42 minutes reading time (8310 words)

Web Curios 22/02/19

Web Curios 22/02/19
A NEW PARTY! JUST WHAT WE ALL WANTED! Except it’s not the good sort of party, the type with party rings and sausage rolls and a secret stash of uppers that you find at 3am in the host’s sock drawer and which you know will add a whole new spin to the gathering - no, sadly it’s the other sort of party, all halitosis and misery and hastily-cobbled-together alliances of convenience. Not wishing to dwell on this, but do you think that maybe using a point just over a month from THE BAD THING to launch a new political vehicle might be construed, maybe, just a touch, as frantically wanking at yourself in the mirror whilst Rome merrily blazes around you?

Anyway, a plague on EVERYONE’s house, dear reader, except yours and possibly mine. It’s Friday, I once again have totally failed to ensure I have the afternoon off after this and as such I ought to CRACK ON. You, though, sit back! Relax! Feel my nimble wordfingers massaging pure OIL OF WEBSPAFF into your every mental crevice! Enjoy their lubricious tracing over your cerebellum! LET ME IN TO YOUR HEADS! This, as ever, is Web Curios, and I, as ever, am sorry.

By Pol Kuruscz



  • Twitter Expands Political Ad Transparency Stuff: This is Twitter’s Political Campaigning Policy (you remember that! How could you? It was such a special time in our lives!), which stipulates that ads deemed ‘political’ be ‘transparent’, with details about who’s paying for them and who they are targeting - and now it’s being extended to all EU states, Australia and India! What a time to be alive!
  • Twitter Opens Beta Testing Of New Conversation Tools: I mean, literally just that - you may recall that there have been rumblings in the past few weeks about Twitter introducing new features to improve users’ ability to follow conversations and better-determine which participants have interjected where; well, now those are in Beta and YOU can apply to participate in the test! That’s right! You can help a massive corporation improve its product set FOR FREE! You lucky, lucky kids! Anyway, this stuff is all almost certainly being added to the feature set reasonably soon, so worth taking a look to know exactly what minor alterations are going to be made instead of banning Nazis.
  • YouTube Tweaks ‘Strikes’ System For Creators: Bad week, this, for YouTube, which found itself being blamed not only for flat-earthers and other lunatic conspiracy theorists, but also for a not-insignificant amount of in-comments paedoing. Anyway, this isn’t about that - this is about how its system of issuing warnings and first-strike censure against channel owners is changing slightly. Unless you’re some sort of sub-Pewds edgelord vlogger, this is unlikely to be of any interest or import to you at all, but why not read it anyway seeing as I’ve bothered to write it up for you. What? WHAT? Oh fine, you ingrates. Jesus.
  • Reddit Ads Better Ad Performance Tools: You can now do app install ads on Reddit! That’s right! Oh, and the Reddit Pixel now offers improved conversion tracking! Look! “Reddit’s pixel can track eight conversion events, breaks out view-through and click-through conversions and allows for attribution windows of 1, 7 or 28 days.” Sometimes, you know, I write this stuff and feel a little bit as though I’m working for some sort of niche interest specialist publication, like Steam Enthusiast or Swarfega Monthly. Then, though, I remember that the circulation of Curios is even smaller than that. This is less-popular than a magazine devoted to the creation and maintenance of miniature railway dioramas - WHAT DOES THAT SAY ABOUT YOU, GENTLE READER? No, hang on, don’t leave.
  • TikTok Is Testing Native Ads: Not actually ‘news’ per se, but I’m telling you so that you can drop this futurenugget into the next meeting you have about flogging things to children and thereby look like some sort of seer (to be specific, a dreadful Cassandra-type whose visions of tomorrow consist solely of dead-eyed BRANDED MOMENTS OF TRUTH (I don’t know why, but every now and again I am reminded of the fact that there exists in London an agency - owned by Chime, who you will obviously remember also owned cuddly coup-enablers Bell Pottinger - whose name (honestly I am not making this up) is in fact Branded Moments of Truth. That’s right - that is an ACTUAL COMPANY NAME. They have in recent years attempted to hide their (vile, pestilential) namelight under an abbreviationbushel, renaming themselves BMT, but Curios never forgets.))
  • Smart Speakers and Hype: Rob Blackie writing for The Drum about all the reasons why Alexa and the like might be the victims of a LITTLE bit too much hype; Rob’s contention is that, whilst the sales numbers are obviously massive the actual use-cases for the devices are in fact very narrow, and there’s no evidence at all to suggest that anyone’s using the damn things as anything other than radios and kitchen timers (aside from children, who to the best of my knowledge are using them as incredibly sophisticated Guantanamo-style psychological torture devices against their parents). Maybe hold off on spunking all that budget on an Alexa Skill, eh?
  • Urban Scrawl: Incredibly slim pickings in advermarketingprland this week, so I’ll close out with this - it’s not hugely exciting, but it’s a cute piece of ‘content’ (sorry) which nails the ‘this will do the rounds of all the slightly whimsical linkdumpy blogs’ tone perfectly. The company behind it - Traveloka, no idea who the fcuk they are but I’d guess, er, travel - asked a bunch of people to sketch the one thing that most reminded them of each of 10 different cities, now presented on this site. Special shout out to whoever it was who drew a Goatse as the Underground roundel.

By Jamie Diamond



  • Mash: This is a really fun idea, at least in theory, adding a degree of creativity and play to the seemingly unstoppable narcissism-fest that are Stories. Mash is an app which takes the standard Stories format - discrete content blocks of image, text or video, strung together as a number of ‘cuts’ or scenes (yes, I know full well that you know exactly what they are and didn’t need the explanation, but Curios is a broad church and I have to expect that your mum might stumble in one day and need a few primers) - and turns it into a fun little toy. Users make a ‘Story’, filling in however many of the content blocks they want, and then share it with others, asking them to fill in the gaps however they choose. Whether or not this particular app ever takes off - and chances are it won’t - the premise is really quite clever and can totally be ripped off to a certain extent. If you’re looking for an ORIGINAL BRAND CAMPAIGN EXECUTION that in fact isn’t original at all, then, well, this could be PERFECT!
  • Google Earth Black History: For Black History Month in the US, Google has created this simple interactive tour of the US, experienced via Google Maps, taking you on a trip across the country over the years and introducing people and places of particular significance to the history of black Americans. It’s not the most technically groundbreaking thing you’ll see this week, but it’s well-made and contains an absolute wealth of information about black American history and achievement.
  • Prince GIFs: Prince’s estate have put the OFFICIAL selection of gifs of the late artist on Giphy. You want a HUGE selection of gifs featuring Prince being Prince? GREAT! The man was so preposterously sexy and charismatic that you can basically get pregnant just by looking at some of these, and that’s regardless of whether you’ve got any ovaries or not.
  • This Airbnb Does Not Exist: Following on from last week’s ‘none of these are in fact real people’ GAN-generated digifacefakery, the internet this week has coughed up a bunch of analogues - this, the first of the bunch, is a site which will present you with a computer-generated Airbnb listing each time you refresh. All the images are processor-imagined, based on a GAN trained on existing listings images, and the copy’s derived from stuff stripped from the site; the words are a mess, fine, but the images have a really quite interesting creepiness to them; turns out that it’s harder to identify exactly why these photos of living spaces look wrong, but that they definitely do and that that makes them really unsettling in ways that I for one can’t adequately explain.
  • This Cat Does Not Exist: As above, but this time with computer-generated MAOWs. An infinite number of SPECIAL LITTLE GUYS here for your viewing pleasure, although bear in mind that this will occasionally throw up a feline so wonky that it will give you nightmares.
  • Which Face Is Real?: So what with all the fakery we’re confronted with, do YOU think you can tell the GANfaces from the goodfaces, the real from the rendered? Test yourself with this site, offering up two faces at a time and asking YOU, gentle human, to decide which is that of a real homo sapiens and which is a FILTHY COMPUTER-GENERATED IMPOSTER! This is momentarily diverting but in the main most interesting for the reassuring fact that you very quickly realise how, well, off the vast majority of the GAN-made stuff looks; whilst there’s a fleeting plausibility at first glance, any more serious scrutiny reveals all sorts of janky details around the edges; the software’s not capable of rendering backgrounds very well, and the hair almost always looks janky around the edges. Of course, while I sit here all smug about the fact that I am still just about capable of distinguishing real from fake, it’s worth remembering, again, that this sort of stuff is only about a year old and at this rate we are all going to be watching entirely GAN-generated bongo by Christmas.
  • Some More Amazing GAN Stuff: See, this is why. This is the Github repository for code that uses ML to let you do some pretty incredible photo editing on human faces, in realtime, with very simple MS Paint-style tools; scroll down to see some gifs of it in action, but basically imagine that you can take a picture of someone with sunglasses on, ‘erase’ the sunglasses by scribbling over them with an ‘eraser’ tool, and watch as the sunglasses are magically removed from the photo and instead replaced with reasonably realistic eyes of appropriate colour, shape and placement. I know I keep saying this, but we really are VERY close to a situation where you can digitally manipulate anyone you like into doing anything you want them to, which doesn’t sound...great.
  • Thread: I’m sure I’ve featured something very similar to this before, but this is NEW (and UK-based, part of our economy’s EXCITING RESURGENCE now that we are set to be unshackled from the albatross-like Europeans oh god it’s only a month away what the fcuk is happening). Threads is a service which offers the UK’s men and women the opportunity to get AI (not in fact AI)-powered assistance with their wardrobe - you answer some simple questions about yourself, select some looks you like from their proffered preselects and away you go. It matches you with a ‘stylist’ (or, more accurately, a particular algorithm which fits most closely with your choices) which will pick out items of clothing which vaguely work within the parameters you’ve defined, presented as part of ‘outfits’ which in theory means that even the most Helen Keller-ish of dressers (ie me) can look like Edward Enninful. I’ve not spent enough time with it yet to tell whether it’s any good - and, honestly, its recommendations so far look fine but also pretty generic highstreet menswear - but I really hope this can make me into the grownup I probably ought to dress as as I hurtle towards 40.
  • St Beryl’s: If you ever read Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman then this, the OFFICIAL WEBSITE of the Chattering Order of St Beryl’s, will please you immeasurably. If not, then, er, not quite sure what you’ll get out of this, sorry.
  • Rembo: This sounds VERY much like the sort of insult that children in the playgrounds of the 1980s might have hurled at each other across the pitter tarmacadam with their tongues lodged firmly into their bottom lips. It’s not, though - it’s actually FAR more irritating, being as it is an app which lets you put a list of chores in and which will then ACTIVELY NAG YOU til you’ve done them. Listen to this, it sounds ghastly: “With just a simple chat message you can stay organized and set alarms, reminders, medicine and even exercise notifications. Rembo is an AI digital assistant that is a To-do reminder with alarm and notification that will personally call you at the designated time so that you too can become a task ninja and never forget a thing. He is also very funny and is always up for sharing jokes and motivational quotes.” GOSH DOESN’T REMBO SOUND LIKE A FUN, HELPFUL GUY? No. No he doesn’t. He sounds like a wanker that you will grow to despise within a week.
  • Medal: A gameclipping tool for PC - press your selected hotkey and the software exports a clip of the last 15s of gameplay. Look, I have no idea how many of you are avid PC gamers but based on the balance of probabilities there are probably about three of you who will find this useful and, well, I like to think that Curios contains something for everyone (except, of course, you).
  • pray for Peach, while we’re here - and whilst this isn’t really a fully-fledged new attempt at a network it’s still a fun-looking timesink (thanks to Ben for the heads-up); Screenhole is basically a place where people can share screengrabs, nothing else, with the idea being that you experience a weird sort of disjointed visual stream of oddities. It’s invite-only at the moment, so no guarantee you’ll get in, but it’s an interesting idea to play around with and at the moment at least appears to be blissfully free from any horror or bongo or Nazis.
  • Url Render: Look, here’s their description: “Url render allows you to browse on websites without opening new tabs. You can now search with google engine and navigate through sites without opening hundreds of tabs. As usual search something on google.com, "Paris". The google search engine shows you 10 or more links. If something looks intersting you'll click on it and the website opens in new tab. Now, with url render, just mouseover the link, a frame is opening and show you the real website without opening new tab. You can browse on the website.” I think this is French, hence the charmingly idiosyncratic written style here - as an idea it is GREAT and would work perfectly for Curios imho.
  • Visualist: Of this is SUCH a clever idea; Visualist is an app specifically designed for creating visual instructions for devices or processes; it takes you through a simple series of processes to create a step-by-step instructional guide to, well, anything really. It’s an obvious idea, but now that I think of it I’ve never seen anything that makes the process of doing this simple or intuitive - honestly, ANY brand that has any vague tangential connection to, er, DOING THINGS ought to check this out and take liberal inspiration from it; as to the rest of you, this will honestly be a godsend should you have parents who regularly call you up to ask you questions about resetting the router.
  • Endless Jeopardy: This is SUCH a great idea - you know Jeopardy, right? That US quiz in which the host hands you the answer and you, the contestant, have to formulate the correct question in the endlessly irritating formula ‘What is….X?’? Of course you do! This is a Twitter bot which plays the game through procedurally-generated clues; every hour it spits out a new one, with anyone invited to reply with their best guess or funniest offering, and the one with the most ‘Likes’ at the end of the 15m cycle wins points. There’s no actual money involved - obviously - but this is SUPER fun and weirdly addictive and will, once again, show you that there are lots of very funny people on the web and that you aren’t one of them.
  • The American Archive of Public Broadcasting: WOW there’s a lot of public telly (and radio) in here. A touch overwhelming at first glance, but if you scroll down a bit you can see a list of categories through which you can browse the shows by theme; the ‘humour’ category alone has over 8,000 pieces of content associated with it, so if you have a weird and specific fetish for 20thC US public television (and radio) then, well, aren’t YOU in for a treat! If nothing else, there is an absolute sampler’s GOLDMINE here for you to explore if you’re into audiocollage-type stuff.
  • ILLEGAL LEGO: Did you know that when OFFICIAL LEGO displays are set up there are certain configurations of bricks that are absolutely verboten and that will NOT be sanctioned by LEGO HQ? Well, you do now - this is the offical (no idea if it’s actually official, but wevs) PDF guide to what is proscribed in LEGOland; it’s obviously ridiculous, but in no way surprising from a brand which gets really pissy if you pluralise it. I suggest you spend the weekend policing all your kids’ LEGO builds based on these guidelines so as to educate them on how real fun can only happen within strictly-defined and enforced parameters.
  • Dance Your Phd: One of the year’s highlights rolls around again, in which the world’s academic doctors compete to see which of them is best capable of rendering their original research as a piece of performative dance. The winning one here - an interpretation of “Non-Local Electrodynamics of Superconducting Wires: Implications for Flux Noise and Inductance” - is SO good and properly heartwarming; although I just had a sudden realisation that these people are not only brilliant minds, they’re also actually pretty good cinematographers and choreographers, which just seems incredibly fcuking unfair frankly.
  • Vintage CGI: This subReddit does exactly what it says it does, presenting old clips of CGI work from games, TV and films of yesteryear (and elsewhere besides). As a place to glory in the blocky aesthetics of old school computing this is pretty much unparalleled.
  • The Original Browser: MEMORY LANE! “In December 1990, an application called WorldWideWeb was developed on a NeXT machine at The European Organization for Nuclear Research (known as CERN) just outside of Geneva. This program – WorldWideWeb — is the antecedent of most of what we consider or know of as "the web" today. In February 2019, in celebration of the thirtieth anniversary of the development of WorldWideWeb, a group of developers and designers convened at CERN to rebuild the original browser within a contemporary browser, allowing users around the world to experience the rather humble origins of this transformative technology.” This is obviously shonky as you like, but it’s worth playing with just to see what an austere experience the web used to be - amuse yourself by showing it to your teenage kids and giving them another reason to believe that the past was a terrible monochrome prison of tedium.

By Peter Lindbergh



  • Letters In The Mail: It’s lovely receiving letters, isn’t it? I mean actual letters from actual people rather than the computer-generated missives telling you that you will owe the bank everything forever, obviously, though they are rarer than hen’s teeth in this electronic age. Do you think you would still find it lovely to receive them when you know you’ve paid a tenner for the privilege? I’m not so sure. Still, if you want to pay $11 for the experience of receiving three hand-written letters through the post (no idea if this delivers to the UK, on reflection, but if it does it will probably be more than that), topics unknown and unspecified, then, well, go for it! This makes me quite incredibly sad, I have to say, but maybe it will be a beautiful and lovely thing. Go on, try it and let me know.
  • Stories Set in a Future Now Past: Literally just that; HUNDREDS of stories, told in writing and film, which were at the time of their writing set in the future and which future has now become the past - this lists not only the titles and when they were set, but also some of the predictions they’d made about what this imagined future was going to look like. Big fan of this Twilight Zone plot synopsis set in the year 2000 which basically feels a bit like Instagram in 2019: “Set in a world in which people can purchase their adult bodies, but everyone goes for a small number of popular options.”
  • The Satan Tapes: I follow this person on Twitter but know nothing about who they are or what they do. This week they Tweeted a VERY long thread featuring the covers of a host of old VHS movies with ‘Satan’ in the title - this is that thread. My personal favourite is ‘Sin-agogue of Satan’, but pick your own!
  • The Peter Hook Auction: A truly HUGE collection of Peter Hook’s memorabilia is being auctioned off for charity next month; this is the catalogue. They’re taking online bids, so if you want to be the proud owner of, I don’t know, an unfeasibly-long guitar strap then this will be RIGHT up your street.
  • The Frontiers of Design: Design people! This is for YOU! Frontiers of Design is a short film featuring 20 design luminaries from around the world talking about their practice - “As part of the 20th anniversary of the design firm Doberman, The Frontiers of Design is a short film interviewing 20 influential organizations and designers about what’s next for Design. Together they form a diverse patchwork of perspectives across industries, disciplines and markets. This is not a quest for The Answer. Because there is no holy grail. On the contrary, this is the beginning of a journey to uncover clues and spark an industry-wide dialogue about the challenges, opportunities and responsibilities at the Frontiers of Design.” On the one hand this sounds almost unbearably wanky; on the other, if you’re a designer this is probably really interesting and worth the 40m of your time that it will take to watch.
  • Sphero RVR: 3x backed with nearly a month to go, this is doing great numbers on Kickstarter; Sphero is a rugged-looking all-terrain remote control buggy thing, which can be programmed and customised and which basically looks like what your childhood 1980s self imagined Big-Track to be (this is why not getting these things for Christmas was a blessing, is what I tell myself). It’s compatible with Raspberry Pi and Arduinos and all those gubbins, and basically looks like EXACTLY the sort of thing that a certain type of dad will buy for their kid in the knowledge that their kid will not give one solitary fcuk about it and that it will become theirs after approximately three days of desultory play.
  • TikTok Divorce Vids: As previously mentioned on here, TikTok is a bit of a mystery to me - I know what it is, obviously, and how it works, but I can’t spend any time on there as, well, it just feels weird and wrong looking at all these videos of children, basically. Still, thankfully other collectors of oddities are doing their bit and surfacing wonderful cultural gems such as THIS trend, for breakup videos in which one party soulfully tosses their wedding/engagement/promise/friendship ring at their phones camera in a rueful ‘it’s over!’-type gesture. Honestly, there are about a dozen collected in this Twitter thread and they are ALL golden; expect to see this on Facebook next Summer.
  • YourNote: A note-taking app which promises not to store any of your stuff anywhere, should you care about that sort of thing.
  • Litho: This is interesting, though I’m not sure quite how useful / necessary it is. Litho is a wearable gestural interface for your phone or tablet; you clip it to your fingers and it allows for gestural controls in 3d, letting you wave and gesture and generally act like some sort of weird ‘Tom Cruise in Minority Report’ future infogod, mastering all the windows and the software with nothing but your fingers. Almost certainly a gimmick that doesn’t work quite as well as it needs to, but quite a cool-looking gimmick so, you know, there’s that.
  • Metronaut: One for the musicians amongst you, this is a really interesting idea. Metronaut is an app which offers a full orchestral accompaniment to the solo player, the idea being that you tootle away on your violin or piano or whatever, and the app fills in the gaps where the rest of the ensemble would be, providing you with the full sound of a 30-piece philharmonic or similar. It sounds VERY clever, and purports to do all sorts of automatic things like adjusting its tempo to match you - I can’t play anything at all and so this is utterly wasted on me, but any of you with some actual musical ability might find it a fun thing to play around with.
  • Mixed: Does anyone actually ever use collaborative creative online tools? Honestly, I have no idea. Still, if you DO do remote working and if you DO use collaborative creative online tools then, er, here’s another one! Mixer is basically a multi-user moodboard creator, with an additional layer of voice chat so you can all shout at each other for putting the picture of the cat in the wrong place (that’s how collaborative creative working functions, right?).
  • The Moon in 81 Megapixels: This combines 50,000 individual images into one and is VERY detailed and, if you’re anything like me, will make you feel VERY smol indeed.
  • Photopea: This is basically A N Other online version of Photoshop (NO I WILL NOT PUT THE ™ THERE ADOBE YOU HUMOURLESS FCUKS WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO ABOUT IT?) which, if you want to do photo editing but don’t want to pay the inflated market rates for the software and don’t want a cracked copy and don’t fancy dealing with the free-but-horrible-to-use-and-ridiculously-named GIMP, might be useful.
  • The Beijing Silver Mine: “Since 2009, the French collector and artist Thomas Sauvin has embarked on an unusual adventure: salvaging discarded negatives from a recycling plant on the edge of Beijing that were destined to destruction. Undertaking one of the largest and most important archival projects in China, he buys by the kilo, taking away rice bags filled with thousands or rolls of slobbery, dusty and scratched negative film. Once closely examined, images are consistently selected, digitized, and classified. Today it encompasses over half a million of anonymous photographs spanning the period from 1985 to 2005, reconstructing then a large part of the history of popular analogue photography in China.“ This is a remarkable archive of photography and a wonderful snapshot of late 20/early 21C Chinese life; there’s an Instagram account too, if you prefer to experience it that way.
  • Astrobin: As far as I can tell this is basically Imgur but for photos of space, You want a repository of literally thousands of photos of stars, planets, moons, distant galaxies and the like? Of course you do!
  • Mr Breakfast: This site is devoted to the MIRACLE OF BREAKFAST. I don’t know who Mr Breakfast is, but judging by this site he REALLY loves the first meal of the day. There is a LOT of very ugly breakfast-related content here, including 192 recipes for omelettes which seems like overkill to me, but there you go.
  • Nomadic Tribe: I don’t really have the faintest idea of what this is - I think it’s some sort of new year ‘look how clever we are and what beautiful things we can make!’-type showoffy site from an agency but, honestly, it’s quite hard to tell. Still, it’s SO pretty and so nicely designed, and takes you through a slightly hippyish new age watercolour series of gently interactive vignettes, and I generally adore the art style here so WELL DONE whoever made it.
  • Ancient Greek Punishment: UI Edition: Another in the series of ‘punishments from Greek mythology as small games’, this time themed around slightly arch UI jokes. More clever and funny than this slightly p1ss-poor description has made it sound, I promise.

By Christiane Lyons



  • Ad Teachings: A genuinely useful-seeming Tumblr about things in advertising, written by Suzanne Pope whos a Canadian advertising person and lecturer at the University of Toronto; really worth a read if you work in the industry, imho.
  • Ryan Putnam: Quite possibly not in fact a Tumblr! Still, Ryan Putnam’s portfolio site where he also sells prints is really rather nice and his work is awesome and CHEAP, should you be in the market for some original prints for $15.
  • outside the cinema then, well., ENJOY!
  • Low Budget Milky Whites: Crap props from amateur theatrical productions. I think I featured this about 8 years ago back in the H+K days, but I rediscovered it this week and it made me laugh and all those blogs are LONG dead now which means there’s no evidence of my shameful link recycling and, well, there’s NOTHING you can do about it.
  • Keanu Reeves Imagines: A Tumblr inviting you to imagine a variety of surreal scenarios featuring Mr Reeves.
  • The Peter Tork Beard Appreciation Blog: RIP, Monkee.


  • Positively Present: An Insta feed which presents nicely illustrated little positive affirmations about LIFE and stuff - the sort of thing which personally makes my eyes bleed and makes me want to drink heavily and self-harm, but which some of you may like and for which, I promise, I do not judge you AT ALL.
  • Mr Doodle: An artist who works almost exclusively in thick marker and who, judging by their Insta feed, very much...er...appreciated the work of Keith Haring.
  • Bootscrapers of Dublin: THIS is the sort of niche use of Instagram that I am here for.
  • Breeze Blockhead: Photographs of breeze blocks and assorted other concrete construction elements, for all you Brutalism fans out there.
  • They Didn’t Die: Euphemisms for death taken from the obituary pages. If anyone ever describes me post-mortum as ‘passing through the universe’, know that whatever passes for my immortal soul is at that moment cursing them as hard as possible.
  • Suru Denise: Beautiful and VERY vaporwave-y illustrations in the most millennial of colour palettes.
  • Ofir Shoham: SUCH amazing animation, using neon lines overlaid onto video to quite wonderful effect; beautifully creative and about to be used in a MASSIVE ad campaign by someone (will it be you? WILL IT?).


  • Damien Collins vs Facebook: The very funniest thing about this week was Damien Collins’ BIG MOMENT being absolutely spiked by Chuka et al on Monday morning; SORRY DAMO! This Time profile of Collins and his very particular anti-Facebook crusade is interesting not least as it offers a pretty clear picture of a man who seems to be enjoying the personal profile this is granting him rather more than might be entirely decorous. Obviously I’m not suggesting that scrutiny of Facebook and others’ behaviour is anything other than A Good Thing - more that Collins seems to have decided that it’s far more important to paint himself as The One MP Prepared To Make A Stand rather than actually doing anything so tedious as sticking to the actual terms of the enquiry his Committee announced; to be clear, it was an enquiry into ‘fake news and misinformation’ online, not into ‘why everything is Facebook’s fault’. Lots of stuff is, don’t get me wrong, and it’s a largely hateful company which I wish didn’t exist, but to pretend that, well, all this stuff isn’t a little more complicated than ‘BAD FACEBOOK!’ strikes me as pretty reductive and not a little stupid - see this thread by Mat Morrison for more on this.
  • Covington and the Media Landscape: We’ve all moved on and forgotten about the MAGA kids vs the Native American guy from a few weeks ago, but this is a really good essay from a few weeks back which examines what that whole sorry week-long period in the US media tells us about the way in which stories develop in 2019 and what we ought to do - as consumers and producers of media - to try and get better at dealing with the swirling horrorhurricane of modern news and the seemingly 27-hour-a-day infocycle.
  • A Speech on Socialism: Andover is apparently a very posh school in the US - this is the text of a speech given there by Nathan J Robinson, editor of Current Affairs magazine, on why socialism is actually quite good. I was hugely impressed with this as a piece of rhetoric - it gently takes the audience through some serious thinking (Rawls et al) to set up with a socialist stance is fair and equitable and just, and why socialism doesn’t crumble in the face of shouts of “BUT VENEZUELA!” from the right. If you’ve got kids of 11/12+ this might be an interesting read for them (especially if you’re worried they might be going, well, a bit Tory).
  • The OpenAI Text Generator: The OpenAI text generating thingy was announced last Friday as I was writing Curios and I couldn’t honestly be bothered to read up on it and include it in the last edition. Instead, you get it a week later with the CONSIDERED ANALYSIS that a week’s sober cogitation has afforded me time to develop (HA!). Basically my take on this is a) it is impressive but not THAT impressive; b) OpenAI are very good at PR - that ‘we are not releasing this FOR THE GOOD OF THE WORLD!’ is a tried-and-tested tactic that ALWAYS works; c) this will be used on content farms within honestly, if you can wrangle enough code to make it work then I recommend giving it a go here, but LOOK at what it throws out when you feed it some bongo:

"It was just a few minutes in a quiet corner of the bar before I realized that this woman was really into me, but not me, I was already there with my hands in a big black, white baggy suit and with two white gloves in her hand, as I took her hand to my throat as she took a breath. I looked up at the two women, who looked very excited in their black suits, they were holding a big brown plastic plastic bottle, in their hands they carried a black bottle. It was not an old, old black glass or something that looked like one that you would have to carry, but instead of that it had this big white black glass, this big brown plastic bottle with three red dots, and I could feel that there were two black dots around the bottles like a little yellow triangle, it was a bit like a little blue triangle with one red dot in it. The two women looked at us as the bottle was held and I couldn't help but notice something. I could see the white, white liquid in its mouth, it didn't look very much.

I could tell they all wanted this, because they all knew the bottle, but that bottle, I could see that it didn't contain the words to "please do not touch my body" or "do not do it for the wrong reason," I knew this was an important part for Lindsay. She could not see what the bottles meant, but I could know it had a meaning. Lindsay's mouth closed and she let out an angry scream as her body was sucked, the black liquid was so big and sticky that she almost didn't even notice the black blood that she was in, that black thing. I looked up at my sister. It was so big. I could feel my chest as well as my stomach, I felt a little sick with nausea, the black liquid was so thick and hard, I felt like someone had pulled something out of her mouth.

I couldn't move, and I couldn't move as the water began to flow down my throat and I could feel that there was a slight, small pain. I could tell there was something very wrong with her that made her vomit. She started sobbing uncontrollably but she wasn't breathing or breathing at all, and then she stopped breathing. I felt a small tear form around my face. I knew I must have swallowed something, I just couldn't get out."

See? HORRID. Anway, on with the links.

  • The Artisanal Internet: Another in the increasing spate of thinkpieces displaying nostalgia for the good old days in which the web was full of weird little personal, discoverable corners rather than the identikit, social platform-mediated tedium we get today. There is, I think, a definite opportunity for a service which offers some sort of access to the zinier end of the web, insofar as it still exists, though I do wonder where kid creators go these days, now that Tumblr’s becoming increasingly conservative.
  • The YouTube Paedocommentstorm: You’ll have read about this, fine, but this long explainer on The Verge is a decent overview of what the issue is and why it’s so problematic for YT, and what the platform is attempting to do about it. One of a spate of pieces this week - there’s another in here in a few links’ time - which made me realise that having kids of online age must be almost unbearably stressful at times.
  • The Impossible Architecture of Videogames: A wonderful article looking at the design of videogame worlds, spatially and architecturally, and how that design has often been influenced by real-world architects and movements. A bit pretentious maybe, but still hugely interesting if you’re a gamer (or, quite possibly, an architect).
  • All The President’s Meals: A look back at the culinary tastes of US Presidents past, and the meals they ate whilst in the White House. This is pretty remarkable - not only a really interesting read for anyone with a healthy interest in food, but also a really excellent piece of dataviz work, with nice interactives showing the different types of food each President ate, with sub-type breakdowns which you can zoom into if so inclined. Far, far deeper than it needs to be, this is a real labour of love in terms of digital journalism.
  • The Guys Who Love Logic: A look at that very particular type of man - and it’s almost always a man - who will make endless, repeated recourse to LOGIC in any and all arguments, repeatedly talk about the primacy of LOGIC and the superiority of LOGICALLY-derived thoughts and principles. Of course, their conception of LOGIC is perhaps a very particular one, but NO MATTER for they are RIGHT! A very good read, and a nice reminder that you can often derail this sort of stuff by gently pointing out what a syllogism is and then just leaving.
  • mean when messaging the plaintiff with ‘aubergine aubergine water spray fire?’, and how ought it affect our interpretation of their defence?” It’s a good question, and I am genuinely fascinated as to how courts might approach this in future - although on reflection this also guarantees that there are going to be people acting as professional emoji interpretation experts, doesn’t it? FFS.
  • : It’s been a longstanding OLD TRUTH  that the comments section of anything online are a total mess, full of hate and horror and anger and racism and, now, paedos. Except, apparently, in the New York Times’ Cooking section, where the comments are by all accounts a joy. This is an interesting look at why that might be - I rather like the idea that the small tweak of renaming comments as ‘notes’ made some small difference, with ‘notes’ being seen as more ‘additions or edits’ to recipes and thereby making commenters focus on a more ‘yes, and…’ style of response rather than something critical or sh1tty. Not sure you could do anything about, say, Mail Online, though.
  • Who Killed Tulum: I went to Tulum about 7 years ago for a wedding, and it was rather lovely; this piece suggests that it’s not so lovely any more. The article looks at how Insta, influencers and performative lifestyle tourism have combined to rather ruin what was a beautiful stretch of the Yucatan - another one for my increasingly fat folder of ‘articles about how influencers are ruining EVERYTHING and we are all becoming pathetic sheep’.
  • An Honest Living: The author of this piece, Steve Salaita, used to be an academic, before he lost his tenured position as part of a campus row over Tweets he’d sent about the Israeli bombardment of Gaza which members of the faculty considered to be antisemitic. Now, he’s a bus driver. This is a wonderful essay which is in part about driving a bus and in part about what it’s like to have your status and standing suddenly removed and what you end up doing then. Very well-written, not remotely self-pitying and, generally, excellent.
  • When Kids Realise Their Whole Life Is Online: Stuff I had never thought about, part x of a series of y - the very peculiar feeling that EVERYONE will have the first time they realise that they are a real person with an internet profile that exists without them EVER having done anything about it. Imagine being a kid and suddenly thinking “I wonder what happens if I google myself?” and then being confronted with all of this...stuff about you, things you’ve done or achieved or made, places you’ve been, times and dates, all collected with no assistance or, often, approval from you. It would be TERRIFYING. Anyway, this is all about that at contains the single saddest line I have read all week, delivered by 11 year old “Everyone’s always watching, and nothing is ever forgotten. It’s never gone”
  • The Boy Prince of Fashion: Bye then Karl, you mad, moderately unpleasant-sounding body fascist - you certainly had a way with clothes, but you were also obviously quite mental. This is a profile of him from a decade or so ago, which does a wonderful job of communicating the truly batsh1t milieu that is high fashion - even if you’ve got no interest in fashion this is worth a read, not least to get an insight into what happens when people just tell you a genius all the time for decades and NEVER say ‘no’.
  • Notes from a Shipwreck: An essay about the island of Lampedusa, off the Italian coast, which for much of the past decade has borne the brunt of the waves of migrants seeking refuge in Europe from Africa and the Middle East. This is a beautifully-written (and superbly translated) and very sad piece which makes it eminently clear that noone, not the migrants, not the islanders, emerges unscathed. Another reason to despise Matteo Salvini and his disgusting, inhuman stance on all this.
  • What Counts As Sex?: A good question. Is fingering sex (BRING BACK FINGERING)? Is sending noodz? Having a wank whilst on the phone? THESE ARE IMPORTANT ISSUES, and this is an interesting and well-written series of thoughts which explore them. The author, Kate Sloan, presents it thusly: “I’ve been writing about sex online for the better part of a decade now, and my understanding of what “sex” is has only become broader and murkier as time has progressed (not to mention, as acts like sexting and phone sex have become a bigger and bigger part of my life). I’m not sure I know what sex is. I’m not sure I ever knew.” Very NOW, but that’s no bad thing.
  • You’re Just Too Good To Be True: One woman’s long-term love for Engelbert Humperdinck, told through fragment memories and culminating in a visit to see him in concert last year; this is such a lovely personal essay and meditation on who we idolise and why.
  • The Dau of Stalin: I mentioned DAU in here last year, but in case you’re not au fait with it, it’s a film about a Soviet scientist which has been being filmed since 2006 with a rolling cast of thousands who have basically been method-living their way through 20thC Russia for over a decade. It recently launched in Paris, and will be coming to London later this year. This piece is partly a review of the ‘experience’ of the film - you don’t watch the whole thing, you just ‘experience’ fragments of it, apparently - and partly a jawdropping insight into what it’s like to be an international Eurotrash rich person who gets invited to art world stuff like this. As I said a few links back, art world people are often quite TOTALLY unhinged - just imagine what this would be like, with all the drugs and the money and the RUSSIANS.
  • The American Boy: A piece about WIRED’s recent cover story profiling a white American teen which drew some pretty furious feedback; this is a reasoned, sensitive short essay about how maybe some of the reaction was perhaps a touch over the top, at least the personal stuff focused on the kid, and why maybe we should all stop getting quite so cancel-happy for a second. We won’t, obviously, but it’s nice to dream.
  • Touch: Last in the longreads this week, a beautiful essay about the tactility of traditional Chinese culture, and how as societies become more affluent that tactility can often be lost. It made me think very much of how men in Middle Eastern and South Asian cultures (and, quite possibly, other places too - these are just the ones I’ve observed) will often casually hold hands and touch each other in a way that is playground-beaten from us at an early age, and how sad it is that that’s something that doesn’t happen here, and how many people in modernity go days and even weeks without feeling the touch of another’s skin. Give someone a friendly - and, er, consensual! - pat on the shoulder TODAY!

By Lin Yung Chen


  1. Strand of Oaks is a dreadful name for a band, but this song, called ‘Ruby’, is actually rather good and so I forgive them. Pretty classic melodic rock and roll balladry, but in a GOOD way:

2) This is a GREAT bit of scuzzy garagey poppy-punky...stuff by Mal Blum - it’s called ‘Things Still Left To Say’:

3) I loved Aldous Harding’s last album, and if this is anything to go by I will love her next one too. Her voice, Christ. This is ‘The Barrel’ - great video too:

4) OLD SCHOOL INDUSTRIAL NOISE! This is by Test Department who have been around for AEONS - it’s called ‘Landlord’ and it’s gloriously unreconstructed and ANGRY:

5) HIPHOP CORNER! This is by The Philharmonik and it sounds like it could be from a musical and whilst that might sound like a dreadful thing, and ordinarily it would be, this is ACE and really unusual and I very much enjoyed it; see what you think. It’s called ‘Drugs’:

6) This is called Kitbull. It’s a short animation by Pixar and it WILL make you cry. Or at least it will if you’re anything like me. If you love the critters (HI SAZ!) then you will DEFINITELY bawl your eyes out, guaranteed:

DAU comes to London in April
Web Curios 15/02/19