Technofile

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The Independent Culture
FAR OUT OF AFRICA

One of the most resonant themes in black history is that of Afrocentrism, which has given rise to a host of claims for the sophistication of African civilisations and their influence on the rest of the world. At the extremes, these disappear into a twilight zone of paranormal powers and ancient Egyptian flying machines, but inside the fringe is a serious debate about European accounts of African history. Much of the controversy has revolved around the books of Martin Bernal, who has argued that Western scholars have failed to acknowledge a major Egyptian contribution to Greek civilisation. Discussions arising from his most recent book, Stolen Legacy, form the basis of a site which shows that Afrocentric debates don't have to be eccentric.

OUAGADOUGOU FC

This is a change from John Humphrys and Chris Evans. You're listening to the Joy FM breakfast show from Accra, Ghana; or you can be if you've downloaded your Real Audio software. An American r'n'b track, a traffic accident with "several fatalities" reported, a jingle for Calpol baby medicine, an ad for Ghana dot com Internet services. Then it's over to Kofi in Ouagadougou for an update on the fortunes of Ghana's Black Stars in the African Cup of Nations football tournament, aka Burkina '98. When you tire of the live audio, you can jump to the official African Cup of Nations website in Burkina Faso (the contest goes on until the end of the month). There are moments when you can tell it's Africa, but on your screen it could be anywhere.

WIG HISTORY

Amid all the role models and historical achievements on display for Black History Month, the AFRO site's feature on hair and skin strikes a downbeat note. Reproducing cartoons and advertisements from the parent newspaper's 1930s archives, it gloomily implies that attitudes haven't changed. While the ads now promote mellow-sounding "relaxers" instead of "straighteners", the piece suggests that African-American women still feel themselves gripped by a "hair crisis" imposed by European models of attractiveness. "Beauty salons now outnumber churches in our communities," it observes ruefully.

LONDON FIELDS

Now available in screen-size slices, a document from a time when modern communications meant canals: the 1827 Greenwood Map of London.

THE SINCEREST FORM OF DRUDGERY

Web pages are a gift to a parodist. All you have to do is download your target's page, and leave the style tags while changing the content. Humorist Matt Neuman's version of the controversial online newsletter, Drudge Report, where the world first heard of La Lewinsky, makes merry with the cranky, obsessive look and feel of Matt Drudge's original. Regrettably many of the links are dummies, including those to "Lincoln Bedrm Cam" and Ted Kaczynski. There's actually a certain amount of overlap in content, but whereas Drudge labels his links to tabloids properly, when I clicked on Neuman's Le Monde, I was taken to Weekly World News. Then my screen froze. How I laughed!

CROSS WIRES

Does Wired's cocktail of aggressive glibness and global capitalist propaganda get up your nose? Acting on the Wired article of faith that the answers to all problems lies in computer technology, Technofile has found a solution:

Call up Alta Vista's translation page.

Type in a facile Wired pronouncement, such as: "In this economy, our ability to create wealth is not bound by physical limits, but by our ability to come up with new ideas - in other words, it's unlimited."

Select, say, English to German. Then translate the translation back into English. In an Augenblick, it comes back as: "In this economics our ability to create abundance not by physical delimitations, but by our ability, with new ideas to come above branched - that is, is unlimited it."

There! More amusing than the original, and no less meaningful. Also available in French, Spanish, Italian and Portuguese.

WORLD WIDE WEB

LINKS TO ALL THE WEBSITES MENTIONED IN TECHNOFILE CAN BE FOUND ON ITS HOMEPAGES AT: http://www.poptel.org.uk/technofile

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