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Volume 368

One month in the bag – time for a holiday. Better yet, a free one. For a year. This is not a drill. This week’s coolsh*t has that opportunity of a lifetime, plus some medicinal memes, a welcome wall, and a portal to the Metaverse.

Free Holiday?

The words ‘free holiday’ are like a siren song, so hopefully that got your attention. But, like a siren song, this also comes with a bit of a catch. Fortunately, it doesn’t involve sending a schooner crashing into some nearby rocky coastline. Although it does involve some organised fun, which in my books is twice as bad. But not everyone is a misanthropic curmudgeon embittered beyond their years, so this could be an unreal deal for somebody more inclined to ‘join in’ and ‘have a go’. Airbnb are offering one lucky person the opportunity to live rent-free for a year inside a designer Italian heritage home in Italy. The home is in the town of Sambuca, which has been suffering from population decline and is as such keen to attract tourists, particularly younger ones. That’s where the catch comes in – the winning candidate will be expected to fulfil some hosting duties and to join in with village life. Saying that, it’s still a pretty sweet deal. Although including ‘demonstrating a commitment to Sambuca’ as a necessary qualification on a job ad seems like a risky strategy.

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Don't Fret.

Having had guitar lessons for about 7 years and barely managing to master ‘Wonderwall’, this is a bit of a kick in the teeth. If you’re not familiar, Steve Vai is one of the most iconic guitarists and composers in recent history. He’s so good, in fact, that playing just the one guitar became far too pedestrian, so he built this 3-headed monstrosity. And it is something else. Literally, it really is something else, because it didn’t exist before. It features a top neck 12 strings – half fretless, a middle 7-string neck, a bottom that’s a half fretless bass, a 13-string harp, a Seducer, a Dragonizer, a Climax Regulator, an ethernet 4-way output, and a sh*t load of switches, controls, and gauges. I’m pretty sure they’re just making terms up at this point. What the hell is a ‘Dragonizer’? I’m even more confused by the ‘Seducer’. Although I imagine that’s just how Steve refers to himself when he’s playing this bad boy.

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Polar Pad.

Check out this bunch of reprobates. When he travelled to photograph Russia’s remote Kolyuchin Island, Dmitry Koch stumbled across some squatters holed up in a local weather station. Not your typical squatters, mind, but a gang of polar bears. And they really do look like they’re having a wonderful time. Maybe the polar ice caps melting won’t be such a big deal if we can just find a few more abandoned weather stations. The photo essay has blown up over the last week, with the image of the bear resting his arms on a windowsill even being and awarded first place in the ‘Urban Jungle’ category in a National Geographic competition. Although I do think the relaxing, elevator music in the video slightly belies the true nature of a polar bear. Sure, they look all cute and cuddly while they’re curled up in their cosy Russian crib, but throw a seal into the mix and expect shit to get very real very fast.

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What Next?

This is cruel. Just as grandmothers all around the world have begun to work out how to Facetime, this hologram in a box thing comes along to send them straight back to the drawing board. No, nan, you’re not coming out the cupboard until you film a TikTok! Los Angeles start-up PORTL, as suggested by the name, offers a window to the metaverse, enabling people to show up all around the world as their 3-dimensional selves. Well, just so long as everyone else also has a PORTL – which is kind of the idea, as David Nussbaum, the founder, claims he envisions a PORTL in every household. Yeah, I bet you do, fella. Prices start at 2 grand, though, so something tells me there could be at least the odd household who might prioritise, you know, food, or something. The main issue, though, is that the PORTL looks far too much like one of those McDonald’s menu boards, so it will take quite some time to get over the disappointment of it not being able to furnish you with a Big Mac.

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Serious Case of the Memes.

Previous generations had the likes of Lenny Bruce, Richard Pryor, George Carlin, Morecambe & Wise, Robin Williams, Eddie Murphy, Chris Rock – the list goes on. Now, we get most of our laughs from meme pages with names like ‘Shit Head Steve’ reposting content created by 15-year-olds. Naturally, there are still great comedians, but most can barely sneeze now without being cancelled. That’s why memes are safer. Saying that, perhaps they aren’t so safe after all, as the first ever Meme Hospital has just opened in London. Upon entering the Memeplex – a 12-artist group exhibition at Seventeen Gallery – you will find yourself in an operating theatre with a nurse explaining that you’ve just woken up from a medical procedure and meme-mites – self-replicating entities that feed off the human brain – have been implanted into your cerebral cortex. The exhibition then takes the form of a choose-your-own-adventure, with visitors becoming active participants across a series of mind-altering scenarios. All sounds a bit Dungeon & Dragons, but apparently it is actually worth seeing. I would say fun for the whole family, but you don’t want to spend 45 minutes explaining to your older relatives what a meme is.

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Build That Wall.

The sentiment behind building walls has been slightly spoiled by a certain fuzzy-headed wotsit who may or may not become a two-time President of the United States in a couple years’ time. Nice one, America. Granted, the options aren’t great. Christ, Jake Paul really is going to be president in about 10 years, isn’t he? Pushing those muddy connotations to the side, not all walls need to be quite so divisive. Africa’s Great Green Wall is one such example of that. The project was first dreamt up in the 1970s when the once fertile Sahel region suffered severe drought, but it first became a reality in 2007 when 11 African leaders signed up to the ‘Great Green Wall’ initiative with plans to grow an 8,000 km corridor of trees across the width of the continent—from Senegal to Djibouti. 15 years later, 21 countries have now joined and around 18% of the wall is already complete – more than 12 million trees have been planted in Senegal and 15 million hectares of land have been restored in Ethiopia. Once complete, the great green wall will be the largest living structure on earth, three times the size of the Great Barrier Reef. Very ambitious indeed. So crazy that it might just work?

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