Network: Websites - Jihads, poltergeists and how to avoid ageing
Monday 31 August 1998
For some unsettling insights into recent events, try this site for Azzam, a "jihad-oriented publishing company". The aim is to make available relevant texts in English, and to "incite the believers", either into making donations or, preferably, setting off to defend Islam abroad. Documents include a lengthy and influential tirade from Osama bin Ladenl. Within the same, seemingly unproblematic spectrum, there are accounts and photographs of attacks by mujaheddin against Russian troops in Chechnya and Afghanistan and of the deaths of volunteers fighting for the Bosnian Muslims against the Serbs. Books and tapes are on sale, celebrating various martyrs, and there's lots of interesting, though contentious, text on jihad as a religious obligation. The company emphasises it does not support "terrorist acts against innocent citizens".
Borley Rectory - the most haunted house in England
These intriguing pages teem with ghosts, poltergeists and phantoms but are also about a search for roots. Ipswich-born, Utah-based Vincent O'Neil's account of a notorious haunted house in Suffolk also involves discoveries about his own adoption and the colourful past of his foster-mother. Trouble at the Rectory - including an inexplicable flying brick photographed by Life magazine in 1948 - seems to have been caused by a medieval nun walled up nearby for an adulterous liaison. When O'Neil's mum stayed there in the Thirties, she witnessed hundreds of putatively paranormal goings-on, though she herself seems not to have been convinced. Much of the ectoplasm is commercial-grade: there are ghost tours, and chapter-by-chapter links to O'Neil's books which, once the reader is hooked, finish - with the URLs of subsequent instalments available at $10 each. An audio clip of Mother's favourite movie is also included - Psycho, inevitably.
The Museum of Science & Industry in Manchester
Appropriately, this site is both high-tech and very busy. VRML, QTVR, video-streaming and hi-fi sound are all present and correct, and include some startling stereo sound effects, an animated demo of how an aeroplane flies, and film clips of astronauts. The presentation is slick, but perhaps more endearing are online versions of old-fashioned, low-tech thrills. Here's one of those games where you pass a loop along a wire without making contact and setting off a buzzer (trickier than remembered from school fetes). Somewhat overdone - with ethereally floating links and "distressed" old-8mm-movie scratches - the site also includes a stroll through a 19th- century sewer which bears a vague resemblance to a labyrinthine Windows screensaver. The museum version of this includes realistic sounds and smells - the latter, fortunately, still beyond the reach of the most ambitious Web designer.
Aging! Aging! Aging!
This may seem like a misspelt triple cry of despair, but the title page shows a cheerful chap morphing gracefully through 40 years or so, and emerging in old age wrinklier but without visible distress. Other images are definitely haunting, though, as the years accrete in a few seconds. The site addresses the inevitability - or otherwise - of "senescence". Is it all about accumulated DNA damage, or are we programmed to self-destruct? And should we interfere? Silly question: the site looks at the prospects on offer, from antioxidant boosting to obscure genetic mutations in worms, and sounds a note of optimism. "Human knowledge is increasing at an exponential rate. By this logic, some scientists believe the human life span could be increased to between 400 and 1,000 years within the next 20 years." Keep eating those vitamins.
Pure Spam - Let's Fight It
Lovely spam, wonderful spam, sang the Pythons, but times and attitudes have changed. Programs linked here seethe with murderous intent: Spam Slammer, Killer, Chomper, Buster, Hater, Exterminator... This site outlines most of the available, inadequate remedies, including obvious advice on how to add a spoiler to your address when posting to newsgroups, and how to complain to the spammer's ISP. Intriguingly, 7.04 per cent of respondents went against the grain and claimed to "love" being spammed. Who are these people and why?
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