Noddy himself welcomes us to this centenary site, celebrating the children's author, born in 1897, both as writer and as business opportunity: the Company is now a wholly owned subsidiary of Trocadero plc, co-owner of the somewhat less genteel Segaworld in central London. The biographical link steers clear of Channel 4's recent speculations, and shows an inspired writer, musician, teacher and all-round workaholic whose output numbered at least 700 books - nobody knows for sure - since her first effort in 1922. The section actually intended for kids, World of Discovery, is still under construction - but elsewhere it's business as usual as a potential horde of 58 fictional "character groups" hang about looking for merchandising partners to exploit them. With the Famous Five's TV series about to be launched in the United States, not to mention the postage stamp issue here, there's lots of treasure still waiting to be unearthed, and the marketing approach, we are assured, is international and multicultural. Meanwhile, we can visit the sponsored cockatoo in London Zoo, in honour of Kiki from the Adventure series.
These useful EU pages offer a formidable mass of data, designed to inform citizens of their rights when living, working or studying in other member states: surveys showed 80 per cent of us have little or no knowledge of our entitlements in countries other than our own. If (in a given example) a woman in Sweden wants to move to France to work as an engineer, this is her starting point. Much of the information is on site, some has to be ordered via a freephone number, yet more can be downloaded using Adobe Acrobat software and printed as booklets. It's all available in 13 languages, along with a few tasteful shots of happy Eurochildren, beaming at the prospect of borderless possibilities.
After virtual postcards and virtual valentines, a trickier proposition: virtual food, delivered in the same way. Recipients are e-mailed with a personal code that provides access to a site displaying a selected dinner together with a message from its donor. Ideal for weight-watchers, and a cost-effective way of treating someone to lunch, but whatever the chefs say, presentation isn't quite everything in these matters, and what results is a kind of gastro-porn. The menu teases by different degrees: if the Caesar salad looks distinctly post-imperial, the fried chicken could leave the most committed vegetarians licking their fingers. Actually, it's the chicken soup that is the most requested item, seemingly curative merely on a visual level. But home cooking or haute cuisine, all you can do is look.
The Chupacabra Home Page
A goat-sucking Puerto Rican lycanthrope (or similar), "Chupa", has found happy hunting grounds on the Internet. Descriptions differ, but he or she seems to be about 5ft tall, with powerful hind legs, spinal quills which turn into wings, and taste for smaller farm animals and domestic pets. After an impressive career in Mexico, the creature is now making appearances in Massachusetts shopping malls, and the usual options are explored: UFO-borne alien? Fantasy projection of Latin American political instability? Or just another government cover-up? The Princeton postgrad who runs the site won't say but is happy to critique the cult and promote it at the same time. As well as much merchandising, the creature has inspired a number of songs, including one called (without apologies to Julie Andrews) "Chupacalifragilistic expialidocious". Lock up your goats.
The World's First Collaborative Sentence
Here comes everybody (and their grandmother): the idea for this ongoing, collectively produced single sentence first emerged from the New York art scene some time before the whole world went cut-and-paste crazy. "Sentence" is pushing it a bit: the only rule seems to be no (or not many) full stops, and what are grammar and syntax, anyway? The resulting stream of consciousnesses is an accidental masterpiece of sorts: the overall flow has a freshness that quite defeats the more self-conscious heirs to the avant-garde in the mix. Page by page goes by, drifting in and out of English, Polish and German and mixing art school polemic, Springsteen lyrics, autobiographical anguish and the occasional sneaky hyperlink to someone else's site, into an unstoppable flood. Then it's your turn: the new addition can be e-mailed from the site or (charmingly) sent by ordinary post. "Let the sentence now remain open until the world at last is finished writing for ever." But if you want to download the whole thing, be sure to pick the right time and have a fast modemn
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