Comic capers, festival fun, plus lots of info and light

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The Independent Culture
The Beano

Who needs "graphic novels" when we have this? Roger the Dodger, Billy Whizz and Minnie the Minx celebrate DC Thomson's finest achievement at this 60th birthday site. The print version may have lost a certain essential smudginess, but no one is selling out here: the intended readership has followed it loyally into cyberspace, and judging from the home-made birthday cards sent in by e-mail, Dennis the Menace can provoke his eight to 11- year-old fans to feats of artistic genius. Best of the various frolics on offer is the "Tune-tastic Bashophone", with each of the Bash Street Kids singing, groaning or belching a different note when prompted by the cursor. The comic's evolution - along with its stablemate The Dandy - is traced from 1938 to the present day, with an eye on collectability for fanatics: so hold on to those annuals.

New York Times

Rather presciently, the Times last month abandoned its policy of charging overseas readers for access to its site. Since then, Col Gaddafi, MI6 and other interested parties have been able to catch up on the uncensored news without paying the annual $35 (pounds 22) fee previously demanded from non-US visitors to the site. The paper went online over two years ago and stayed splendidly isolationist until this July: very few international readers were willing to pay up for a visit. In common with other major US papers, however, payment is still needed to access most of the archive, where Sarah Lyall's piece on the David Shayler controversy is already available for $2.50. However, a trial offer currently allows it, too, to be fished out for free with the aid of a credit card number.

Festival Revue

Several ambitious-sounding Edinburgh Festival sites were launched over the weekend. The Festival Revue, from Sun, is a multimedia effort also being fed live to giant TV screens in the grounds of Edinburgh Castle. Ticket and venue details will be mixed with performance clips, computer art and music exclusives from Peter Gabriel, Radiohead, U2, Bjork and others. The modest aim is to "revolutionise the public's perception of the Arts", and the site itself will run throughout the year. The BBC's Web coverage includes The Insiders Guide ( and the Comedy Zone ( which offers a video diary, an opportunity to exchange banter with Lee and Herring and others, and searchable listings. The official festival web site offers some limited online booking facilities (


Perhaps feeling a little threatened by the unruly rival reference works sprouting all around it in cyberspace, this relaunched site from Encyclopaedia Britannica evaluates and summarises some 125,000 approved pages and claims to "bring structure, context and a distinctive editorial voice to the Web". That voice is often sceptical, in a tongue-in-cheek sort of way ("When you hear the word digerati, do you reach for your gun?"), but the contributions themselves are absorbing, including "Bookmarks of the Smart and Famous", and a search facility which scans eBlast's own database and AltaVista simultaneously. It is hard to beat this site as a way of exploiting the Web while putting it firmly in its place at the same time - unless they manage to bind it into 32 volumes and flog it door-to-door.


This Berkeley-based art site opens with a quote from Marshall McLuhan - "The electric light escapes attention as a communication medium precisely because it has no `content'." Viewers select particular combinations of lights, and then use them to illuminate various mysterious objects which are hidden within a box. The resulting shadowy, and rather haunting, images are meant to provoke a response from the viewer, either simply identifying the objects or coming up with something a little more poetic. "Like an an inverse camera obscura," the site suggests. Persistence reveals a sixth source of illumination, which then reveals the actual contents of the box - still to the utter bewilderment of this viewer. Is that thing with the holes in it supposed to be a sort of red-coloured cheese grater? No, it's a red herring - the medium here is light itself, and it is very much the message, too.

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