Look up and be amazed; sites
Michelangelo's masterpieces and Tupperware burps - Bill Pannifer finds the truly wonderful and the seriously weird on his tour of the Web
Monday 07 October 1996
Airhead site: Anyone feeling a bit nauseous wandering round Russell Square recently may have been breathing too much. Now the Department of the Environment has an air monitoring station in Bloomsbury, and the newly launched National Air Quality Information Archive (http://www.open. gov.uk/doe/aq/aqinfo.htm) will supply a breakdown of locally circulating poisons in mind-numbing detail, going back several years and as recently as last night. Claiming to be the only archive in the world exclusively dedicated to the air around us, the site provides hourly data from 100 such checkpoints around the country. Ozone, carbon monoxide, sulphur dioxide and something called "particulate matter" are detailed, along with a forecast for the next 24 hours. One page offers a chemistry lesson, but overall it's an uncompromisingly statistical area, accreting long-term data with immense thoroughness but without much in the way of interpretation to tell people where and when to put on their respirators.
Polyethylene site: Hardware, software ... Tupperware. This vital third force in cyberspace gets its own Web site (http://www.tupperware.com), with inspirational product history, glowing accounts of current containers and an implacable sense of mission. Thanks to the ModularMates range, a disordered, bulging kitchen cupboard is transformed into an austere study in rectangles. Make a snide comparison with Mondrian and politely be reminded that the V&A and the Smithsonian have both acquired Tupperware pieces. Smirk at the references to "consultants" (salespeople) and then ponder the 97 million people who, according to the site, attended Tupperware parties worldwide last year. Resent the blandly seductive tastefulness of the page design and then press a raspberry icon to hear a sound sample of the famous Tupperware Burp (caused by closing the air seal on the lid). This stuff is invincible.
Literary site: More Web pages are dedicated to favourite authors than are actually authored by them. But the Adventures in Capitalism site (http://www. webcom.com/reeduk/litt/index.html), promoting Toby Litt's first book, offers three exclusive short stories. Marketed as a sort of Martin Amis Jnr for the E-generation, Litt - his real name, apparently - has the distinction of being the only writer whose work is on sale at Wagamama (he name-drops the hip London noodle bar in his book). During his creative writing course at the University of East Anglia, Litt spent a lot of time sending emails, and one story, about voyeurism, discipleship and Jeremy Beadle, is told entirely in that form, while another offers a hyperlinked punchline if you can't work it out yourself. Sample first-person narrative: "He was a funnylooking guy: Lennonspecs (1966), Maccalips (1968), Ringonose (1970), Georgehair (1972)." A serious sell-by-date looms over Litt's own enterprise, but his notes include oddly naive little caveats - "its a bit nasty" - "don't post this to newsgroups. It's highly inflammatory" - suggesting he might just be uncool enough to survive it.
Contrite site: Last week the URL monster took a bite from Biscuit of the Week (http://www.symetrica. com/biscuit) and from Texts and Contexts (http://paul. spu.edu/hawk/ t&c.html). Genius displays itself at Inventors Corner for a mere pounds 150, and not as stated.
Life & Style blogs
City traders pay £200 for a quick hangover cure
Stephen Hawking: NHS is Britain's finest public service and must be preserved from commercial interests
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
The Pirate Bay is back — but key staff have left to start a rival site
Eight-year-old girl Camilla Lisant suggests possible cancer treatment to her scientist father over the dinner table
Stephen Fry explains what he would say if he was 'confronted by God'
The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse
9 reasons Greece's experiment with the radical left is doomed to failure
President Putin is a dangerous psychopath - reason is not going to work with him
Have we reached 'peak food'? Shortages loom as global production rates slow
Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign
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