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The Distorted Barblie


"Barblie" rather than Barbie, following a legal approach from the doll's manufacturers, whose attempts to retain control of their product in the footsteps of Mickey Mouse, Oasis and the Teletubbies seems guaranteed to secure worldwide notoriety for this playful New York Web artist. The "uncensored" version of the site is busily replicating itself around the Web, to stay one jump ahead of the lawyers, a "meme" endlessly reproduced by what its creator insists on calling "digital mitosis". Try http://www.distrito.com/usuarios/ photog/barbie/ for one such mirror site. The object of all this attention is a series of slightly sick morphings of the polyvinylchloride figure into Possessed Barbie, Fat and Ugly Barbie, Dolly Parton Barbie, etc, plus some general meditations on the rather overused icon. By now it's hard to see how (as is claimed) the average American girl could own seven of the dolls, except as ironic artifacts or investment opportunities.

Summerhill School



A still-controversial institution, but a rather prosaic Web presence, adorned only by a monochrome shot of the ivy-clad premises in Leiston, Suffolk. No mention of the current crisis over academic standards, but interesting background on founder A S Neill, the son of a severe Scottish "dominie", who nevertheless set up a school where self-government and emotional growth were blatantly valued above exam results. Seventy-six years on, the school Tribunal (to which teachers are also answerable) and the entirely optional nature of classes, still seem radical. The pupil- created rules and regs, though, have an inescapable tweeness: "No graffiti, except on the special wall where graffiti is allowed" - and no pudding for those not up and dressed by 9.20am.

The Big Idea: National Libraries Week


The winning entry in a Web design competition for kids, this simple, emphatic, Day-glo site was the inspiration of a 13-year-old, Charlotte Bingham, of Kingston-upon-Thames. Space here for children to post their own book reviews, with little twitchy star ratings, interesting facts (longest overdue period on a library book: 288 years) and a doorbell that chimes endearingly when linking back to the homepage. Libraries Week is this week, but the organisers (the National Library Association with backing from Microsoft and Hodder) are hoping her site might have a longer life as default homepage for the children's section of the nationwide library linkup due by 2002. The overall postbag, they say, also suggests girls may be better at Web design than boys.

Appraising Microsoft


Not just another anti-Microsoft page, this is the official schedule for next week's Washington conference as organised/provoked by veteran consumer advocate and former White House contender, Ralph Nader. The aim is to stir up support for antitrust actions against the company. Along with Nader himself, speakers will include lawyer Gary Reback (supposedly Bill Gates's bete noire), John Perry Barlow of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, as well as competitors Sun Microsystems and Netscape. On site here are the invitations sent to Vice-president Al Gore and to Gates himself - no response as yet. A link too to Nader's article on the subject, as posted with impeccable impartiality in the current issue of Slate.

The Home Page of Madame Guillotine


"Me and my cat" is the generic put-down for the average, first-attempt homepage. But although Eija-Riitta Eklof, of Liden in northern Sweden, admits to a love of cats, the pictures here illustrate her first obsession - "Me and my guillotine" . Eklof owns two examples of this equipment - the Guillotine Fressie and the Guillotine de Horizon - and lists them ahead of her feline friends in her unusual family hierachy. In fact, she became engaged to Fressie last Christmas, and here they are cuddling in the lounge, along with a theoretical justication: "I am objectm-sexual that is to be sexually and emotionally attracted to objects, in my case Guillotines. WHY I love exactly Guillotines, has to do with their way of looking. That I can only speculate in." One motive might be to hype her Museum of Guillotines, whose linked site is tastefully framed by floral trellises and comes complete with Midi clips of "Bad Moon Rising" and "Highway to Hell".