Network: Websites

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The Independent Culture

Launched by a horde of red-suited demons emerging from the sulphurous depths of the Underground, this is the ultimate site for complaining commuters. "You are not a sardine, you are a human being" is the slogan, as oppressed users complain to each other about Northern line escalators and signalling at Edgware Road. There are also a Commuter Happiness Index, a Mind The Gap animated game, and some useful news and travel information. The site claims to be non-partisan, but challenges John "Two Jags" Prescott to use the Tube for four consecutive days in exchange for a charity donation, and also enlists the the Deputy PM in a fiendish bit of Shockwave involving fierce animated rodents. Those registering are promised daily alerts customised for their specific commute, and a prize draw offers an alternative form of transport - a chauffeured red Bentley for a week. But will the official London Transport site ( offer a link?

Grimm's Fairy Tales


The relentless banner ads rather spoil the effect of this enchanted forest, but the 12 favourite tales from the Bros Grimm are allowed to speak for themselves (sometimes in Real Audio) in unbowldlerised and unChristmassy terms. Here are Cinders' wicked sisters having their eyes pecked out by pigeons, and Snow White's stepmum made to dance to her death in red- hot shoes. Based on a 1914 translation without accretions and expurgations, the site also includes a biography - the Grimms, we learn, saw themselves as culture-preservers rather than tellers of tales - and lots of other context. Kids get the chance to print out mobiles and popsicle-stick puppets; older ones are challenged to retell an obscure Grimm's tale, "The Star Money", for 21st-century readers.

The Visible Mars Bar Project

Those disappointed with the latest Nasa cock-up may still obtain guaranteed close-ups of the surface and interior of Mars at this site. Taking its cue from the Visible Human Project, this confectionery version examines cross-sections of typical Mars bars to determine the crucial differences between British and American varieties. The caramel and nougat of the UK edition win praise; the "nasty" centre of its almond-endowed American cousin gets the thumbs down. One specimen seems to be past its sell- by date but does not appear to display any signs of life, to the disappointment of scientists. This is a long-standing jape from some Southampton University students, whose site, with the surely self-explanatory title of Temple ov Thee Lemur, also features the inevitable "Blair Beer Project".

Crowded Theater

A more convincing mockumentary is on show here, the cause of minor controversy last week in the US. This purports to be a Times Square military takeover briefing video, including brusque, sinister instructions for moving in on the 42nd Street millennium celebrations as part of a co-ordinated global coup. The implied audience of paramilitary goons-in-training is urged to win over sympathisers by appeals to racism in the crowd. The page-creator intends a satire on the use of racial hatred to manipulate people, and calls it a "wake-up call"; woken up instead were the FBI, who tried to close down the page illegally. The full saga and related links are now running again after a brief hiatus.

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