ON THE BALCONY AND BLUSH FOR A WHILE NOW.” Everyone turned around to look at us and she said “WOW THIS IS EMBARRASSING” and sort of fanned herself like she was hot, although in fact it was not hot and it was only embarrassing for me, because she was making it seem like I had transgressed some obvious social boundary and the two of us were now reeling around in a no-mans-land ungoverned by the rules of ordinary behaviour.”
  • Why Buckle-Up Twitter Is Cancelled: The second piece this week which I felt guilty about liking because it’s probably a bit mean-spirited but which equally spoke to me SO HARD that it was all I could do not to shout ‘PREACH’ at my screen as I read it. Again, I’m just going to quote some of it and you can see if it feels like you might also find a home here: “BUCKLE UP, SLUTTY RAGAMUFFIN HISTORIANS. GATHER ROUND, O YE CLUSTER OF FURIOUS WHORES. JOIN ME, LADS AND LASSES, FOR THIS TALE OF MOTHERFUCKING WHIMSY AND WOE, 19TH CENTURY STYLE. CHARLOTTE BRONTË ? CUTE AND HARMLESS? ABSOLUTELY THE FUCK NOT!! HARK, WOMEN WHO HAVE BUILT THEIR PERSONALITY AROUND WEARING DISGUSTING CHUNKY JEWELRY AND REFERRING TO THEMSELVES AS “BLUESTOCKINGS”. HALT, MEN WHO QUOTE WITHNAIL AND I SO MUCH EVEN THOUGH THEY ARE IN THEIR THIRTIES, AND WATCH ME, KARL SNARKS, PISS COPIOUSLY ON THE GRAVE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTË , GASLIGHTER EXTRAORDINAIRE, AND SKULL FUCK HER TINY PROBLEMATIC HEAD. FUCKEN SIT THE FUCK DOWN AND LET ME TELL YOU SHOWER OF IMBECILES ABOUT PHRENOLOGY. 1/236” - the irritatingly whimsical and self-aware profanity, the slightly neckbeardy faux-medievalisms, the chummy irreverence? GOD I HATE IT. Wow, that feels better.
  • The Other Yous: An essay about the odd modern phenomenon whereby you’ll occasionally get correspondence for another you - someone who shares the same name, and who electronic mail decides for a moment shares your identity too. There’s something wonderful about these fleeting glimpses into the parallel realities that you could have perhaps inhabited. My version of this is the Matt Muir from New South Wales who seemingly goes on test drives every single weekend with no intention of buying the fcuking vehicles but who has nonetheless signed me up to the mailing list of every single fcuking dealership in the area. THANKS, OTHER MATT MUIR!
  • Meet Cournet Stodden: This is quite a depressing profile. I didn’t know who Stodden was before reading this - turns out, she’s one of those occasional kids in the US who ends up becoming massively, creepily famous for marrying a man 40-odd years their senior with their parent’s consent; you know, the ones who end up getting creepily sexualised and who you feel are only a few short years away from potentially ending up in A Bad Way. Stodden looks pretty much as you’d expect her to, all pneumatic and, well, er, ‘naive’ is the charitable term I suppose, and the article is ostensibly a piece about how she’s all grown up now after ending marriage number one and hooking up with (still considerably older) fiance number two, and is TAKING CONTROL of her life and destiny, and parlaying her fame into a recording career. The reporter covering it seems to be want to be portraying her as a decent ingenue who’s come through an odd situation to finally be in charge of their fate...except, well, reading between the lines it doesn’t feel like that’s the case at all, and the fact that the piece can make some pretty clear allusions to not particularly pleasant coercive control of Stoddard from various adult figures in her life and the fact that she ended up doing shoots, etc, that she didn’t seem totally comfortable with, whilst at the same time TOTALLY failing to make any reference to the fact that her ‘new single’ is called ‘HOT AND JUICY’ and feels very much like something packaged up by a middle-aged man to sell yet another creepy teen=Barbie fantasy...It weirdly ends up working as a surprisingly decent critique of much of what’s passed off as ‘empowerment’ to young women in 2019, though perhaps unintentionally.
  • Operation Columba: All about WAR PIGEONS! Honestly, this piece - about WWII and how pigeons were used by the Brits as part of the war effort - is just delightful. Eccentric and informative and, on several occasions, laugh out loud funny (though I confess I might have been laughing at some of the more slapstick examples of pigeon death). SO good.
  • Privileged: Kyle Korver is an NBA basketball player. He’s white in a sport where the vast majority of the teams are black, but in a country where society is weighted heavily in favour of white people. This is Korver’s superb essay about how that feels and what that makes him think about his role in society, as a person who can and should attempt to be an ally and make a difference, and how he deals with his awareness of his own privilege. Sensitive and intelligent, I think, though I’m conscious my opinion’s probably not the important one when assessing this.
  • How Does A Person Lose A Diary?: Gorgeous essay, about the strange pleasure of immersing yourself in a stranger’s diary. Honestly, I could read old diaries forever - those and boarding house guest books are my absolute lifeblood when it comes to perfect mundanity.
  • Meet Josephine Bonaparte: Oh, this is TRIUMPHANT. All about Josephine, Napoleon’s mistress and then empress and then ex-wife, all-round badass and general woman-about-France. This is, honestly, the funniest thing I have read all week; without spoiling it, I was literally in tears at the line “stay away from my fcking llamas, Robespierre”.
  • Colm Toibin’s Cancer: Cancer memoirs and the LRB go together hand-in-hand these days after the late Jenny Diski’s beautiful, heartrending series of writings tracking the course of her illness. Colm Toibin writes in the latest issue of his own diagnosis, surgery and treatment; not sure why, but I tend to come across more memoirs of illness by women than men, so it’s nice to read something on this from a male perspective; I know it’s a small thing, but the dispassionate way he talks about his testicles is honestly the favourite thing of mine in here (and people say men are obsessed with them, TSK).
  • I Hate What They’ve Done To Almost Everyone In My Family: Finally this week, this came out as a newsletter last weekend but quickly did the rounds; if you missed it, it’s very much worth reading. The author shares stories, his own and those from other people, of how their families have been...turned by Fox News. Substitute Fox for, say, Brexit or Infowars or Rogan or Sargon or whatever - regardless of the angle you look at it from, this is hard to see as anything other than representative of the poisoning of minds by some very toxic culture.

By Jan Klos


  1. This is called ‘Snake Tongue’ and it’s by The Beaches, and it’s a great bit of ‘fcuk you, disgusting men’ pop-rock:

2) Next up, this is the MOST slacker song I’ve heard in years and it made me think the 90s never left and I DON’T CARE IF THAT MAKES ME LAME. Ahem. Anyway, this is Friends Forever with ‘Thanks for Coming’ and it is ace:

3) I’m not quite sure what it is about THE NOW that’s causing me to want to listen to lots of music that could charitably be descrived as ‘like the sound of two lawnmowers fcuking’ and yet here we are. This is by Show Me The Body and it’s called ‘Forks and Knives’ and it’s HORRID:

4) This reminded me LOTS of early-period Weezer crossed with Compulsion, and therefore it is great. It’s called “Out For Blood” and it’s by Heart Attack Man:

5) UK HIPHOP CORNER! This is Kida Kudz with ‘Jiggy Bop’ - this is SO good and will make it feel about 6 degrees warmer than it in fact is outside:



Algorithmic Top Trumps in Milan
Bricolage 10/04/19