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The Independent Culture
The House of Lords

www.thehouseoflords.com

Not the parliamentary institution but a glorified shopping site, this page from the newly underemployed Lord Exmouth shamelessly enlists his own snob value.

An online butler escorts punters around the premises, laid out as a series of rooms in a stately home and including sections entitled "M'Lord's dressing room" and "M'lady's boudoir". All items come specially gift-wrapped and with a certificate signed by the 10th Viscount himself.

Trinkets on offer range from pounds 15-300, and an art gallery and travel centre will follow. Plus, intriguingly, "an agency for certain Peers to offer, internationally, the wide range of skills to be found among them".

Also aboard the bandwagon is the 7th Earl of Bradford, at www.buy-appointment.co.uk, with a wider range of merchandise categories from aromatherapy and barometers through to "Unusual Home Items" and a wine cellar.

Meanwhile, the real House of Lords can still be found at www.parliament.uk, not peddling anything except copies of Hansard.

Poison Pen Web

www.poisonpen.net

This new site is a sort of full-service, if low-security, version of one of those anonymous remailers. Users can send recriminatory messages of various kinds while keeping their own identity secret.

Aimed at former lovers, disgruntled employees, and those on the receiving end of workplace harassment, the service costs $8 and enables those with grievances to select from messages in different categories such as "Merry Christmas - Not!", "You are a slave driver" and "Girlfriend just dumped you?"

Supposedly it helps people to vent their frustration on otherwise unapproachable people who are more powerful than themselves. There's an inevitable page of legal disclaimers.

"World Trade Organization"

www.rtmark.com/wto

The real World Trade Org site is at www.wto.org. This one looks exactly the same, but - some mistake surely - this is all about how the WTO grants "multinationals vast powers to enforce their will against democratic governments".

It's another intervention from those pseudo-corporate art pranksters (R)TMark, whose tweaked edition of the official site is in preparation for next week's WTO Ministerial Conference which is taking place in Seattle.

Protest groups are already converging on the city, and this site offers links to them. As usual, it's a marvellously po-faced critique; the aim, it insists, is merely to help the organisation "clarify its efforts and aims".

In a more direct spirit, a QuickTime anti-commercial on the same subject from the Canadian group Adbusters is online at www.adbusters.org

Pete Townshend

www.petetownshend.co.uk

The editor of a longstanding Who fanzine is now delighted to find himself webmeister of Townshend's official site.

The result is slick, but without web-windmilling or the online equivalent of guitars being smashed to smithereens. There are, however, image and audio vaults, chat rooms and promised interventions from the man himself.

The opening page lists the whole impressive repertoire, from "Acid Queen" to "Won't Get Fooled Again", but the site also exists to promote current solo work such as the Lifehouse project, due for a Radio 3 airing in early December.

There are also updates on yet another Who reunion.

Computer Versus Human Writing Contest

www.instantnovelist.com

human.html

People have been trying to coax computers into writing novels for several decades now, and this online writers' forum, which specialises in daily "instant" downloadable novels, posted five 500-word stories and asked visitors to decide which was digital in origin.

When the results were announced last week, only 25 per cent of those responding picked the right one. The contest was part of Dan Hurley's Amazing Instant Writers site, which pioneered the 60-second online mini- novel and claims over a million works have been submitted so far.

Send interesting, quirky or, at a pinch, cool site recommendations to websites@dircon.co.uk

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