Network: Web Sites: Celebration of a band still standing

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The Independent Culture
Musical prankster sampling

http://www.negativland.com

The reassuring aroma of home cooking wafts from the title page, with its apple pies, scones, pancakes and general air of domesticity. However, we are not baking, but sampling. Among the crusty loaves lurk musical and conceptual pranksters Negativland, whose career has been a series of well-publicised stand-offs with the music industry over copyright and "fair use" issues. The band emerges victorious from the most recent tiff, with US record companies giving more freedom to CD pressing plants to discriminate between creative sampling and plain piracy. Details, too, of Negativland's latest album, described as "40 minutes of instrumental junk noise music". Other thrills include Pastor Dick's Jukebox, which serves up scrambled and stuttering mixes of works by Dylan and Olivia Newton John.

Internet detective

http://sosig.ac.uk/desire/ internet-detective.html

This inline tutorial offers a stage-by-stage evaluation of "content, form and process" in a Web site, and is aimed both at users and creators of Web pages. The methodical, sometimes obvious approach usefully opens up the intuitive assessments we apply when arriving at a URL for the first time. The detective inhabits the Institute for Learning and Research Technology at the University of Bristol. Meanwhile, at the less-well-known Fork University (Fork U for short), a more radical solution for displeasing sites is offered, at . A Fork-O-Gram may be e-mailed to the owner of a below-par site, with added specific complaints about broken links, malfunctioning applets and general tackiness. This rather direct and pictorially violent critique is intended to improve standards across the Web, and reduce the occurrence of what it calls "unhappy eyeballs".

Patent Place

http://www.patentplace.com

An interactive online soap opera, offering a brightly coloured Shockwave- fest of cut-throat office politics and debates around biotechnology. Animated participants include Di Agnostic ("clever, ambitious and never misses a shot in the gender war"), Paul E Clone, Gene Ome and others. Any further lack of subtlety may be blamed on us, the viewers, since the plot is constructed on a weekly basis by visitors to the site. Dialogue for each character can be mailed in using a form with a cheerfully reductive emotional range of five expressions (anxious, angry, explaining, happy or upset). Submissions are then vetted by web designers KMP, whose calling- card this is, before being added as the next episode. As well as the usual plea for sponsorship, the site invites movie-style product placement and set decor options, for brand name promotion within the drama. The minuscule text on the title page is, however, in need of a good fork.

Rock'em Sock'em Robots

http://www.feist.com/jensen/ decorations/Game/sockem.html

Cathartic for some, regressive for most, more Shockwaved fun featuring two distinctly retro robots fighting it out on screen. Two players can crowd one keyboard and instruct the rather endearing little tin men in a limited range of fighting strategies. Injuries seem restricted to temporary decapitation. This one is from the toybox.

The Household Cyclopaedia

http://members.xoom.com/ mspong/

A Complete And Practical Library in All The Useful and Domestic Arts, printed in Philadelphia but picked up more than 100 later for $10 in a Sydney market, and now lovingly reassembled on the Net. Webmeister Matthew Spong has spent months painstakingly feeding it to his scanner and the result is a sort of 19th-century portal to all knowledge. An alphabetical index will lead to An Instrument for Writing Two Letters at Once; details on Making Artificial Red Coral Branches for the Embellishment of Grottoes; an Elixir To Remedy the Effects of Dram Drinking; How to Cure Hog Cholera, and, if you are very lucky, how to remedy the bite of a mad dog (using turpentine). A sometimes too vivid account of the vicissitudes of existence in 1881, with recipes and innocuous household tips paling beside the matter- of-fact horror of the amputation section.

Send interesting, quirky or even, at a pinch, cool site recommendations to websites@dircon.co.uk

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