With the film Almost Famous prompting new interest in the black art of the music journalist, this plain-looking but intriguing new site looks in-depth at some leading practitioners. Exclusives include lengthy conversations with Stones chronicler Stanley Booth and heavy metal expert Martin Popoff, but the real heavyweights, Greil Marcus, Robert Christgau and the rest, inhabit usefully assembled links also likely to reward additional browsing. Lester Bangs gets a section to himself, as does Cameron Crowe's movie, and though that dancing-about-architecture riff is recycled yet again, the laudable concept is to prompt "better writing and more original thought and ideas".
Regus London Film Festival
Almost Famous opened the 44th London Film Festival last week and this year's official site is a no-nonsense affair, without multimedia, or links to IMDB or other web coverage of the films. It does offer some advance reviews, courtesy of online film monthly Six Degrees (www.6degrees.co.uk), as well as an efficient screening calendar, daily updates, online interviews and promised competitions.
Launching far in advance of a TV series planned for next year, this site from veteran journalist/producer/performer Mike Hurst wants to be a "definitive history of popular music". It is certainly wider ranging than its rivals, starting off confidently in the 6th century AD. Promised soon are an online version of the Shaper collection, a sound, sheet music and photo archive of 20th-century songwriters, along with a series of in-depth biographies of key bands and as overall A-Z. The mood is earnestly educational, down to plans for a high-school bands competition. But though it's early days yet, the text entries are badly assembled and some howlers need clearing up (eg, "the Jethro Tull album The Book of Taliesin).
The ultra-violent dispatch of popular musicians characterises both these Flash-intensive, bandwidth- demanding animated sites. A grunting sumo wrestler offers a choice of light or heavy options at heavy.com, where high-tech and low taste combine in a Behind the Music That Sucks section, a Personal Death Plane game (select your most hated rock star for a one-way ticket) and the inimitable Psycho Bondage Bunnies. IdleWorm lets you beat up Bill Gates, decapitate Jar Jar Binks, or throw chairs at Jerry Springer. Celine Dion falls victim to the Titanic and the Spice Girls get slapped yet again, some years after they were evicted from Urban75.
Swedish Moose Hunting
Every year, according to this Swedish newspaper website, about 300,000 Swedes go hunting in an attempt bag themselves a moose. Now Svenska Dagbladet has placed itself on permanent moosewatch, with a webcam positioned in a likely forest and updating every minute. Visitors to the trilingual site, spotting signs of activity, should respond online with a cry of "Jag siktade en alg!", "Ich habe einen Elch gesehen!" or even just "I have spotted a moose!" Sightings will be rewarded with a fresh moose steak.
Somewhat kinder is this account of research into remedial web-surfing techniques for neurotic parrots. A study of animal-computer interfaces, it shows how behavioural problems caused by "social isolation" can be helped with the aid of a Heath-Robinsonish contraption involving a monitor and four-position joystick selector. This allows the parrot in question, an African Grey named Wart (don't ask), to play video games and perhaps progress to interactive chatting with humans, though one assumes this is likely to be repetitious. Not without tongue-in-cheek moments, the serious project may help treat humans with learning difficulties, as well as encouraging conservation of a species of dolphin-level intelligence.
Animals, some surprisingly exotic, also feature in this useful and detailed guide to walking and hiking in the UK. The Peak District's population of wallabies, for instance, is in serious decline, though the future looks better for the British barn owl.
But the site is basically an encouragement to explore the countryside, with a database of walks graded as easy, moderate or strenuous, along with maps, nearby accommodation, and tips on what to wear (layers!), as well as coverage of controversies such as the developing anti-four-wheel-drive campaign.
This site cheerfully announces itself as "your link to the underworld". Possessors of stolen items - perhaps after an innocent purchase on Ebay, perhaps otherwise - can submit details anonymously online. Insurers or private individuals in search of their lost property can then access the list. Mediating between crook and victim, the site has undergone some legal fine-tuning to differentiate itself from an online fencing service:
payment of private rewards seems to have been suspended. The idea of a worldwide database of stolen goods obviously has potential, though, and the site knows where to draw the line: "We do not handle cases of kidnapped individuals or animals."
My Veggie Patch
Potentially green-fingered but prefer to make contact with the soil electronically? Sign up for an allotment at this site and real gardeners in Stowmarket, Suffolk, will do the actual work, leaving you to monitor the progress of your patch at its own URL, with online diary and photos - no webcams as yet. When the crops are ready, they will be forwarded in weekly deliveries. Options range from a standard plot at £495 per year, to a "naturally grown your choice plot plus 5 speciality vegetables" (£995).