Sunday, 17 September 2023

7x7 (11. 007)

spiral town: AI artistry with geometric patterned medieval villages captivate the internet—via Waxy 

the fabric of civilisation: the fascinating history of sericulture—see previously here and here  

๐Ÿซ : an informal survey reveals men think about Ancient Rome daily, sometimes to the surprise of their partners 

magic screen: a look at the creative crew behind Pee-wee’s Playhouse 

lennon 2499: hunting down the artist’s famous wristwatch—via Nag on the Lake’s Sunday Links (lots more to check out there)  

hal mooney and his orchestra: ballet standards as lounge music  

everyday yลkai: AI generated Japanese folklore figures hiding in plain sight—see previously

Monday, 28 August 2023

spotless (10. 969)

Taking advantage of the extremely rare, possibly singular birth of a female reticulated giraffe with a plain brown coat (the usual pattern is not camouflage but a system for heat regulation), our resident AI wrangler (previously) posed to a range of platforms the question of what is unusual about this particular specimen, identified correctly taxonomically in most cases but failing to recognise what was unique about it—illustrating a few caveats: the trope of illusionary giraffes (see previously here and here), the benchmark of bias and the champions of machine learning have a vested interest in promoting their best work.

Friday, 25 August 2023

proteus effect (10. 963)

Via Web Curios (a lot more to explore in the weekly bulletin), we are directed towards an AI assisted photo editing platform—yes, these are probably a dime-a-dozen and we subject ourselves to a feedback loop of recursive learning and the quandary of creation with such digital personae, indulging a kind of perfection in imperfection and uncanniness, the fidelity degrading over the iterations—but this Human Generator is kind of fun. Like playing with paper dolls, Sims, Miis or Yahoo! Avatars, the application which maps to one’s face if you choose, can be dressed up and altered in a variety of ways with textual and preset inputs to experiment with. Give it a try and share what you come up with—especially if you don’t mind looking a bit thirty and swole, accounting for bias.


one year ago: colour television in West Germany plus assorted links to revisit

two years ago: Rashomon (1950), St Genรจs, the feud between Salieri and Mozart, more links plus how to cut every cheese

three years ago: Voyager I leaves the Solar System (2012), more links to enjoy, more traditional units of measure plus a Number 10 stand-in

four years ago: premier of The Wizard of Oz (1939) 

five years ago: weekly word watches from the OED,  Letters from Iceland (1937) losing one’s marbles, an early attempt at weather control plus a local kite fest

Wednesday, 23 August 2023

teraflop (10. 958)

Via Kottke, we are directed to a rather engrossing exercise by writer Nikita Diakur (winner of the Deutsche Kurzfilmpreis last year) where by trial and error an AI avatar in a virtual environment learns about physics and human anatomy in order to perform a backflip in emulation of vloggers practising the stunt. Some of the contortions look really tortured and there’s an element of body horror to see it glitch and fail but its really fascinating to watch and unpack the process. Acknowledging that as an animator, the artist is in total control of the environment, the simulation afforded a way out of their domain and it is interesting how the computer needs twelve-thousand repetitions, like the human capacity to develop and hone a reflex, to master a move.


one year ago: the Elvis 1968 Come-Back Special plus the European Day of Remembrance of Victims of Nazism and Stalinism

two years ago: your daily demon: Furcas, Vulcanalia, Ashes to Ashes (1980) plus the it of it’s raining, it’s sunny

three years ago: assorted links to revisit, the cult of conspiracy theorists, the beach photography of Harry Gruyaert, Stockholm Syndrome (1973) plus a short by Saul Bass on the nature of creativity

four years ago: another funeral service for a glacier, a classic music mashup plus a refuge for pollinators amid expansive fields

five years ago: NYC’s Trinity Church, customary units plus more links to enjoy

Friday, 18 August 2023

reach out, touch faith (10. 950)

Via the ever-excellent Web Curios, we are directed towards an onslaught of AI applications and burgeoning projects including this “divine connection” in one’s pocket (see also) replete with testimonials and the disclaimer that “this app is a tool for reflection and learning, not a replacement for prayer or personal faith” offering a lifeline to the Great Come-Again Christ. This opportunity is coming as some are calling Jesus’ approach too woke and subversively suspect, and recalls an epilogue from a rather incongruous work seminar that I attended ages ago about “Living in the New Normal” which concluded that rather the inevitability of inventing God that maybe we as a society become worthy and create one, though probably not to be parsed as the canonical one. In addition to Jesus which certainly draws from rubric, premium subscribers can also choose other biblical personalities as interlocutors including members of the Holy Family like Mary or foster-father Joseph, who was admittedly kind of long-suffering save for the bit about siring the royal houses of Europe through Jesus’ half-siblings, and didn’t seem to have a lot of wisdom to dispense outside of carpentry, plus the Apostles including Judas and select figure from the Old Testament ๐Ÿ™


one year ago: St Helen,  a 1922 gliding competition plus a bubble-wrap instrument

two years ago: your daily demon: Forneus, disfluent fonts, culture wars at school board meetings, School House Rock! maths shorts, more phonetic spelling proposals plus Mid-Century Lithuanian illustrators

three years ago: Roman emperors reconstructed with AI, Michelle Obama at the DNC, Women’s Suffrage in the US (1920), a new American Gothic, constructed languages, aesthetic data visualisations plus Hamlet variations

four years ago: canons for spawning fish,  more odonymy, more McMansions, a visual vernacular in architectural element plus the Lost of Colony of Roanoke

five years ago: a mid-70s vision of future space stations, an Icelandic word for a break from the heat, Wikipedia’s gift shop, making frozen treats heat resilient plus an early AI image maker

Thursday, 17 August 2023

9x9 (10. 948)

?: JWST captures an image of a distinct punctuation mark from the emerging Cosmos  

a/v: a history of corporate presentations from slide-shows to Power Point—via Things Magazine  

index librorum prohibitorum: an American school district is using ChapGTP to help it decide which books to ban  

an unacceptable grindset: driven to produce quantity over quality has yielded some high-profile errors in popular YouTube channels  

one on one: legendary interviewer and television presenter Michael Parkinson passes away, aged 88  

emerald and stone: an ethereal track by Brian Eno (previously) visualised with water, soap and paint  

bart: a trove of Kodachrome slides found discarded in San Francisco reveal the construction of the Bay Area Rapid Transit—see also 

einstein’s crosses: astronomers probe the effects of gravitational lensing


one year ago: ABBA’s last collaboration plus assorted links to revisit

two years ago: more links to enjoy, the first animated film (1908), the constant ฯ€ plus terra incognito

three years ago: a tragedy in Australia in 1980, Operation Warp Speed plus the Turkic dotted-i

four years ago: some links worth the revisit plus the Cosmos prior to the Big Bang

five years ago: Animal Farm (1945) plus the complex genes of food crops

Saturday, 12 August 2023

7x7 (10. 939)

glas musterbuch: an unending catalogue of antique glassware 

bob hope presents the chrysler theatre: a star-studded television anthology airing from 1964 to 1967  

ziff-davis: more on CNET’s culling, content-pruning internal memo  

numa numa: Gary Brolsma recreates the viral dance video to the O-Zone song nineteen years later—via Waxy 

if you’re not paying, then you are the product: Zoom’s new terms of service agreement grants it perpetual rights over the contents of your meeting in exchange for turning it into an email with AI  

take two: slant board setting that allowed actors to rest in between shooting without getting out of costume

ti 5100: before the iPhone, calculators were regarded as aspiration personal electronics—see also

Friday, 11 August 2023

content pruning (10. 935)

Via Waxy, we learn that the venerable, global publisher of reviews and news on consumer electronics CNET is culling thousands of older articles in a possibly misguided attempt to improve its SEO rates and game Google search performance. Following developments that the media outlet—like many others—is cutting writing staff and turning increasingly to generative content, CNET believes that it is being penalised in the contemporary web ecosystem by hanging on to dated articles and would better appeal to search-engines by refreshing or deaccessioning “depreciated” stories. Once deemed irrelevant, older content will be no longer live on the site but rather archived and available on the Wayback Machine. Google itself—famously obscure about how the algorithm for optimisation works so one cannot game the results any more than they are by catch-penny operations—recommends against this practise and that of course older articles as a matter of public record have value and any attempts to game a platform that’s just as opaque and inscrutable to its own handlers is probably a losing proposition. Let’s hope that this sort of gamble doesn’t inspire the same from other organisation, putting more pressure on under-supported operations like the Internet Archive or worse yet just jettisoning old stories. We dredge up the old, outdated and cringe-worth on a daily basis and might not be the most relevant or flattering but it’s sometimes an interesting insight into a small part of the Zeitgeist. 


one year ago: C’est Chic plus the FBI searches the private residence of Donald Trump

two years ago: Ghostbusters! plus assorted links to revisit 

three years ago: more links to check out, scales of cosmological magnitude plus the start of the Mayan Long Count Calendar

four years ago: Clair the Obscure, the maps of Dan Mills plus lousy souvenirs from ancient times

five years ago: training birds to pick up litter, Vitis vinifera, the Marquess of Anglesey plus Robert G Ingersoll and the Free-Thinkers


Tuesday, 1 August 2023

7x7 (10. 919)

istj: while gladly gone the way of Harry Potter House in many circles, Chinese placement agencies are obsessing with Myers-Briggs personality types  

hapsburg ai: generative chat programmes trained on derivative synthetic output becomes recursive and untenable—via Kottke  

pittura infamante: the Florentine legal tradition of the rogues’ gallery—via Miss Cellania 

 ๐•: flashing sign with new logo dismantled in San Francisco’s Twitter headquarters after neighbours complain 

:a font family inspired by an Ancient Roman typeface continues a centuries’ long dialogue of the printed word  

watermark: to distinguish generative writing from human, we could possible assign it its own Unicode alphabets—via Language Log  

the belt and road initiative: Italy is vocal with its regrets over signing on to China’s foreign policy push and infrastructure development programme

Friday, 28 July 2023

7x7 (10. 912)

barbieworld: a survey of a thousand advertisements contextualises the box-office phenomenon—see also 

gigo: a fundamental law of computing will ultimately thwart digital dictatorships  

lake berryessa: Dorothea Lange (previously) documented the flooding of a Napa Valley community in the 1950s—via Strange Company 

chamber music: a poorly received Baroque Beatles Book from 1965

i want to do whatever common people people do: a new genre was born in the sixteenth century when Pieter Bruegel began specialising in peasants, merchants and mongers  

word vectors: a bit of demystifying for Large Language Models—via Waxy 

 a census-designated place: explore Oppenheimer’s secret city of Los Alamos

Monday, 24 July 2023

dragnet (10. 904)

Via Slashdot, we learn that artificial intelligence is aiding and abetting US police departments is conducting en masse warrantless monitoring of individuals, equipped with a suite of tools that analyse driving patterns of cars in traffic, normally anonymised by the herd and the sheer volume of surveillance footage the pick up snapshots of single vehicles, to identify (with an questionable degree of accuracy sure inflated to the precincts who buy the software) suspicious patterns—the signature route of a drug dealer, in the case cited, and prising out a guilty plea thanks to this dossier. Beholden only to the caprice of its operators and without judicial oversight or safeguards, every cop becomes an overly zealous Inspector Javert with the Automatic License Plate Recognition (ALPR) technology, which is also used to predict and tag customer experience at drive-thrus and shared as a potential bounty across state lines with jurisdictions that have banned abortions.

Sunday, 23 July 2023

9x9 (10. 901)

effective altruism: FTX lobbyist tried to purchase the island nation of Nauru as a doomsday bunker and create a genetically enhanced human species  

getting drunk at a disco: 1977 found footage of an evening not necessarily going downhill 

this is not a love poem: a round-up of favourites that are not all lovey-dovey—via tmn  

rambler: a collection of illustrated exteriors of California ranch homes—see also

1975: Kuala Lumpur authorities shut down the Good Vibes festival after headliner Matty Healy criticised Malaysia’s anti-LGBTQ+ laws  

point of no return: time is running out on the Climate Clock  

stooping: trend adopted by Chinese young people involves decorating with cast-off furniture left by the curb 

smokey, this is not ‘nam—this is bowling, there are rules: Big Lebowski (previously) inspired bowling alley via Nag on the Lake’s Sunday Links (lots more to explore there) 

typoglycemia: bypassing chatbot’s ethical subroutines using word scrambling and transposed letters

Wednesday, 19 July 2023

walkflatter, wheel glutter, whim driver (10. 894)

Far removed from butcher, baker, candlestick-maker and seeming like a list that could have generated by an AI, we enjoyed perusing this register of job titles declared in the Census of 1881, the a snapshot of every household in the United Kingdom on the night of Sunday, 3 April of that year, the fifth decennial but the first to include details (mostly without context) on members of homes, compiled a few years later in The Companion to the Almanac; or Year-Book of General Information for 1885, sub-chapter The Occupations of the English People. Some of the more unusual professional entries are Sad-iron maker, Butt Woman, Peas Maker, Off-Beater, Dirt Refiner, Blabber and All-Rounder. Respondents of note include Karl Marx, Charles Darwin, Winston Churchill and one William Neal without portfolio as he was considered “too idle.”

Friday, 14 July 2023

doxbin (10. 882)

Via ibฤซdem (plus a lot more worth pursuing), this sort of profile, social summary that analyses one’s tweets and online affiliations generated by GPT might have been more fun and interesting back before the social media platform’s exodus and imminent implosion—and apologies for not being rid of these sharing buttons, it’s some fossilised code that I can’t seem to extract from my Frankenstein of a website without breaking something—but its nonetheless humourous and probably has pretty accurately sized me up and is a nice snapshot of one’s past presence and gift registry. 


Wednesday, 12 July 2023

7x7 (10. 877)

stand and deliver: the internecine factions of the US Democratic Party and the legacy of political triangulation  

divide-and-conquer: Hollywood studios plan to drag out the Writers’ Strike until they’re destitute ground into submission—via Kottke 

rho ophiuchi: for its first year of observations, the JWST team releases an incredible image of the nearest stellar nursery—check out the comments section for an explanation about the telescope’s signature diffraction spikes  

ma’am, this is a wendy’s: chatbots—rather than outsourcing to call-centres—being trialled in fast food drive-thrus and are skilled in the upsell  

xai: Elon Musk launches artificial intelligence platform with aims to understand the true nature of the Universe 

pay-for-play: Albrecht Dรผrer inserted himself at the centre of a commissioned altarpiece in a dispute over his fee—via Damn Interesting  

by the dawn’s early light: plans to build a billion dollar, half-a-kilometre high flagpole in Western Maine—where the Sun’s first light hits the country—has its detractors

Tuesday, 11 July 2023

7x7 (10. 874)

fit for a king: a selection of ersatz castles for sale in the US 

caliology: corvids using anti-bird spikes for nesting material
100ยบ in the shade
: mapping tree shadows 

free agent: labour force of the outsourced talk about the effects of the AI revolution—via Waxy  

ravensbourne: finding the lost rivers of London—see previously  

involuntary memory: the aetiology of earworms 

cheese royal: Burger King in Thailand introduces a menu item composed of twenty slices of American cheese

Monday, 3 July 2023

9x9 (10. 853)

lost animals: a short story by Geoff Manaugh who exorcises haunted houses with mundane equipment  

clippit: discontinued Microsoft Office Assistant resurrected as a ChatGPT add-on—see previously  

space10: IKEA reimagines a line of flatware encouraging the use of abundant, locally sourced materials—see also 

all-domain anomaly resolution office: newspapers of record passed on the bombshell story of US government programme to reverse-engineer captured extraterrestrial technology—via Slashdot 

i do not want my name to be a thing: John Hancock explains his outsized signature on the Declaration of Independence—see also 

duty to bargain: Google joins Meta in pulling its headline aggregators from Canada over the so called “link tax” 

not to put too fine a point on it: the origins of a selection of hackneyed idioms 

the ganzfeld procedure: a cheap, easy and effective sensory-deprivation technique

short fiction: six-word sci-fi prompts

Monday, 26 June 2023

8x8 (10. 836)

vers une architecture: architects on the centenary of Le Corbusier  

mall city: the 1983 NYU ethnograph of the culture—via Open Culture 

bladerunner 1929: with the help of AI, a trailer of the film in the style of Frtiz Lang’s Metropolis 

single fare zone: riotous 1960s Milwaukee metro passes 

for all intensive purposes: more eggcorns (previously) in English speech—featuring the linguist who coined the term 

push any key to begin: a brief history of splash screens and boot-up messages  

misinformation ouroboros: AI is ravaging the guardians of the Old Web and hindering innovation  

wonderful, wonderful copenhagen: the Danish city doubles as the seat of the UNESCO World Capital of Architecture 



one year ago: the Soviet calendar plus merfolk cosplay

two years ago: a twisting tower in Arles plus historic over the counter heroine as an alternative to opium (1896)

three years ago: assorted links to revisit, the first UPC barcode (1974) plus a rallying song from The Chicks

four years ago: Obergefell v Hodges (2015), assorted links to revisit,  a history of the mouse cursor, the Prosecco Hills content for UNESCO recognition, American military to return to Iceland plus the archaeology of Woodstock

five years ago: Kennedy visits Berlin (1963),  an ominous warning about artificial intelligence, assorted links to revisit plus the cathedral of Peter and Paul of Bristol

Friday, 23 June 2023

8x8 (10. 828)

never change: a gallery of US high school annuals from the 70s and 80s—via Web Curios 

oceangate: executive piloting the submersible tourist vessel on its fateful descent has a familial connect to those who went down with the Titanic—more here  

mechanical turk: many of the human tasked to train AI are recursively outsourcing their work to AIs—see more, see also

reform club: the advent and eventual demise of Bellamy’s Refreshment Rooms that catered to Parliament’s schedule—see also—via Strange Company  

rocket lab: a visit to Norton Space Props, a junkyard full of salvage and surplus items from the Space Race 

scene together: the 70s craze of his and hers matching fashions—via Damn Interesting’s Curated Links  

atoms for peace: a tour of the nuclear-powered cruise ship, the NS Savanna—see previously  

katakana: the vintage signage of shops and restaurants in Japan captured as digital fonts—also via Web Curios


one year ago: My Sharona (1979), Logan’s Run (1976) plus the Sterling Area (1931)

two years ago: sustenance from CO2 plus St John’s Eve

three years ago: assorted links to revisit, satisdiction plus another most favoured word, acnestis

Tuesday, 20 June 2023

reward hacking (10. 823)

A step below paraphrasing, we are introduced to the term and practise of rogeting—that is, the methods that catch-penny academia uses to spin articles and lure researchers and advertisers to pay-walled content with the promise of good sources, only to be sorely disappointed in the obvious spamdexing. Select tortured phrases, usually ones for no other tenable substitute exists, would be systematically replaced with some stock synonyms though would evade simple plagiarism-detectors posing as original content. Large language models and generative chat pose the possibility of saturating the internet with such content, making the screening process even more fraught and maybe less transparently fake, presenting a perfect example of Goodhart’s Law, in its corollary: risk models collapse on themselves when used for regulation or policing, or that in the gauge of citation impact, that when a feature becomes an indicator, its liable to be gamed.