Web sites

Bill Pannifer begins his tour in Senegal but ends up stuck in the Sixties ...
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Indy Lifestyle Online
Pioneer site

On the Internet map, much of Africa stands out as an unwired continent, but le Metissacana - "le 1er CyberCafe d'Afrique de l'Ouest" - is now online (http://www.metissacana.com/).

Based in Dakar, Senegal, the Francophone site has twirly, Miro-like animations and offers a Galerie d'Art Africain for regional artists, together with an online gift shop, both under construction. Otherwise it's like every other such site the world over, though symbolically significant given that only South Africa so far has a developed Internet presence. A page for prominent businessmen embraces both the cosmopolitan (Web entrepreneurs, fashion designers, lawyers) and the uncompromisingly local (a manufacturer of polystyrene containers for the export of fish).

Creative site

A meticulously annotated shaggy god story, Steve Krakowski's site devoted to the "Occult Genetic Code" (http://ddi.digital.net/krakowss/index.htm) proposes that there is a hidden logic common to the I Ching, the Qabalah and the human genome, and that various spare proteins in our genetic make- up spell out a message in Hebrew.

Six pages of deadpan exegesis include a wonderfully arcane hyperlinked grid, sort of a cross between a periodic table and a ouija board, linking Aleister Crowley's version of the Tarot, the 64 combinations of the I Ching, and the 64 "Codons" structuring our genes.

Chinese and Jewish cultures, the author claims, are carriers of a "textual virus to infect the body politic of earth when it is needed", and DNA research may soon encounter a written message from the Creator reminding us where we come from.

Probably Richard Dawkins's least favourite site, its other attractions include tasteful Yin/Yang background wallpaper and a mysterious cartoon of someone named Natasha.

Concerned site

The Web has a distinctly youthful demographic: most users are between 18 and 35. Special problems, then, for a site aiming to help older people. Should it address them directly, or make the assumption that the most likely viewers will be younger relatives or care professionals?

The recently redesigned Age Concern site (http://www.ace.org.uk/) assumes only that, for its purposes, simplicity and fast access is better than graphical slickness.

Gateway to almost a thousand pages of background on social services, care, pensions, insurance and other matters, it's designed for easy exploration, and in a detailed introductory tour makes unusually painstaking attempts to explain its own structure - "like a set of cascading inverted trees ... you explore by drilling down to the appropriate level."

It's a valuable, functional resource, which understands there are still people of all ages with better things to do than play with computers.

Snapshot site

Musical legends, celebrities and the merely beautiful grace the walls of photographer Robert Altman's newly upgraded online gallery (http://www.cea.edu/robert/).

Sick of being mistaken for the famous filmmaker of the same name - "No I'm not that Robert Altman" - one page wearily anticipates the San Francisco- based photo-portraitist here surveys his own creative career, firstly with Rolling Stone magazine in its heyday, thereafter as fashion photographer and now (as the look of his pages might suggest) Web site design consultant.

There are 17 different exhibition rooms, each with a handful of Altman's choice shots on display, with the emphasis on his work from the Sixties: Jerry Garcia, Janis Joplin and Joni Mitchell are all here in what he calls his "secret garden", along with Timothy Leary, Baba Ram Dass and pretty much everyone else.

Some come complete with anecdotes: when Groucho Marx, in an interview with Altman, drily recommended the assassination of President Nixon, the elderly comedian was hounded by an enraged and nervous Attorney General.

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