NETWORK : Web sites
Monday 02 December 1996
More than 9,000 people have died of Aids in the UK since 1982, and 25,000 are currently HIV positive and aware of the fact. The new site for this UK Aids charity offers a short, punchy slideshow on the issues involved, under the heading - both comforting and minatory - "it's not over". Launched to coincide with World Aids Day, this offers lots of useful long-term information on the complexities of the illness as it affects different groups at risk: some material will eventually be downloadable as printer- ready booklets.
Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin
This site in honour of the great 19th-century Gothic pioneer gives space to each of his major building and design achievements - including his work on the Houses of Parliament after the 1834 fire, and on his own Ramsgate home, complete with watchtower for searching out ships in distress (Pugin supplemented his income with salvage money). He may have said, "There is nothing worth living for except Christian Architecture and a boat", but in general Pugin the polemicist gets short shrift here: little room for his notions of honesty and propriety in design, which have been perhaps as influential as the buildings themselves. These, though, receive excellent visual treatment, and there's also lots of background on his family and lifestyle, which included three marriages and eight children before his death at the age of 40.
The Abandoned Missile Base
An eerie exercise in Cold War nostalgia, this site invites viewers on a room-by-room trip through a US nuclear missile installation abandoned in the 1960s. Though the silo's existence has been an open secret for some time, the thrill of trespass is still potent. There are dire warnings on the title page - not just against radiation, but asbestos and irate farmers with shotguns - but after that, down the spiral staircase we go, into the dark, waterlogged site. "No signs of life anywhere in the whole complex; not even a rat or a spider. This may mean that it's just pretty well sealed, or it may mean something worse, that something is preventing things from living down there." With its sinister shots of rusting machinery, and of the silos that once held Titan 1 missiles targeted at Russia, this is an enjoyably dank flashback to Quatermass-style terrors.
Wisbech Grammar School
An independent school with a history going back to 1379, Wisbech Grammar has launched perhaps the most detailed educational home page on the Web. The frame index has little blackboard graphics with smiley faces, but this is in some ways a very traditional establishment, with compulsory Latin for first years and lots (and lots) of inescapable sports. The termly parental letter is online, warning about skirt lengths: "I would also draw your attention to the framed notice, in the Uniform Shop, which indicates the length of skirts for girls in forms 1 to 5 (inclusive), ie no longer than 2in below the knee and no shorter than 1in above the knee." But the school is also enviably up to the minute, especially in its 60-machine computer provision, and every pupil has his or her own e-mail address. There's a page for "Old Grammarians" to stay in touch, exam results, staff details, and everything a concerned parent would want to know, including the cost: fees are currently pounds 1,630 a term.
Pops, of course, stands for Parachutists over Phorty, and offers inspiring evidence that hurling oneself out of planes is not restricted to those below a certain age. Starting with an irresistible graphic of a white- bearded gent in a rocking chair gleefully tugging at a ripcord with his walking stick, the site serves the 600 or so middle-aged skydivers in the UK . There are cheery photos of the association's officers, or "Top Pops", details of parties, an item welcoming a relaxation of medical fitness rules for jumping, advice on insurance, and wondrously arcane jargon: "Hit & Rock, 3.77 seconds, Pops World Meet III, Ampuriabrava Spain, 29 Sep 95, Bobby Valenzuela, Pops 1526 ... We usually follow this with a few rounds of accuracy or launch and accuracy after which we start doing FS and hopefully getting some big blobs together."n
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