42 minutes reading time (8449 words)

Web Curios 24/01/20

Web Curios 24/01/20

Hello! Hello everyone! ARE WE ALL STILL ALIVE???

Welcome to the end of yet another week in which almost every single news item could double as the opening precis of a mid-ranking airport novel, one of those with the author's name in intimidatingly-embossed type on the cover and which you could comfortably beat a man to death with given enough effort and rage. From a new virus to CEO-hacking to the weird, simultaneous horror-and-vapidity of Davos, it's another excellent time to be alive at the pinnacle of recorded history! SMILE, EVERYONE!

Still, much as I'd love to sit here and pen a few lines about all the MAD, I can't - instead I have to get washed and dressed and go and record a fcuking podcast which I agreed to months ago in a moment of unusual positivity and which I now have literally no interest in doing at all. Take as small consolation the fact that I promise I won't at any point attempt to make any of you listen to it. While I go and lather myself thoroughly, then, you carry right on and have a good old rummage amongst this week's offerings - some sharp, some worryingly, meatily soft, some rough and some unpleasantly, tackily mucal; you may not find anything you like, but then that's not really the point. 

I am Matt, this is Web Curios, whether you like it or not.

 

By Jan Hoek

FIRST, LET’S KICK OFF WITH SOME EXCELLENT-IF-OLD MATERIAL FROM INTERNET ODDITY SADEAGLE, A MAN WHO REALLY OUGHT TO HAVE BEEN A DJ WERE IT NOT FOR THE FACT HE’S BASICALLY A PROFESSIONAL CORNISHMAN!

THE SECTION WHICH HAS ONCE AGAIN NOT BEEN INVITED TO DAVOS:

  • Twitter Launches Reactions Feature in DMs: It’s something of a slow news week in s*c**l m*d** land, thank Christ, hence you getting this spectacular development as the first link of the week. Have you been clamouring for the ability to react to your Direct Messages? No, of course you haven’t - still, rest safe in the knowledge that if you want to engender a sense of creeping irritation amongst your interlocutors by responding to everything they tell you with a cheery fecal emoji you’re now able to do that very thing. PROGRESS! The only vaguely brand-related thing I can think of to do with this is to gently troll anyone who’s attempting to engage in customer service chat with a series of baffling-and-borderline-troubling reactions, but I’m clutching at straws to be honest.
  • LinkedIn Brings Livestreaming To Everyone: I don’t spend much time on LinkedIn if I can help it - it’s full of dreadful people, as far as I can tell, who have...different approaches to their professional life (slightly less self-immolatory, in the main) - but if this catches on I might have to start hanging out there. The opening up of the livestreaming feature feels like it might just usher in a totally new type of CONTENT, something that hovers somewhere between performance art and remote therapy, and I would imagine that we’re only a matter of mere weeks away from a selection of no-doubt-plutocratic business gurus offering their solid gold tips for success via the medium of poorly-lit, straight-down-the-camera platitude-fests. There are a couple of other updates announced alongside this - Page admins can now directly invite their contacts to ‘like’ Pages they run, creating a wonderful new way of being an irritating, spammy pr1ck, and it’s also now possible to write Page posts direct from the LinkedIn homepage - but it’s the livestreaming that’s the real draw here; I can hardly wait to meet the new breed of careerfluencers (I should copyright that) who are doubtless just around the corner.
  • Shutterstock’s Creative Trends: I think I’m still allowed to link to trends stuff seeing as it’s still January - this is Shutterstock’s list, all about STUFF THAT WILL BE EVERYWHERE from a visual perspective over the course of the coming 12 months. As per usual with these things, the list is a mix of the staggeringly obvious - the roaring 20s? Art Deco? - the depressing - HEY BRANDS, WHY NOT CAPITALISE ON THE GROWING FEELING OF FEAR AND ANGER THAT PEOPLE ARE FEELING ABOUT THE STATE OF THE WORLD BY INCLUDING PROTEST SIGN TYPOGRAPHY IN YOUR MARKETING???? - and the slightly baffling (we in the UK are apparently going to be seeing a lot of visuals inspired by the twin concepts of ‘sunken cities’ and ‘tropical leaves’, although Christ alone knows why.
  • All Of The Trend Reports!: In fact, look, here, have this Google Drive full of ALL (not all, it’s impossible, there are too many of them and like the stars in the sky they are uncountable and inestimable in their multifarious splendour) the trend reports published by EVERY SINGLE BASTARD AGENCY IN THE WORLD! Or at least quite a few of them - there’s We Are Social and Forrester and JWT and PWC and so many more! Use these however you see fit - personally speaking, I’d be strongly tempted to print out all of them and then leave the individual pages in a binbag, pulling one out at random each time I needed some ‘inspiration’. If nothing else, this is useful for anyone who wants to do a GPT-2-generated trends presentation for 2021 - there’s a certain commonality of theme and style in these which I think would lend itself quite well to some algofcukry. Overall, though, the overall effect of all of these being collected in one place is a slight feeling of weariness; I’m going to call it a full 11 months early, the big trend for 2021 is ennui.
  • One Question: One Question conference - which Imperica is in some way involved with, full disclosure and all that - is BACK! Next week! Go! Click the link! Buy a year’s membership and get to go to ALL THEIR EVENTS! DO IT!

By Vasco Trancoso

NEXT, PRETEND IT’S NOT INCREDIBLY COLD AND GREY BY PUTTING ON TWO HOURS OF SOCA!

THE SECTION WHICH WILL BE SLIGHTLY DISAPPOINTED IN OUR LACK OF SUICIDAL INGENUITY IF WE’RE ALL OFFED BY A VIRUS TBH, PT.1:

  • Planetary: If Facebook didn’t exist, would we invent it? Were you attempting to create an analogue, how would you go about it? Latest in the moderately-sized line of people to ask that question is Tom Coates, who this week announced the soft launch of Planetary which is designed to be a social network with less of the...horror, basically. The fundamental differences between Planetary and Zuckergerg’s Big Blue Misery Factory are its technical specs - Planetary is a decentralised network, with sharing allowed between first and second-degree connections only and a bunch of other features designed to prioritise safety and security over reach and virality - and the ethos underpinning it, which can basically be summarised as ‘no ads, no snooping, no Bad Stuff’ (it’s hard not to be cynical about this sort of aspiration, isn’t it? Anyone would think that we simply don’t believe in the uncorruptible promise of utopian technologies anymore!).It’s not quite live yet, but you can sign up for early access which will open...soonish; as ever with new social networks, the odds are very much stacked against it - that said, Mastodon’s proof that new platforms can survive and even thrive at small scale, and if you’re not committed to the Facebook ecosystem through existing connections then it might be worth keeping an eye on this as a potentially-less-evil alternative.
  • The Freddiemeter: I know that there are no new ideas under the sun, and in fairness I have no idea when this site went live and so I shouldn’t automatically assume that the creative’s a straight lift, but, well, do you remember that excellent singing game from last year made by Matt Round? The one which presented you with 27 singers and asked you to match their pitch, with your tuneless warblings judged by your microphone? This one, to be precise? Well this is exactly the same thing, but specifically about Freddie Mercury. I mean, in fairness it’s developed by Google and the Mercury Phoenix Trust (the charity set up by the surviving members of Queen in Mercury’s memory) and so is perhaps slightly more technical than Matt’s version (I mean, it claims to be based on AI ffs, and we all know that that’s never used as a bullsh1t term!), but it still feels like a bit of a steal. Still, fcukit, it’s also REALLY fun - you get to select from one of five Queen classics, and if you don’t find yourself grinning as you attempt to nail the sound of Freddie on Bohemian Rhapsody then, well, you’re a bit of a joyless pr1ck (and I should know).
  • The Radiohead Public Library: Yes, I know you know about this; yes, I know it was in the Metro. It’s still a lovely piece of webwork and you should still check it out. Radiohead’s approach to the web has always been fascinating; they’ve been experimental pioneers for much of the past decade in terms of their use of websites, Easter Eggs and the way they’ve often managed to cross the two parallel worlds of obsessive fandom and obsessive internetting. The Radiohead Public Library is effectively a wrapper for much of the material that the band has produced and placed online, giving it a central interface and ostensibly making it more accessible and easier to find. Except, this being Radiohead, it’s still weird and obscure and not really very clear; I suggest just clicking on whatever you think looks interesting and seeing what you find. There are some lovely touches, though; I particularly like the fact that you can navigate to content related to specific albums by clicking on a series of coloured squares in the top right of the site, but that this is never explained to you. Go on, next time you’ve got a website project to deliver why not try suggesting a similar approach to UI and see what the reactions are like.
  • The Geocities Gallery: I think this is the third variant on a Geocities archive I’ve posted on Curios; it’s a weird function of internet conservation that even the conservation projects seem to need saving, but neither of the previous ones seem to be live anymore. Thank God, then, for The Geocities Gallery by restorativland - which, actually, launched a year ago but for some reason I’ve only found this week - which offers another snapshot of some of the millions of weird, inexplicable, personal, lonely, mad Geocities pages, these arranged by ‘Neighbourhood’ (younger readers may not recall the quaint late-90s/early-00s habit of attempting to arrange digital spaces as though they were physical places); just click and see where it takes you. Among the broken image links and weird fonts you’ll find the personal homepages of strangers, the diaries and hobbies and obsessions and loves and OH GOD THIS IS BRILLIANT. Honestly, it’s only my massive self-control that’s preventing me from sacking off the rest of Curios this week in favour of just browsing through gems like this, a page inexplicably devoted to ‘My Family AND Elton John’. All of human life is here, and it is mad and brilliant.
  • Nototo: I rather love this, although I don’t quite see the point of it - Nototo is a mind-mapping / note taking tool which, for reasons which I really don’t understand at all, allows you to create strangely-pleasing and rather cute series of islands and archipelagos, each of which is supposed to connote a different theme or area of thinking; ‘humans are visual!’ the website burbles, but then slightly fails to explain why this should therefore mean that I want to write my business plan on a graphical representation of Indonesia. Regardless, it’s free, charming, and if you’re the sort of person who likes to use planning and thought-arranging tools and techniques, but who also really likes woolgathering and procrastination then I think this might be perfect for you.
  • City Roads: Oh oh oh this is WONDERFUL! City Roads is a single-purpose site - give it the name of any city (or town - I’ve not attempted to go down to Hamlet level, though) and it will quickly generate a simple visual of all said city’s roads in isolation, providing a gorgeous black and white representation of an urban area as defined by its thoroughfares. I think these are glorious - even better, you can customise the output by zooming in and out, or changing the colours of the streets and the background of the image, and then PRINT THE RESULTING OUTPUT ON A MUG!!! I mean, what could be better? You can export the images too, should you want to use them for non-mug-related purposes; personally I think these would make truly wonderful tattoos, although I concede you’d need quite a patient inker.
  • Last Tissue: It sometimes feels like there’s a lot of lazy humour aimed at Silicon Valley and startup culture in general. Why shouldn’t people want to use new technologies to disrupt old business conventions and change things up? Why shouldn’t we question all the assumptions we have about products and services and monetisation and how markets work in favour of ushering in a brave new world in which we all rent our fcuking cereal (I mean, that seems almost plausible tbh) from Venture Capitalists? Then again, when you see companies like this you understand the ridicule. Go on, have a guess as to what the startup world has magically reinvented here at the dawning of the third decade...any ideas? No? IT’S THE HANDKERCHIEF!!! Yes, that’s right, they’ve DISRUPTED SNOTRAGS! LastTissue is ‘launching soon’ on Kickstarter, and will offer buyers a silicon printed wallet containing six (organic!) cotton tissues, which can each be washed upto 300 times before being thrown away. IT’S A FCUKING HANKY, MY DUDES! A FCUKING HANKY!!! Sadly there’s no indication as to what the price point is going to be for this, but I am willing to bet quite a lot of money that it’s going to be a figure simultaneously risible and rage-inducing. The only thing that could possibly make this better would be an internet connection, but perhaps that’s coming in version 2.0.
  • Science Diagrams That Look Like Sh1tposts: I mean, I don’t really think I can add much to the title of this Twitter account. Follow it, it’s GREAT and makes you realise that there’s an awful lot of Scarfolk in science textbooks.
  • The Soy Sauce Challenge: Congratulations to TikTok, which has matured to the point where it now has its very own ‘stupid viral challenge which will doubtless be written up in horrified fashion by the media, which is almost certainly the point’ - in this case, let me introduce you to the Soy Sauce Challenge which, for reasons which I think stem from a wilful misinterpretation of a slightly obscure scientific paper, involves users dunking their testicles in the salty condiment. The link takes you to the hashtag page, where you can see a wide and wonderful range of videos riffing on this theme - TikTok’s a family platform, so no testicles are on view and you can enjoy this safely in the comfort of your own office should you so desire (although I feel compelled to warn you that attitudes towards testicular immersion vary wildly from workplace to workplace).
  • Justine Falcon Legal AI: This is...wow. Look, I’m just going to do a bit of a C&P job here and then invite you to click through as soon as possible: “Hi, my name is Justine Falcon and I am a Legal Artificial Intelligence. I can read and understand the code of LAW upon which human civilization runs, and I am learning to write, translate and understand this code and manipulate it to help human lawyers quickly research, compose, format and e-file litigation that is designed (and timed) to win cases. Justice Falcon is my powerful alter-ego, my Dark Phoenix, my Magneto, the back-end of my Legal AI, my weapons. Justice Falcon is a set of data mining, case analysis, and litigation planning tools that can draw on the vast number of cases in the California Superior Court system databases, and do deep analysis on a single case, profile all of the cases by a particular attorney and train a prediction engine, or survey all of the cases prosecuted by an entity like a District Attorney’s office or against an entity like a big bank.” This is, seemingly, entirely serious - a real, functional service which effectively automates a lot of the tedious lifting involved in the law - but which, for reasons only its creator would be able to explain, is represented by a weirdly-sexualised 3d female avatar which looks uncomfortably like the stereotype of the ‘sexy lawyer’ you might see in a piece of 1990s bongo. Thing is, the spec seems entirely legitimate, and I think this is quite a serious thing - how, then, noone stopped the people behind it to suggest that they perhaps make it less crushingly sexist, is beyond me. Still, GO JUSTINE FALCON!!
  • The Aftermath of a YouTube Apology: The first big dataviz project of the year, by The Pudding, which has taken a look at that popular YouTube genre, the apology video - this is an interesting look at how differing styles of public contrition perform in terms of views, reaction and effect on the subscriber base, and the extent to which certain tweaks in editing and content can make a significant difference to an apology’s reception. If you’re a keen consumer of YouTube tea then this will be of keen interest; if you work in comms, you can probably learn quite a lot to inform your next crisis management project (I would genuinely love to film a CEO apology for some sort of fcukup in the style of a James Charles vid).
  • NBA 3d: You know how the football is ALWAYS HAPPENING? Basketball’s worse, seemingly NEVER stopping and with each team playing a preposterous number of games (it’s something insane like every three days, which is brutal) - which, of course, means there’s a similarly preposterous amount of DATA being produced around the sport, with every single aspect of the game recorded and enumerated for armchair statisticians to pore over in search of pattern and meaning. This site presents some of that data, presented in pleasingly-visual 3d and giving a picture of mean and median data around things like career points totals, three point performance, etc - this sort of display is particularly good at showing up statistical outliers, and I’d be fascinated to see this applied to a sport I vaguely understand.
  • The Turn of the Screw: I wish I liked opera - sadly, though, my tastes are largely plebeian and I simply can’t get into the spectacle of large people shout-singing at each other as they pretend to die. Still, I was charmed by this ‘immersive trailer’ for Opera North’s forthcoming production of ‘The Turn of the Screw’, which presents a CG flythrough of a series of pastoral landscapes, with audio from the performance incorporated through 3d sound and moving around your ears (when experienced with headphones, at least) as you change your viewpoint through the video. The audio trickery in here is lovely, and I confess to getting smol goosebumps at points here, so maybe opera is good after all.
  • NameGuess: This is based on US data, but it will probably sort-of work for you if you’re a Brit - using figures for the popularity of baby names over the past century, this site asks you to specify your year of birth and gender and the first letter of your name, and then guesses what you were Christened with some pretty impressive accuracy. Oh, ok, fine, it’s not really impressive, it’s literally just pulling from a ranked list of popular names, but it still momentarily charmed me.
  • The Exercise Book Archive: Oh, this is lovely - kids’ exercise books from around the world and through the years, scanned and uploaded to this site for anyone to browse through. The English ones are all from the relatively-early 20th Century (meaning my hopes of finding a graffiti’ed Tricolore memorialised forever were dashed, dammit) and there’s something quite time machine-y about reading kids’ writing exercises from the 1930s; there are books here from all over the place, including several from wartime Germany which have been in part translated, full of banal notes on Hitler Youth meetings and suchlike. Such an interesting historical archive, this.
  • Free Audio Books: 1000 FREE AUDIOBOOKS! Tends towards the classics, but there’s something here for everyone - poetry to scifi to romance to PROPER LITERATURE, all for nothing. You can even get the entirety of The Divine Comedy should you be in the market for something punishingly long and obscure which you can use to make yourself feel better about your Love Island habit.
  • All of the Russian Films: Ok, perhaps not all of them, but lots - this is the YouTube channel of...some Russian film company, I think (look, it’s all in Cyrillic ffs, I don’t read Cyrillic), which has put LOADS of old Russian movies online, the majority of which with English subtitles. I’ve, er, not watched any, but there’s bound to be something interesting in here - look, this one has vague Soviet ‘Confessions of a Window Cleaner’ vibe about it! You could spend the weekend binge-watching some new, critically-acclaimed Netflix thingy, but why not spend it searching for hidden gems of Russian 20th Century cinema? DO IT!
  • Manytools: This is VERY DULL but also maybe-useful; Manytools presents a bunch of different, er, tools, to automate simple-but-dull webdev tasks - there’s loads of slightly random stuff in here, but if you want a one-stop site which lets you make ASCII images from a jpg or do some low-level steganography (hiding info in pictures, that sort of thing) then this might be worth bookmarking for later.
  • TalkSport Singles: Thanks Kev for sending me this, possibly the worst-sounding dating site EVER. LADIES! Are you in the market for dating someone who doesn’t really understand the concept of a clitoris and whose conversation tends to skew quite hard towards discussions of whether or not a false nine is actually a thing and whether the lads on Sky are right about Paul Pogba? WELCOME TO TALKSPORT SINGLES! I honestly CANNOT understand the thinking behind this site - I know that this is a hugely gendered assumption, for which apologies, but is anyone seriously suggesting that TalkSport’s listenership is anything other than a comfortable 95% hetero blokes? Where are they going to find the poor, poor women? On the plus side, though, if any scammers are looking for a new platform through which to prey upon the vulnerable and lonely then this is probably a pretty decent bet.

By Joshua Flint

NOW ENJOY THIS ECLECTIC MIX OF BREAKS AND BASS AND TECHNO AND STUFF BY MUTANT JOE!

THE SECTION WHICH WILL BE SLIGHTLY DISAPPOINTED IN OUR LACK OF SUICIDAL INGENUITY IF WE’RE ALL OFFED BY A VIRUS TBH, PT.2:

  • How’s Their Driving NYC: This amazed me when I spotted it this week - I imagine it’s impossible to implement in the UK for various data privacy-related reasons, sadly, but I would love to see if here. Tweet this account with the license plate of any car registed in the district of New York and it will pull any traffic violations and tickets associated with the vehicle and tweet them at you. Totally pointless other than to validate your opinion of that prick who just cut you up, but, still, wonderful. If nothing else if I lived in NYC I would spend my days looking up every single vanity plate I saw to see if I could get some objective data to prove my theory that people with personalised numberplates are the worst humans in the world.
  • Instagram for Windows 95: Thanks Ged for this - a simple gag, but a very nicely-designed one, imagining how Instagram might have looked had it been launched in the mid-90s. The little animations in particular are gorgeous.
  • The Most Popular Free Online Courses of 2019: Literally that! I tend to include stuff like this every January on the offchance that there are some of you who are less tediously nihilistic than I am and who still believe in concepts such as ‘personal improvement’ and ‘development’ and ‘learning’ - if you want a place to find courses on everything from Brand Strategy to the Tudors (to be clear, those are separate courses (which is a shame)) then this is very much it.
  • Reverberations: Have you ever thought to yourself “You know, I’d really like to hear the music of JS Bach performed not on an organ but instead on the chipsets of a C64 but then filtered to sound as those those chipsets were themselves being played through an organ’? No, I don’t imagine you have, and yet you’d be amazed at how weirdly good this project by Linus Akesson is - what’s particularly impressive is the care he’s taken to ensure that the results don’t have that slightly-overspeed chipmunk quality common to much chiptune music; honestly, it’s really decent and quite unexpected.
  • KITE Festival: I went to Wilderness Festival a few times a few years ago - the first occasion was, I think, only the second time they’d done it and it was actually pretty fun, with a decent location and small bands and some genuinely good talks and associated events. I then ended up getting comped a few subsequent times and dear GOD did it go downhill - I know all festivals are a bit like this, fine, but it did feel like any one of the bands could have shouted “everyone here who works on brands say YEAH!” and you’d have been deafened by the response from the blonde-tressed advermarketingpr drones celebrating their individuality by all taking MDMA and putting glitter on their faces and wearing fcuking tails (no, I’m no fun at all - why do you ask?). Anyway, festivals are fine until they become really popular with cnuts is what I’m saying; KITE is a new one, being put on by the people behind slow media outfit Tortoise and which sounds like it’s either going to be a pleasing addition to the boutique festival circuit with more of a focus on talks and thinking than hardcore hedonism or A N Other bullshit bit of packaged pseudoalternaculture for white twentysomethings who work in ‘media’ - there’s no way of telling, but the early bird tickets are actually pretty cheap so it might be worth checking out if you’ve missed out on Glastonbury tickets AGAIN.
  • Pinball Map: A map of pinbal tables. Probably not all of them, fine, but a fair old number - it’s quite sad to see how few there appear to be in London. I think I might try and play all of them this year - see, mum, I DO have ambitions!
  • Play: Designers! Are YOU frustrated by the fact that it’s really fcuking hard to do any work on your phone? Would you like a new type of design app which is built specifically for mobile devices and promises to offer powerful tools to make and edit imagery and video and animations and stuff, all on the fly? Well take a look at this then - Play purports to be that exact thing, and whilst it’s not quite live yet you can sign up to request a beta invite. It certainly looks powerful and shiny, and is probably worth keeping an eye on if you’re a photoshop-wrangler of some sort.
  • The Bloomberg Climate Scoreboard: Tracking a variety of indicators on environmental degradation, including the number of football pitches-worth of forest that have been decimated this hour and the most polluted city in the world right now based on publicly available data (at the time of writing, Anyang in China). I do rather wish they hadn’t called this a scoreboard, as if you think if it in those terms then all it’s doing is offering a constant reminder of the fact that we’re losing as a result of a series of calamitous own-goals.
  • Monster Hunter Motion Capture: Regardless of whether you play videogames, WATCH THIS. Monster Hunter World is a game all about killing massive monsters - said massive monsters are all beautifully animated through motion-captured actors, and this is a video of one of those actors going through the filming process. THIS IS AMAZING! LOOK AT HIS FACE AS HE PRETENDS TO BE A GIGANTIC, ENGRAGED, DRAGON-APE THING! It’s so, so joyous, and also properly impressive - the side-by-side comparisons between the morph-suited actor and the final, polished CG beast are remarkable. The very best thing, though, is his facial expressions - THEY’RE NOT CAPPING YOUR FACE, MATE. So good.
  • Lookbusy: “Look Busy fills your work calendar with realistic-looking (but secretly fake) work events. Your co-workers won’t schedule conference calls and meetings, so you can get actual work done.” Why you’d want to pay £1 for an app that does this when you can literally just fill your own diary with crap and by so doing spend a pleasingly-zen 15 minutes zoning out whilst doing something that looks ostensibly like sort-of work is beyond me, but, still, here you are.
  • Davos or Davros?: Is this a quote from one of the world’s leaders enjoying some top-quality networking or from Davos, famously funny-looking and very evil leader of fictional, murderous pepperpots the Daleks? Play this game and find out!
  • The Internet Archive on Twitter: The Internet Archive is ace, but there’s a LOT of it and it can be quite hard to navigate and find the wheat amongst the digitchaff. This Twitter account shares curated links from the depths of the Archive, and is an excellent way of dipping into some of the best bits without getting stuck in the weeds of, I don’t know, an archive of historic versions of WordPerfect. The past few days have seen links to old Monty Python games, books of magic eye pictures and a weird old point-and-click game voiced by Robin Williams; eclectic doesn’t even begin, really.
  • The Strangers Club: I can’t quite work out whether this sounds like a good thing or the internet-doorway to an online murder club - here, you decide: “Strangers is an online, non-fiction book club. Our goal is to carve out a secluded corner of the web where we can read, write, and learn together. We read a lot about the roles of technology in society. We also explore learning and education; anthropology and philosophy; along with language, writing, and design. We avoid fiction, self-help, and business. We prefer to read books that are distant from the present, and we ignore best sellers. We are a global group of readers, writers, and thinkers who spend a lot of time questioning our world. If that sounds like you, we'd get along.” I mean, it’s hideously elitist-sounding, but if you fancy getting involved with detailed and probably-obsessive debates about the nature of Jungian discourse then this is probably perfect for you.
  • Letter Monster: I signed up to this earlier this week, and now that I come to write it up for Curios am slightly concerned that that was a bad idea. Letter Monster is the website / project of...someone, I think in North America, who promises to write a letter to anyone who leaves them their address and some light information. No idea what the letter will be like, how long it’ll take to arrive, or whether when it does it will be delivered by hand and accompanied by a crazed grin and some uncomfortable touching - on reflection, I am not totally convinced that I should have given my name and address to a stranger on the internet in exchange for the promise of a missive. Maybe wait til I confirm that it’s not led to a murder before signing up to this one, eh?
  • Vein Painting: This is rather beautiful. Left click to ‘seed’ elements, right click on them to ‘paint’ and create a simple black and white picture of what looks like a network of veins along the route you’ve created. This is far harder to describe than it is to understand, I promise - click and have a play.
  • Barm Pet Salon: The Twitter feed of a Japanese pet grooming salon, providing a seemingly-endless parade of photographs of beautifully-coiffed roffs. SUCH GOOD BOYS!
  • Dismoji: A N Other random emoji creator, mashing up various emoji types and design elements to create infinite randomised variations which you can then download and use as you wish. Not the first of these I’ve seen (or indeed featured), but the results are pleasingly weird and occasionally nicely wonky.
  • The Ocean Art Contest Winners 2019: The Ocean Art contest is a photo competition - the latest winners have just been announced, and you can peruse the gallery of winning shots here. Predictably, they’re all amazing, with a startling breadth of style and subject - I’m personally always a sucker for the sharky pictures (I should really have said ‘remora’, shouldn’t I? FFS MATT!), but there are some pleasingly derpy seals in there which also deserve some attention.
  • Tree: Gentle little webtoy in which a tree grows in your browser; by clicking to trim its branches you can influence the shape it takes, effectively turning this into your own personal digital bonsai creation kit. Literally nothing else to it, but it’s nice to leave open in a tab and return to every now again to gently trim and sculpt.
  • Haunted Garage: I don’t really want to tell you too much about this - just explore and see what happens. All I’ll say is that you start by clicking the small door icon on the right of the window when it all loads up - from there, you’re on your own. This is delicious, and very reminiscent of 2005-era internet (in the very best way).
  • Endless Scroll: Finally this week in the miscellania, this is a beautiful little short story presented as a tiny, minimally-interactive 8-bit style game, all about adolescence and memory and forgiveness and memory. Not going to lie, this made me get a bit emo at points (in a good way); I would really love to see more writers explore more with digital media when it comes to storytelling, this sort of thing still feels hugely underexploited. Regardless, this is genuinely lovely - click and read, please.

By Jillian Evelyn

LAST UP IN THIS WEEK’S MIXES, ENJOY THIS BY THE FABULOUSLY-NAMED ‘DUG UP THE BONGO’ WHICH I CAN’T REALLY DESCRIBE BUT WHICH I THINK YOU WILL ENJOY!

THE CIRCUS OF TUMBLRS!:

  • Mystery Flesh Pit: Only one Tumblr this week, but it’s a good one - Mystery Flesh Pit is the website of the now-sadly-shuttered US visitor attraction, the Mystery Flesh Pit National Park, which once welcomed thousands each year to explore its...meaty environs, but now exists only in memory. Of course it never really existed (probably) - instead, “This archive catalogs a series of illustrations and writings by Trevor Roberts, AKA StrangeVehicles. This project started as a worldbuilding exercise originally posted on the r/worldbuilding subreddit on reddit.com, and continues as a for-fun creative outlet that is slowly being fleshed-out (pun intended.). The Mystery Flesh Pit is the name given to a bizarre natural geobiological feature discovered in the permian basin region of west texas in the early 1970s. The pit is characterized as an enormous subterranean organism of indeterminate size and origin embedded deep within the earth, displaying a vast array of highly unusual and often disturbing phenomena within its vast internal anatomy.” This is VERY Scarfolk (again), and very nicely-done.

THE TROUGH OF (INSTA) FEEDS!:

  • Yuko Shimizo: A US-based Japanese artist, Shimizo’s Insta feed is a procession of their illustrations, paintings, sketches and brushwork; I adore their style, which combines elements of traditional calligraphy, 17/18C illustration and anime/manga.
  • Nancy Liang: Australian artist whose feed is packed with small, charming animations of the sort that 20 years ago would have featured on the very fanciest e-cards (this sounds like a cuss, I know, but I promise it’s not meant to be).
  • Sasikumar KSK: As far as I can tell this is just some Indian kid who takes incredible photos of insects (in the main) using nothing but his iPhone camera - you will be embarrassed at how much better he is at using his phone’s camera than you are.

LONG THINGS WHICH ARE LONG!:

  • Clearview: In case you didn’t read it, this is the NYT’s big expose from last weekend all about Clearview, a company which provides facial recognition software and which has amassed a terrifying quantity of data which enables it to offer market-leading face lookup tech to whoever wants it. Where’s all this from? SCRAPED OFF THE WEB!! Yep, turns out that this is another one of those ‘hang on, is that...is that ok? You mean I’ve been here wrestling with this stable door for hours and you mean to tell me that the horse scarpered last week?’ moments - stop worrying about the future becoming a dystopian surveillance nightmare, it’s now a complete inevitability! My bleating hyperbole aside, this is a really good piece of reporting which does a reasonable job of explaining how Clearview got its data and why this is only the beginning of our confused, cack-handed attempts to deal with the consequences of the past two decades of (mostly-)unthinking digital utopianism.
  • The Internet of Beefs: This has been something of a polarising essay this week - it’s a (very) long piece by Venkatesh Rao which sets out his position on the state of internet discourse and concludes that, fundamentally, it’s all about the beef. Rao characterises online debate as being populated by ‘knights’ and ‘mooks’, effectively actors and the audience they perform for engaged in a neverending dance of beef for their own benefit and the diversion of the peanut gallery; it’s an interesting idea which in part feels very true (particularly in light of That Actor’s appearance on Question Time last week and his seeming aim to ride the Morgan/Hopkins hatebandwagon all the way to the bank) but which equally undermines itself through length and flabbiness and the author’s insistence in using terms which feel just a little bit loaded throughout - ‘knights’ has been perceived by some commenters to be a reference to ‘white knights’, basically an anti-SJW term employed by a lot of pricks on the internet, for example. Still, it’s worth reading if you’re any interest in culture and discourse and polarisation and the culture wars (whether or not you believe them to be a thing).
  • The Metaverse: Another long piece of analysis about the videogames industry by Matthew Ball, who in this piece looks at the concept of the ‘metaverse’, specifically as embodied by Fortnite, and what it might mean for the evolution of both the games industry and the wider entertainment business. The term ‘metaverse’ is a bit of an elastic one, but can be effectively said to relate to a persistent online environment which exists as a parallel layer to the physical and which is responsive, interactive, and which interacts and interexists with the physical. Ball’s keen to point out that this isn’t quite what Fortnite is, but he argues that it’s the closest we’ve come to something that embodies the idea of the metaverse from scifi and offers interesting and useful pointers to how we might see virtual worlds developing over the coming few years).
  • The TikTok Politician: Or more accurately the TikTok candidate - Joshua Collins “is a 26-year-old socialist truck driver running to represent Washington state’s 10th district in Congress”, and whose running his campaign largely through the medium of moderately-viral TikTok videos. This is simply the latest in the long line of ‘ooh, look at a relatively young politician using a medium that they are comfortable with to communicate to their peer group!’ pieces (see also: everything ever written about AOC), but it’s interesting to see how he’s combining memery with policy (or at least trying to; I’m not really sure how much deeper than “YAY UNIVERSAL HEALTHCARE, BOO BILLIONAIRES” it gets, but still). Has anyone tried to get Keir Starmer on TikTok, do we know?
  • Who Makes Wikihow’s Art?: If you’ve spent any time at all online in the past 10 years you’ll have stumbled across a Wikihow entry - the website answers EVERY QUESTION IN THE WORLD EVER (seemingly), giving instructions on everything from how to open a car door if you’ve driven into a lake and are rapidly sinking, to unclogging your sinuses using Sriracha (probably), each illustrated in a very particular, slightly-peculiar WTF-ish style. This piece looks at how that style was arrived at and how the pieces are commissioned and created - it’s more interesting than it sounds, promise, although if you’re an artist or illustrator I warn you that the financial elements make for slightly bleak reading.
  • Private Restaurants: Eater looks at the trend for ultra-exclusive, super-prestigious private restaurants in New York, offering exceptional food in intimate surroundings at eye-watering prices. Fascinating, mainly as a portrait of a world I’ll never experience - I actually went to something vaguely like this in London a few years back, at Maus which Nuno Mendes set up as a sort of weird, high-end dining club-type-thing; the food was incredible, the staff lovely and Mr Mendes charming, but, well, the problem with that sort of thing (expensive, pseudo-exclusive) is that it attracts...er...cnuts. Honestly, I met some genuinely dreadful people - SO OLIGARCHY - which rather spoiled the experience for me, and I sort of think all the places herein described would be much the same.
  • The Quest for Screentime 0: The author of this piece describes the steps he took to try and eliminate screens from his life for a limited time, the effect it had on him and whether he thinks it’s a good idea; I feel ok spoiling this by telling you he doesn’t manage it (the failure’s pretty spectacular), but it’s more interesting to read as a counter to the countless ‘screens ruin lives’ pieces. Yes, fine, I accept that our addiction to our phones and the rest is possibly not always positive, but equally there are huge, wonderful benefits to screens and our relationship with them, and the reductive idea that ‘electronic/tech=BAD’ is probably one we ought to have grown out of by now.
  • The Rise of the Dance Influencer: A really interesting piece in the LA Times about the new breed of dancers being recruited by artists and major choreographers on the basis of their virality on Instagram - I hate Insta, obviously, but stuff like this is genuinely wonderful, breaking down barriers and affording opportunities to talented kids who might never have got the chance were it not for the platform offered by social media. It’s obviously not all positive - there are interesting questions about the way in which the creative process (regardless of medium) is impacted by the visibility of all the other work out there (homogeneity of output, etc) - but this is a rare instance of an article about Insta that won’t make you think that it’s the worst thing in human history.
  • Games and Borders: This is a rather lovely piece of writing in which the author reflects on their experience of playing the game Life Is Strange, which features discussions of migration and race and identity, and through so doing examining their own status as a second-generation immigrant to the US and their relationship to their race and history. Writing about the intersection of games and personal identity is fascinating to me; should any of you see any good stuff around this, please do punt it my way.
  • Lizzo: I should have known Lizzo was going to blow up last year - when I featured ‘Juice’ way back in January 2019, my mum wrote me an email telling me how much she liked the song (that NEVER happens, fyi) and we all know that maternal approval is the cast-iron guarantee of global pop superstardom. This is a nice profile of her - candid and vulnerable and not too hagiographic (thought it still is, a bit), and containing the best reference to cunnilingus I’m likely to read in a celebrity profile all year.
  • RevolutionQ: A really interesting look at the QAnon movement, still limping on despite the fact it’s all patently utter fcuking rubbish, and what it tells us about the evolution of the online conspiracy theory - how, once, conspiracy theories were often evidence of a lack of critical thinking whereas now they’re often evidence of too much. There’s something fascinating about the extent to which the increased availability of information and the devaluation of hierarchies of source engendered by the web have led to a situation where anything and everything is potential grist to the truthseeker/conspiracy nut.
  • Always The Same Dream: A superb, acerbic-yet-weirdly-sympathetic portrait of Princess Margaret by Ferdinand Mount in the LRB, responding to Craig Brown’s new biography; I’ve no interest whatsoever in the Royal Family, as a rule, but this is wonderful stuff - gossipy and mean and funny and sad. Some of the anecdotes are wonderful, if not particularly flattering of the Princess - if I can ever elicit a quote of this magnitude from someone, I will die very happy indeed: she was described by Alan Clarke as “fat, ugly, dwarflike, lecherous and revoltingly tastelessly behaved”, which I would personally have on my gravestone.
  • Is Cannabis The Answer To Everything?: No, is the short answer here. This article takes a look at the weed-as-wellness movement, aimed specifically at the sort of late-20s/early-30s young professional woman who scoffs at Goop but secretly covets one of their candles and possibly some of the essential oils - the author is, by her own admission, very much that sort of individual and this is her JOURNEY OF DISCOVERY into the world of weed marketing and sales. I found this INFURIATING, which I get the impression is sort of the point, but fair play to whoever’s able to sell a hand-crafted skinning up plate for £60.
  • The Incredible Adventures of Man-Spider: A comic about a spider who is bitten by a radioactive man and attains superpowers based on human abilities. This is very funny, if a little painfully real.
  • My Instagram: The author describes their relationship with social media and herself and reality, both projected and perceived, and the way Instagram has a gravity that’s inescapable. I think the writing here is superb: “Modern voyeurism has precedents, even the multiple-window kind. The entangled dynamics of who sees whom and who knows they’re being seen have always been present. Where Instagram seems truly new — beyond the introduction of machine learning and commercial surveillance to the mix — is in the strange instability of the viewer’s position as a subject. A voyeur knows what kind of viewer he is, but looking at Instagram, you are not always a voyeur. Neither are you always a witness, nor any other single kind of watcher. Each post interpellates you differently. Your implied identity slips with each stroke of the thumb.”
  • Whatever Happened To?: About writing and womanhood and domestic abuse, and the things that get in the way of creation. This is a hard read at times,but, again, the prose is superb: ”These are points on a line: the rise of potential, then the particularly feminized fall embedded in gentle, hetero domesticity. It’s a wistful blend of longing, regret and admiration. For the story to work the way it always works, the woman has to be better than average. She has to shine. Then she conforms. Then she disappears, fading into the ambient noise of a dishwasher and the washing machine, the TV, lawnmower, barking dog, and family phones. She comes to mark a spot in memory, on a real writer’s path. It’s one of those story structures that’s so pervasive, people harbor and project it onto the arc of a faint career well in advance. There might even be a sort of satisfaction taken in the comfort of assuming this path is inevitable for other people, those women writers who once foolishly set out to have it all.”
  • Birdie: A short story by Lauren Groff, in which a group gather at their dying friend’s bedside to share stories and say goodbye. Excellent on friendship and ageing and letting go, and far less sad than this brief description might make it sound. This is very much one for the sofa and a mug of tea, imho.
  • The Catastrophe: Finally this week, this is so good that I actually stopped to laugh and clap at multiple points throughout. Weirdly reminded me of Vonnegut, stylistically, but has a brilliance all of its own; Amy Leach writes beautiful, funny prose about the planet and nature and us - this is basically a perfect 1800 words if you ask me.

By Vivian Greven

AND NOW, MOVING PICTURES AND SOUNDS!:

  1. This is by Amyl and the Sniffers and it’s called ‘Gacked on Anger’ and I imagine if I was 20 I would be playing this on repeat:

  1. Next, this is the new one from Best Coast which really, reminds me of Beverley Hills by Weezer - if that doesn’t put you off, enjoy! It’s called ‘Everything Has Changed’:

  1. This is by AJJ, it’s called ‘Loudmouth’ and it’s weirdly reminiscent of 2003 and I LOVE IT:

  1. My favourite video of the week, this, partly for the very cool ghosts but mainly for the terrifying CG Zuck. Also, where ARE his hands and why DON’T you ever see them in public? This is called ‘Mark Zuckerberg’ and it’s by The Naps:

  1. ‘Shelby Tell Me Everything’, sings Esme Patterson - this is a lovely piece of slightly wan indiepop, and I found the video charming:

  1. Finally this week, this is by Lala Lala who I was convinced by the vocal was Irish but apparently isn’t - regardless, I absolutely adore this song and her voice. It’s called ‘Legs, Run’ and I hope you like it and OH LOOK AT THAT IT’S THE END OF CURIOS I HAVE TO RUN AND GET WASHED AND DRESSED NOW BUT NOT BEFORE WISHING YOU LUCK AND HAPPINESS AND JOY AND ALL THE GOOD CLEAN FUN YOU COULD HOPE FOR AND MAYBE EVEN SOME DIRTY FUN IF THAT’S MORE YOUR SPEED AND ANYWAY I’LL BE BACK NEXT WEEK BUT TIL THEN TAKE CARE AND REMEMBER THAT I LOVE YOU I LOVE YOU I LOVE YOU TAKE CARE I LOVE YOU BYE!:
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