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The Independent Culture

This award-winning account of current debates within media studies seems out to prove that an academic resource can be wittily designed, fun and generally not too "academic". Dr David Gauntlett and some of his students from Leeds University's Institute of Communications Studies here offer introductions to Foucault, Gramsci, Judith Butler and other thinkers, as well as pages on Identity, Role Models, Queer Theory and (the latest addition) Web Culture. Gauntlett's own books, the latest of which is out this month, also receive a mention or two. More than a bluffer's guide, this is seriously informative stuff, but handles its theoreticians irreverently - "Foucault's Paris" gets the full tour guide treatment, and new this month is a Random Module Catalogue for generating millions of (you hope) silly proposals for communications courses.

Caricature Is Fun! index.html

More face-refurnishing at this Belgian site, where even the graphically challenged may reinterpret the defining features of friends, colleagues and enemies from hundreds of preset design options. A range of characteristics can be customised on police Identikit lines, with hair, nose, eyes, mouth, jaw and other parts each available in 15 different configurations; the list includes some generalities such as "skirt chaser expression" and "cracker hairdo". The result can then be captured, printed out and circulated for maximum amusement. French and English-language versions are available, though the physiognomies are universal. Elsewhere are photo-caricatures of deserving targets such as Bruce Willis and others.

Barefoot Doctor

The good doctor's media mission, it says here, is to "demystify arcane wisdom for maximum consumer utilisation". That is, to plug his current paperback and "straight-ahead healing" practice. This production number offers a whole series of Shockwave-Flashy Taoist healing exercises to relieve the stresses of modern living. So breathe deeply, then let your body sink earthwards (with one eye on the monitor, of course). Determined not to be perceived as some kind of hippie, this former apprentice to RD Laing and long-time practitioner of Chinese healing techniques sends himself up from the start, with streetwise jargon and pictures of Warrior Walter the Taoist Dog. "Watch the magic enhanced Barefoot Doctor symbol and let its rays penetrate to the centre of your brain!"


A real news update can be found in the left-hand frame, but the austerely informative look of this site turns out to be a wind-up. This tongue-in- cheek "gift to the American public" from a consortium of Web artists consists of a scrolling display of junk e-mails - spam - such as credit card ads and other get-rich-quick schemes, automatically posted here as they arrive. Visitors may select a musical background for the display; options range from Beethoven to Verdi. A tastefully bound volume of 100 printed spams is also available, for only $15. The aim seems to be a perhaps obvious statement about the relationship of commerce to the Net. The title refers to the US congressional cable channel, C-Span, with its endless output of what might be seen as similarly undifferentiated verbiage.

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