Pretty much from the start people saw the Web as the Wunderkammer that it is, an (impossibly) large room chock-a-block with objects designed to delight, horrify, inform, pander, edify, entertain . . . . Surfing is wandering through this room and fingering the exhibits. Of course, the rational, utilitarian impulse was there at the same time, and is captained now, perhaps, by Google, which asks you to know what you want before you go there, making the web helpfully instrumental, rather than an end in itself.
But even so we tend to keep “useless” corners of the web as surprises. These corners often are websites that present themselves as interesting collections; Wunderwinkeln we might call them (because I like that German word for corner). I thought that today I’d share a few of the sites that are currently interesting or pleasing to me because of the variety they offer. I’m sure most of you have your own Wunderwinkeln, so please feel free to share them via the comments.
- Let me get useful out of the way to start with — and besides it’s mostly about gadgets, which transcends the category of utility. The Wirecutter purports to single out the best brand and model of a product. So if you want to know who makes the best LED lightbulb, the best cheap camera, the best condom, or the best air conditioner, have a look at what they recommend.
- Daily Idioms, Annotated is quite strange, which is why I like it. The author is a material science prof who feeds you phrases she’s come across that strike her as incongruous or puzzling, linking each to their source so that you can see the meaning from the context. That’s it: just a list of hyperlinked words and phrases: academic fencing, lie box, glitter path, metapixel, remote reignition, ethnoburb. As Prof. Chachra says, “We spend most of our working lives near the center, but most of the Daily Idioms are about dropping people out at the weird fringes.”
- If movies and video are your thing, check out Network Awesome. They filter the good stuff from YouTube and other sources, and package it up in curated bundles each day. Yesterday’s offerings, for example, were described by the curator as “Video art, avant-garde theatre, and a one-two punch of camp.”
- Let’s not forget window shopping as a form of surfing. Here there’s a rich field, but I find that Svpply provides me with a nicely varied diet of things that other people want to buy. $70 Russian watch, anyone?
- Less expensive is information — but often just as pleasingly unnecessary. The Morning News sprinkles mildly peculiar hyperlinked headlines onto my day twice a day, morning and afternoon. The housing market is turning around. Romney told business owners to tell employees whom to vote for. Aphex Twin brings his remote controlled orchestra to London. Korea’s writing system wins World Alphabet Olympics. You get the idea.
- And finally kottke.org, one of the manifestations of Jason Kottke, who, among other things, has been blogging at that address “for 14.5998 years.” He proffers a few gems every day drawn from all quarters (ok: there could only be four) of the web. Thus, e.g.: video of a guy doing a cannonball into a frozen pool; a piece on horseshoe pitching; the 25 richest people of all time…