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Volume 400

Coolsh*t 400. Look at us, eh? Who’d have thought? We’re marking this momentous occasion by sticking with the exact same format that worked for the previous 399. We’ve got cosmic creepy crawlies, lunar lunacy, and a benevolent (former) billionaire. Plus, a special edition of the podcast that is actually a special edition.

Dark Side of the Moon.

I don’t know much about Dubai, but I’m fairly sure I like what’s going on there. I’d heard it was arid, but it doesn’t look too bad at all. That doesn’t really work written down. However, considering the place was little more than a barren, nigh-on uninhabitable desert about 50 years ago, it now provides potentially one of the best examples of humanity’s mastery over the natural world. And yes, I’m quite aware that’s a slightly rose-tinted, redacted version of how it has become such. But you’ve got to break a few eggs if you want to make a paradise for influencers littered with 7-star hotels, indoor rollercoasters and overpriced Saltbae restaurants. The latest addition to that line-up: a 735-foot high $5 billion moon-shaped destination resort. Why? Because they can. And because why the hell not?

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Webb's Spider.

I didn’t think this was worth including until it occurred to me that the Webb Telescope has managed to capture an image of a cluster of stars that resembles a spider, but then, as a logophile, such syntactical serendipity simply could not be ignored. However, I will explain the reasoning behind my initial hesitancy. I don’t see it. At all. Maybe I’m missing something – imagination, perhaps – but I’m really struggling to see this cosmic tarantula. It is genuinely now known as the ‘Tarantula Nebula’ by NASA, so I can only assume I am indeed the problem. My scepticism aside, this is the first time that it has been possible to see this nebula, as previous telescopes weren’t powerful enough to penetrate its shroud of cosmic dust. Which is great and all, but it would be an awful lot better if it looked anything like a spider. This is a level of deception from NASA that even Wernher Von Braun would be proud of. Some things never change.

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Ghoul Shit.

It’s becoming harder and harder to write coolsh*t without succumbing to the urge to bang on about AI at least once. This week was no different – but, on this occasion, that urge wasn’t borne of a desire to bore or a proclivity to prattle, but was motivated purely by magnanimity, because you need to be warned about Loab. That’s the name of this nice lady who keeps appearing in AI-generated artworks. Nobody knows where she came from or what she wants, but she’s everywhere – and supposedly haunts every image she touches. I know that sounds absurd and Game of Thronesy, but everything has felt rather Game of Thronesy this week, so who’s to say what absurd really means at the minute?

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Lichen the Look of This.

It’s not easy to reconcile oneself with the idea that each of us are doing our own little bit to destroy the biosphere. Admittedly, it becomes slightly easier when you learn that over 70% of emissions are produced by 100 companies and that erroneously putting soft plastic in the recycling or flicking a fag at a seagull won’t make much difference on a global scale. But still, we all ought to at least pretend to make an effort. One way you can do that: eat some scary-looking ersatz spaghetti that comes packaged in algae. Introducing NakedPak, which has nothing to do with Jada Pinkett-Smith’s search history. Naama Nicotra uses natural edible materials with agar, the essential ingredient produced from algae, to create dissolvable food packaging. Spices and sauces can also be incorporated into the NakedPak natural material, producing flavoured packaging that dissolves. So, unless I’m mistaken, that means you can plop a tubular monstrosity slightly resembling a stick of uranium into boiling water, and voila, dinner’s served. Eat your heart out, HelloFresh.

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Like a Boss.

Brand activism often rings insincere. Isn’t it a funny coincidence that a recent (ish) increase in youth activism has coincided with a notable increase in performative corporate woke-washing? Therein lies the problem: there is a perception that many brands don’t actually give a shit about the causes they “support” and are just appearing to do so in order to curry favour with prospective consumers. And worse, they’re doing so in a tokenistic manner that doesn’t make any substantive difference – like, for example, changing an Instagram logo to a rainbow flag (something BMW did for all of their territories except Saudi Arabia, also coincidentally…). However, Patagonia are one company that could never be accused of failing to put their money where their mouth us. Their environmental causes have always been woven into their values and business practices, arguably coming lexically prior to commercial considerations. Now, they’re going one further. Founder Yvon Chouinard has decided to give away – not sell – the company. It will continue to function in largely the same way, except it will now invest all profits not required for the maintenance of the business into protecting the environment – an amount estimated to be around $100m per year. If more brands were to follow suit, perhaps we wouldn’t have to eat insects wrapped in algae. One can only dream.

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Making Swims.

Two feel-good stories back-to-back that leave no room for sarcy comments? It’s almost as if the final two stories were proposed on the podcast and I was given no choice but to include them both and omit a 27-acre James Bond-themed corn maze, condemning the title ‘Amazing Maize of Maze’ to rot upon the scrapheap of human history. With that being said, I can at least understand why the representation of ethnic minorities could be considered of greater importance than a quite big maze. The trailer for the new live action ‘The Little Mermaid’ came out this week, featuring Halle Bailey in the titular role. One consequence of this: a load of old Keiths on the internet moaning about a black actress playing what had previously been a white character. But in response to the Keiths, parents of young black girls are posting videos across social media of their children’s reactions to seeing Halle Bailey as Ariel. And they are DEFINITELY NOT set up. But even if they are, it’s still good to see people sticking it to the Keiths – because anyone who genuinely gives a shit about the ethnicity of a fictional mermaid ought to consider reassessing their priorities.

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The Coolsh*t Podcast - Ep. 23.

Six people on the pod. SIX. That’s almost half a dozen. Listen to us discuss some worthy topics for this quadricentennial special (as well as some, apparently, less worthy ones).

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