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(990601) MAD Magazine
http://www.dccomics.com/mad/

E.C. Publications, Inc.
DC Comics
New York, New York, USA
a division of Warner Bros.
Burbank, California, USA

_________________________________

Cracked Online
http://www.cracked.com/main.html

Globe Communications Corp.
Boca Raton, Florida, USA

A different to each other as The Marx Brothers were to the Three Stooges, MAD and Cracked have held the attention of America's troubled youth for years. Both sites have highlights ripe with parody and satire from the current issue of their respective print editions, plus regurgitated material from years past. It's difficult to say who would win in a bottle rocket fight or wrestling match — Alfred E. or Sylvester P. What it is certain is that if the two mascots/cover boys ever were to scrap, it would be the highest grossing pay-per-view event in history. Just imagine the fight card. Better yet, imagine being one of the imbeciles watching at home. I can.  (Back to top of page)


(990602) The Golden Pasty Award
http://www.pasty.com/golden/index.html

Pasty Central
Stillwaters Community Elders Home
Calumet, Michigan, USA

With Memorial Day Weekend all wrapped up, the official Tourist Season has begun in Michigan. Weekend adventurers brave the Mackinac Bridge (http://www.mackinacbridge.org/) for a trip to Michigan's Upper Peninsula. Some call it Upper Michigan, others refer to it simply as the U.P. Up North will do as well. The spectacular geography, fishing and beer make a trip worth the long drive from parts to the South. The Golden Pasty Award is presented to sites in the Great Lakes Region which have content about or specifically for the U.P. or the people who live there. Pointers are added bi-weekly and include the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum, Isle Royale Natural History Association, The Keweenaw Traveler, Portage Lake District Library, Beaver Island . Net, Les Cheneaux Islands Welcome Center, Marquette General Hospital, Whale Rock Images and many more.

A trip to the U.P. is not complete without a pasty or two, heck even mom will think ya had a terrible time if ya don't bring her back a couple. In case ya forget, or if ya'd just like to order some right now, the folks at Pasty Central can fix ya up in no time. Be sure to see The Keweenaw Pasty Cam for a look at real beautiful sights in the U.P., if ya know what I mean.  (Back to top of page)


(990603) Fisheye View Cam
http://www.fisheyeview.com/

Fisheye View
Coral Gables, Florida, USA

You may have heard the expression "slower than mole's asses in January," if not that one, then something close to it. Certain activities, like watching the grass grow, the paint dry and even looking at the Moon with the naked eye as it crawls across the sky are indicative of having way too much time on your hands. Even too much time sometimes isn't enough to observe growth or motion, at least from a human perspective. In the earliest experiments using motion pictures, things were recorded to slow them down for us. Horses were proven to have all four hooves off the ground at a specific point in their stride, and like that. The next trick was to speed things up, the tide slowly filling a bay, flowers growing and blooming, the Sun, Moon and stars racing across the sky come to mind immediately. Time-lapse photography brought events which took hours down to a scale we could comprehend by watching in a short time frame. Events of even longer duration were finally brought to a level we could use. Fisheye View Cam is the perfect use of this technology. By combining images of corals taken over extended periods and played back at anywhere from 100 to 1,000 times normal speed, a clear study of these small animals can be made. The image at the Fisheye View Cam site is updated every 90 seconds although a large picture is actually taken every 3 seconds. See the live shot during daylight hours or download a time-lapse sequence, there are several lengths and speeds available. The Fisheye View Cam looks in on a 100 gallon reef tank which has been in operation for three years at Fisheye View labs. This site and the projects underway at the facility are amazing. Stop by and see for yourself, if you have the time.  (Back to top of page)


(990604) The Continental Drift Cam
http://www.en.com/users/danp/pixs/cams/cd-cam.htm

Dan Pfeiffer
Euclid, Ohio, USA

The Continental Drift Cam was going to be mentioned yesterday along with the Fisheye View Cam (http://www.fisheyeview.com/) (SdJotD 990603), but I figured that two slow moving things in one day might be a bit much. The Continental Drift Cam looks at that magic spot where Utah, Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico meet. Similar to the thrill polar explorers have walking around the world in a few seconds, The Four Corners is an equally novel location. Not quite as much fun as walking from the Atlantic Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico the way one can in Key West, Florida, but what the heck. Don't be alarmed if the clock at this site doesn't work for you, it has a difficult time with any version of Internet Explorer. The science here is just a little suspect, what with Dan Pfeiffer living on the shores of Lake Erie in Ohio and the The Continental Drift Cam being in either Arizona or New Mexico. As stated at the site, "Don't let plate tectonics sneak up on you! Check in with the Continental drift Cam several times a day." Be sure to visit Dan's Home Page (http://www.en.com/users/danp/) for pointers and information about a bunch of stuff including boating, Astronomy and little trains. Did you feel that just now?  (Back to top of page)


(990605) AfriCam
http://www.africam.co.za/
mirrored at http://www.africam.com

WebCam AfriCam Services (Pty) Ltd
Real Time Travel Connections
Gauteng, South Africa

Between April and November, conditions get rather dry in the Game Reserves and National Parks within the Lowveld area of South Africa. The high concentration of animals around waterholes make for excellent viewing and observation for tourists. Through the use of eight cameras, visitors to this site can see elephants, lions, zebras, and a host of other animals. The daily cycles of these animals may not prove convenient for visitors from certain time zones, so the Highlights section includes a Picture of the Day captured and submitted by visitors from the live pictures. The most activity takes place in the morning between 6:00am and 11:30am (+2 GMT). Also in the afternoon between 3:00pm and 6:00pm (+2 GMT). A few of the holes are illuminated for night viewing as well. Thanks to Kat Springer in San Francisco for suggesting this wild set of cameras.  (Back to top of page)


(990606) Mah Jong Cyber Museum
http://members.aol.com/mahjongmuseum/

Mah Jong Cyber Museum
Hazelwood, Missouri, USA

The origin of the Chinese tile game Mah Jong isn't certain, but throughout the ages it has been enjoyed by millions of people. Western societies contributed to the longevity of the game during the 1920s, especially in the US. Probably named after the Hemp Bird, one of the many images depicted on playing pieces, Mah Jong experienced another surge in popularity as a result of computer versions of the game designed for a single player. The Mah Jongg Cyber Museum is a celebration of the game, its history and the art and beauty of antique tile sets. Pointers to other Mah Jong sites, images and much more make the Mah Jongg Cyber Museum an important place to visit for anyone interested in "the game of a hundred intelligence's".  (Back to top of page)


(990607) Lightning and Atmospheric Electricity at the GHCC
http://thunder.msfc.nasa.gov/

GHCC Lightning Team
Global Hydrology and Climate Center
Huntsville, Alabama, USA

As the summer rain patterns organize full force here in Florida, the occurrence of heavy lightning activity reminds those who live here exactly how powerful these storms can be. The distant rumble of thunder acts as a more realistic warning about an approaching deluge than radar most of the time. Local Doppler radar like that from the NBC2 Doppler Radar Image (http://www.nbc-2.com/doppler.shtml) from WBBH here in Fort Myers offers a look at current conditions and the images displayed at their site come in handy if a television set is not nearby. Living with these storms can be difficult, and when working with a computer you learn to save early, and save often. Some tasks are more prone to lightning damage than others, launching craft for space exploration certainly qualifies. Erect a large metal structure smack dab in the middle of the lightning center of North America and watch the show. Lightning rods aside, this is trouble just waiting to happen. The Global Hydrology and Climate Center Lightning Team perform research and testing, trying to find the key to understanding lightning and save NASA from learning about storms the hard way. Through this site, the GHCC Lightning Team share what they have figured out. Not as flashy as Graeme Caselton's Lightning Strikes !! (http://easyweb.easynet.co.uk/~gcaselton/photo/photo.html) (SdJotD 980628), the science here is fascinating and the statistical analysis alone will change the way you think about lightning. If you have even a vague interest in the mechanics of electrical storms on a global scale, have a look at this site. In particular, the Lightning Imaging Sensor pages (http://thunder.msfc.nasa.gov/data/lisbrowsenqc.html).  (Back to top of page)


(990608) The American Century: Art & Culture 1900-2000
Whitney Museum of American Art
http://www.whitney.org/

Whitney Museum of American Art
New York, New York, USA

in cooperation with

ArtMuseum.net
http://www.artmuseum.net/

Intel Corporation
Santa Clara, California, USA

At the very minimum, you'll need an hour to explore this site. Combined efforts between the Whitney Museum and Intel Corporation have produced an incredible overview of America's contribution to the world of Art during our century. Not limited to images of paintings, this huge site currently covers the years 1900 through 1949 as it will until September 1999 when Part II, 1950-2000 is unveiled. Billed as "…one of the most extensive sites ever produced for a single art exhibition," The American Century: Art & Culture 1900-2000 will certainly not disappoint visitors. If you have the opportunity to see the physical exhibit this summer, by all means do so. On display here and at the museum are such works as Thomas Eakins' The Thinker, Alfred Stieglitz's The Steerage, Edward Hopper's Chop Suey, Grant Wood's American Gothic, Georgia O'Keeffe's Summer Days, and Jackson Pollock's Number 27. Sound and moving pictures are also used in both exhibits making this a seriously important event. Part II runs through February 13, 2000 at the Whitney Museum of American Art and with any luck, both parts will be combined and stay up at this site for a while longer. If you have wondered what commemorative exhibits will look like during these, the last two years of the millennium, look to further than The American Century: Art & Culture 1900-2000.  (Back to top of page)


(990609) Vantage Group, Inc. of North Haven, CT
http://www.vantagegroupinc.org/

Vantage Group, Inc.
North Haven, Connecticut, USA

During the last few weeks, I've been giving thought to the idea of signing up with online retailers and incorporating parts of Site du Jour of the Day into an Affiliate program or two. I receive no compensation for this daily project, and have avoided the temptation of "selling out" since the beginning. Keeping Site du Jour of the Day free of financial influences has been a reward in and of itself. It would be far too easy to work album titles into episodes for 5-15% of any sales generated by my suggestions. More importantly, it would take away what credibility SdJotD episodes have with you all. When an event or organization is featured in SdJotD it is because they have an interesting site or message. No direct endorsement is ever intended, just an opportunity to share what I find to be a good cause with others who may find the same.

When a SdJotD reader sent me a message about a program she is involved with called Vantage Group, Inc. it was basically a propaganda bomb for iGive (http://www.igive.com). There was nothing in the message about Vantage Group, Inc., but instead a serious plug for iGive. A quick search turned up the URL for an actual site and it is something I am glad I did. Vantage Group, Inc. is a non-profit group dedicated to providing residential services to adults with developmental disabilities. It is agencies like this one in Connecticut which fill the gap created by government budget cuts, and help people with Down's Syndrome, Autism, and other disabilities become active members of society. In the old days of large state hospitals where a child was sent to rot for the rest of his or her life, this mainstream approach was unheard of. Today through the aid of volunteers and similar agencies, highly productive lives are being led with the independence of living alone or with others, vocational education and real employment opportunities. Using partnerships with online merchants is a good way to keep a program like Vantage Group, Inc. going, and probably the best application of Affiliate programs in general. Visit the modest Vantage Group, Inc. site to learn about an effective program by reading their newsletter and other information available. Community teamwork like this is good to see, and there are more obtrusive methods of fundraising than those in use here. If you are part of a non-profit organization you may even glean a few ideas at the site for your own use.  (Back to top of page)


(990610) The Realm of Pag-hat the Rat-girl
http://www.violetbooks.com/paghat.html

Pag-hat the Rat-girl
hosted by Violet Books
Seattle, Washington, USA

The Realm of Pag-hat the Rat-girl is home to rats and cats and odd little things all wrapped up in po-ems and verse. An ever growing collection of collage work created by Granny Artemis helps to illustrate the sometimes weird material written by Pag-hat the Rat-girl. Although it isn't unique to this site, be sure to check out Hammydance — it's so cute you'll want to puke.  (Back to top of page)


(990611) Dunk Fry's Live Sound Mixing Home Page
http://world.net/~dunkfry

Duncan R. Fry
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

This is why parents instinctively know to discourage their children from going into the entertainment business. The Live Sound Mixing Home Page is in part a pitch for Duncan Fry's new Third Edition of Live Sound Mixing, a book which according to Mr. Squealy, is "Without a doubt the best book available on the subject". While this portion of the site will only appeal to a select few, there are hilarious articles in the section titled "Old Dunk's Tales From the Road". If you have ever wondered about the real-life glamor of Rock and Roll as a profession, then these stories, which were originally published in Australia's Connections Magazine (http://www.conpub.com.au/) are for you. Not limiting himself to just road stories, Old Dunk has still another section called "Cars, dogs and other stuff". By the time all is said and done here, it may be that "other stuff" our parents warned us about.  (Back to top of page)


(990612) VirtualDog
http://www.virtualdog.com/

Akula Communications
New York, New York, USA

Virtual Pets have become fairly commonplace, but VirtualDog stands out because of the interaction with elements in the game such as healthcare and dealing with the reality of cleaning up after Spot once a day. Gaining "money" points for things your VirtualDog needs is as simple as taking care of him or her, a happy hound pays off. This simulation is perfectly suited for ramping kids up to the duties and enjoyment of owning a pet, and may teach them a thing or two about financial responsibilities along the way. If your VirtualDog is not treated well, s/he will run away and not die — a big plus for the younger children who may not be ready for that end of keeping an animal. Adults too will appreciate this light-hearted experiment in owning a dog, especially if you've ever had a dog eat your furniture while you were out. Thanks to Mrs. Brody and Mike Baker for each suggesting VirtualDog!  (Back to top of page)


(990613) Caribbean Conservation/Sea Turtle Survival League
Dedicated to the preservation of sea turtles and other wildlife
http://www.cccturtle.org/

Caribbean Conservation Corporation
Gainesville, Florida, USA

This site for the Caribbean Conservation/Sea Turtle Survival League provides an interesting look at the often misunderstood lives of sea turtles. A migratory animal, several species of these turtles are in serious danger of extinction. Here in Lee County, Florida there are ordinances in place during nesting season for things as common as porch lights. Confused by the lights on the beach, the young hatchings scamper up to the houses instead of out into the Gulf of Mexico where they should be headed. Preserving these long-living animals is a priority for many conservationists. For many people, there is no real reason human encroachment should be allowed to wipe out a species, especially ones that have such a wide range of activity. Visit this site to learn about sea turtles, see graphic representations of the migratory routes taken by specific individuals, and probably most important of all, find out how you can save a sea turtle or two no matter where you live. An informative and good looking site.  (Back to top of page)


(990614) Unwise Microwave Oven Experiments
http://www.amasci.com/weird/microexp.html

Bill Beaty
Seattle, Washington, USA

This section of the Science Hobbyist (http://www.amasci.com/) site is the stuff that product liability attorneys dream about. Unwise Microwave Oven Experiments contains full descriptions of one man's often very dangerous attempts at using a microwave oven for things other than the intended purpose. A microwave oven is for cooking food. Not for lighting up any sort of light bulb or creating spark shows with foil, especially not for drying off small animals after bath-time — not one of the experiments Bill Beaty has tried, but the mere mention of it sure does get your attention. That leads to the most important part of this episode:

* Do not try any of these experiments yourself! *

Instead, have a look see at this site for answers to What If? type questions, and other experiments that are as fun as they are educational.  (Back to top of page)


(990615) Illustrator Biographies
http://www.bpib.com/illustra.htm

Jim Vadeboncoeur, Jr. and Bud Plant
Bud Plant Illustrated Books
Palo Alto, California, USA

Every other week, Jim Vadeboncoeur, Jr. adds another page to this fine collection of biographies of commercial artists and illustrators. E.A. Abbey, Charles Addams, Franklin Booth, Harvey Dunn, Milt Gross, Walt Kelly, Dorothy Lathrop, Howard Pyle, and Jose Segrelles are a few of the illustrators profiled here. Jim Vadeboncoeur, Jr. has done such a great job with these pages that it's hard to tell that they are part of a catalog for Bud Plant Illustrated Books (http://www.bpib.com/index.html). Sites like this one are unfortunately as rare as some of the books the company sells. Specializing in titles from as early as the 1880s, the whole site boasts 1,500 illustrations and biographies for over 60 illustrators. The Jose Segrelles page (http://www.bpib.com/segrelle.htm) was suggested by Jon Singer, but the entire series deserves a look. Jon's Your Curly Little Buddy, the Apostrophe (http://www.bazilians.org/apostrophe.html) (SdJotD 970302) was Site du Jour of the Day back in March 1997.  (Back to top of page)


(990616) California State Railroad Museum
http://www.csrmf.org/

State Railroad Museum
California Department of Parks and Recreation
Sacramento, California, USA

Summer in North America is a great time of year. Most of the continent is enjoying the great outdoors again, at least for a few months while the kids are out of school. Travel plans include festivals and fairs, events I fondly refer to as "Pioneer Days". Events which draw regional attention are common and some of these gatherings will even include attendees from around the world. Site du Jour of the Day reader Kathleen Owen wrote to tell me about an effort she and her husband are involved in this week and next. "Bill and I will be volunteering at Railfair '99 beginning on Thursday." Railfair '99 (http://www.railfair.com/) "…is a REALLY big deal in railroad museum circles, and we're looking forward to seeing the equipment which has come in from places like Canada and Holland. They've told us to expect as many as 300,000 people over 10 days! Every locomotive on display at Railfair must be in operating condition - they have to arrive on the rails and not on a low-boy truck." Pack the kids into the cab, build up a good head of steam, and it's full speed ahead!

Bill and Karen restore historic maintenance of way vehicles and recommend a look at the sites belonging to NARCOA - North American Railcar Operators Association (http://www.narcoa.org/) and Motorcar Operators West Inc. (http://www.mowonline.org/) for a look at the type of work they do. Karen also wrote that "Tonight Bill is putting the finishing touches on a Fairmont A-7 which is a gang car (designed to carry 12 men and pull 6 trailers). The A-7 was built in 1947 and may be the last in the country - we'd love to hear about any others." If you can help them out, I'd be happy to forward your message.

The California State Railroad Museum will host Railfair '99, and the year-round museum is also hosting exhibits honoring the first 150 years of rail transportation in California. The site has photographs, information and pointers galore for rail fans. Touted as "…the largest and finest interpretive railroad museum in North America and is the most visited in the world." In addition to Railfair, the museum also hosts the U.S. National Handcar Races. It's good to see this part of history being kept alive, even better to see it being enjoyed by so many people.  (Back to top of page)


(990617) The Charles Darwin Award
http://www.skyhawk.org/darwin.htm

Skyhawk Association, Inc.
Coronado, California, USA

You may have heard a version of their respective stories at some point in time, the idiot who attached a JATO rocket to the top of his Chevy Impala and the Aviator who tied a mess of helium balloons to a patio chair and ascended past 15,000 feet. They were the winners of the 1982 and 1996 Charles Darwin Awards, given in honor of their contribution to proof of Darwin's theory of natural selection and the survival of the (mentally) fittest. Presented posthumously to the individual(s), who have not only checked out in some seriously dumb-ass way, but also failed to continue their branch of the family tree. Members of the Skyhawk Association (http://www.skyhawk.org/) take nominations during the year and announce the winner the following January. The Skyhawk Association is a group of A4 Skyhawk jet pilots, crew members and enthusiasts. The site has information about the organization's projects and programs, pointers to other sites and of course, the sad but true stories of nominees and winners of the The Charles Darwin Award. Thanks to Basil Stetson for suggesting this site. Basil you did find a winner and this section of the Skyhawk Association site is hysterical.  (Back to top of page)


(990618) Sockii's A-Team Homepage
http://homepage.seas.upenn.edu/~pellegri/ateam.html

Nicole Pellegrini
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA

Several readers wrote in about The Charles Darwin Award (http://www.skyhawk.org/darwin.htm) (SdJotD 990617) site featured in the last episode of Site du Jour of the Day. They all suggested that the story about the individual who attached the JATO rocket to a GM vehicle and unintentionally drove/flew it into the side of a mountain may be fabricated. Either way, it's a great story. A reader by the name of Doc did confirm the high flying balloonist story, and reminded me about the stunt being duplicated on an episode of "…probably the best television show to come out of Hollywood since 'My Mother, the Car.'" Doc was referring of course, to The A Team.

For those who have never seen the show, it always started with an official sounding announcer who told us "In 1972, a crack commando unit was sent to prison by a military court for a crime they didn't commit. These men promptly escaped from a maximum security stockade to the Los Angeles underground. Today, still wanted by the government, they survive as soldiers of fortune. If you have a problem, if no one else can help, and if you can find them, maybe you can hire the A-Team." Part comedy and part drama with a whole lot of action, the show managed to upset critics and at the same time, save NBC from having a season without a single show in the Top Ten during 1982-1983. A fine cast helped instill catch phrases into the vocabulary of viewers. A few of those expressions are in regular use twelve and a half years after the show ended. Sockii's A-Team Homepage is not actively maintained, but still contains and excellent FAQ about The A-Team, an episode guide and pointers aplenty to other A-Team sites. Sockii's A-Team Homepage may not be around much longer, so have a look while you can.  (Back to top of page)


(990619) WirelessAdvisor.com
Complete Cellular, PCS, and wireless phone service information.
http://www.wirelessadvisor.com/

Wireless Advisor L.L.C.
Sea Bright, New Jersey, USA

Shopping for wireless telephone service can be a daunting task, even worse if you are researching companies providing service in a different market. Newspaper and radio advertisements from assorted vendors can be misleading and muddled and it would seem that just about anyone can sell subscriptions and hardware. Where to turn? This free service may be just the tool for finding one of the more than 300 companies in the 734 cellular and 493 PCS markets in the US. Search by market or ZIP code, and then use their Rate Rover to compare and discover. WirelessAdvisor.com does not sell wireless service or the little toy phones which are helping to burn up our current telephone numbering system and available radio frequencies, but they can get you started in the right direction. The site also has a decent history of the current technologies and much more. Once you have established a new telephone number, be sure to visit Jeremy Grodberg's PhoneSpell — What does your phone number spell? (http://www.phoneSpell.org/) (SdJotD 970311).  (Back to top of page)


(990620) PizzaNow! Australia (and New Zealand)
Order Pizza Online From Your Local Pizza Parlour
http://www.pizzanow.com.au/

PizzaNow
Karribank Holdings Pty Ltd
Malaga, Western Australia, Australia

This site instantly reminded me of a Simpsons (http://www.foxworld.com/simpsons/simpson2.htm) episode which aired a few years ago. Bart picked up the telephone and ordered a prank pizza for someone in Australia. The Pizza Police extradited and dragged the whole family along for the ride. Had Bart known about PizzaNow! Australia, he could have done it from the comfort of home without the expense of an international call, as if that really matters in the face of a good practical joke. PizzaNow! Australia allows registered users to order pizzas online from local pizzerias in both Australia and now New Zealand. One can only imagine the frequency of prank orders increases every time that particular episode of the show runs in syndication. An annoyance to be sure for both store owners and drivers. Dave's Pizza Page (http://www.cs.csubak.edu/~dgriffi/pizza.html) affords a view from the trenches, Dave and other pizza delivery professionals have put together an FAQ and other material that consumers might want to see. The next time you call out for a pie please remember to tip your driver.

If you have ever wondered what sort of equipment you'll need to go into the pizza business, have a look at the Pizzeria Equipment page (http://www.a-bestfixture.com/store/pizza.html) from A-Best Fixture Co. in Akron, Ohio. The oven and ingredients are not available here, but almost everything else is.  (Back to top of page)


(990621) Umbra — The Room
http://www.umbra.com/

Umbra Ltd.
Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Stop by for a quick visit to The Room (http://www.umbra.com/room/index.html), take a short personality test and find out who you are based on the environment you create for your own Room. About as scientifically accurate as dissecting a frog with a hammer, this survey may provide food for thought, and is sure to introduce visitors to Umbra's unique line of home accessories. These products are available around the world, and this site is a well designed advertising piece worth looking at.  (Back to top of page)


(990622) Bryan's Summer Fun Spots
http://members.tripod.com/~webtvandme/funspots/index.html

Bryan a.k.a. Diver-Dan
Dallas, Texas, USA

Bryan's Summer Fun Spots is a collection of pointers to water parks and amusement parks around the US. Just a few days old, these pages are fairly comprehensive. The collection of smaller, regional parks in particular was nice to see, it allowed the opportunity to visit sites for a couple of places I was surprised were still in business. Plan a trip, relive pleasant memories and maybe even suggest a site or two to Bryan. The addition of sites for facilities outside of the US would make a nice addition to this project, and this may come in time. Bryan's Summer Fun Spots and the rest of his site (http://members.tripod.com/~webtvandme/) should prove especially interesting to WebTV users as design features for the platform are built into these pages. This is a great idea.  (Back to top of page)


(990623) ( rivertrout.com, a library of letters )
http://www.rivertrout.com/

Jose Paulo Vicente
Christina Jensen
Sao Paulo, Brazil

Several years ago, I had the pleasure of working with a woman on a scrapbook she was putting together for her grandson. He had expressed interest in the history of the family, and Lillian was more than happy to oblige. Of her six children and nine grandchildren he was the only one with even a remote concern about preserving the identities of previous generations. Lillian had gathered letters, photographs and mementoes dating back to the mid-1800s and had assembled them in an over-sized book. Using old-fashioned corners for the photographs, she left room under each for a description or anecdote and my task was to set type in the style of each era. My initial reaction to the project was one which not only surprised me, but had Lillian steaming mad because her plan had been foiled. The care she had taken in the book was evident on the small slips of paper she presented to me, each written with a fountain pen in the most beautiful handwriting I have ever seen. My suggestion to use the seventy or so pieces of cotton paper probably gave the impression that I wasn't interested in the project which was the furthest thing from the truth. Seeing that she was still not completely sold on the idea, I asked her a simple question, 'Lillian, what would you give right now for something in your own grandmother's hand?'. Even though she had the skills for it, even Lillian had lost touch with the art of writing for a while.

( rivertrout.com, a library of letters ) Is an attempt to regain that visual beauty in this modern age. Characters on a monitor are combined with wonderful illustrations to form a reinvention of a nearly lost part of society — letter writing. Several contributors share intimate thoughts not only with the original recipient of their letters, but with visitors to this site. At times it is almost embarrassing to read these letters, not for the author so much as for oneself. We have grown cynical to the point of finding sincerity like this artificial. In many cases literary collections such as this one can become self-parodies at times, this site is different. A recently launched site, ( rivertrout.com, a library of letters ) is bound to become popular rather quickly and will most likely end up on a few "Best Of" lists come December. Visit this site, then turn off the computer and write somebody a real letter.  (Back to top of page)


(990624) Deke's HappyToy.com
McDonalds Happy Meal Toy Collectors Site
http://www.happytoy.com/

David B. Smith
Denver, Colorado, USA

Since February 1996, Deke's HappyToy.com has been the place to learn about what's hot and what's not in the land of Happy Meal Toys from McDonalds (http://www.mcdonalds.com/). The hamburger giant didn't invent the concept of giving away toys in value priced meals for children but in the past few years they have certainly capitalized on the idea. As of late, McDonalds has been involved in promotions with Disney not only in the US, but around the world. Deke's HappyToy.com has reports and images pertaining to current and past promotions, these small, inexpensive toys have become prized collectibles and a symbol of the colonization of the world by big American corporations. Buy, sell and trade here, or just look in and see how popular this stuff is. One has to wonder if there is any connection between McDonalds discontinuing the use of foam containers for food products and the introduction of plastic toys at about the same time. This is a fun site to visit and the variety of premiums around the world is very interesting.  (Back to top of page)


(990625) Constitutional Government Simulation
http://209.180.36.177/

Craig Bergman, Ltd
Des Moines, Iowa, USA

If you have ever wanted to go into politics or become an early part of a new government, the Constitutional Government Simulation is a site worth looking at. By the time the US elections in the year 2000 roll around, this site should be running with all of the bloat and pork we experience in real life. In what is basically a bulletin board with a purpose, anyone with a valid e-mail address, an Internet connection and a couple of hours a week can become a policy maker or committee member. As this is written, the rules are still being decided upon, and the head count is under 70 participants. As offices fill up and the House reaches 435 members and the Senate reaches 100 a waiting list will be imposed and members of the formed political parties will decide who goes next. From the looks of things already, this simulation like any new government, should prove to be quite active at times so regular involvement is a must. An excellent learning opportunity for students of all ages and countries.  (Back to top of page)


.

My Favorite Martians

Here is a self-indulgent Theme Week to round out the month of June. Featured are sites for performers I enjoy and recommend — some popular, some not so popular. For lack of a better title and in no particular order, here are a few of My Favorite Martians…

(990626) They Might Be Giants
http://www.tmbg.com/
http://www.theymightbegiants.com/
http://www.dialasong.com/

TMB Productions
Palisades, New York, USA

John Flansburgh and John Linnell have been the nucleus of They Might Be Giants since the early 1980s. The duo/band have made a name for themselves with quirky and smart songs which make the listener wonder if Elvis Costello's mom ever had a thing going on with Spike Jones. In a bold move, the act is about to release a MP3-only album bypassing traditional retail, “Long Tall Weekend” will not only wake the industry up to the profitability of direct to consumer releases but may prove to be TMBG's biggest seller. All three of these sites are official, the first two house photographs, news about band and interviews with the Johns. The third site is a new twist on TMBG's Dial-A-Song, a telephone answering machine which has been in operation since the early days. Hear a different TMBG's song every day, most of them unreleased. Guitar and accordion acts get no better than They Might Be Giants.  (Back to top of page)


(990627) Elo Kiddies! The Cheap Trick Motel
http://cheaptrick.com/

Cheap Trick
Alliance Entertainment Corp.
Coral Springs, Florida, USA

Celebrating their 25th year as a band, Cheap Trick continue to improve and put on stellar shows. If you have the opportunity to see them this summer go out and do. The sets are often made up of greatest hits numbers both old and new fans will enjoy. Cheap Trick's new album Music For Hangovers is compiled from dates the band played during endless touring last year. It's only fitting that Cheap Trick see wide-spread recognition again with this album even though they haven't really gone away. Their eventual US breakthrough was a live album. In 1979 Cheap Trick Live At Budokan grabbed the attention of CBS Records after Japanese import copies started showing up on the charts — a very unusual situation in the US. Earlier this year, the band released two tracks as free downloads in the MP3 format generating interest and sales, not a bad plan when you own your label. See what the members of Cheap Trick are up to, read about techniques and tricks they use recording and playing, and maybe even buy a title or two.  (Back to top of page)


(990628) Ben Folds Five
The Original Ben Folds Five Web Page - On Line Since November 5, 1995
http://oeonline.com/bff/index.html

Frank Maynard
hosted by Observer & Eccentric On-Line
Livonia, Michigan, USA

_________________________________

Ben Folds Five
The Unauthorized Biography of Reinhold Messner
http://www.benfoldsfive.com/

Ben Folds Five
Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA

_________________________________

Ben Folds Five: The Clubhouse
http://www2.mwis.net/~xeaxes/bff/index.html

Kyle Fisher
Kansas City, Missouri, USA

It's funny how the Ben Folds Five manage to release singles rerecorded to eliminate the swear word(s) in the album versions. Using foul language to punctuate a sentence has never really bothered me if done with grace, and Ben Folds has made an art form out of it on at least one song per record. Never going full-tilt Dennis (expletive deleted) Hopper with bad words, watching the band on television or waiting to hear their latest single has the added enjoyment of wondering how Ben will sanitize the lyric. He can obviously see the humor in the situation, standing there pounding on his piano in front of millions of viewers at home while the other two members of the band smile back his way and at the cameras. As if the three of them have been out ringing the neighbors doorbells and running like heck, they are wiseacres who know that the whole situation is so juvenile it only adds to the humor. This soda-pop out the nose silliness is also evident when the boys are doing interviews, pulling the legs off of disk jockeys and entertainment editors like they where spiders, giving answers like "The point at which I knew music was what I wanted to do?" Folds might say, "Definitely when I saw The Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show." Ben was barely more than a kiss when the show aired live! The Beatles influence is evident in their music, probably more Paul McCartney than the others — any of the Ben Folds Five albums could be played back to back with Paul and Linda's Ram and not sound too much different except Ben isn't as stoned. Other people have compared the Ben Folds Five to mid-period Billy Joel®, but the playing reminds me more of Joe Jackson on one of his rare "I will try not to be such a wimp today" days.

The three sites in this episode are important for different reasons. Frank Maynard's Original Ben Folds Five site is hosted by Observer & Eccentric On-Line (http://oeonline.com/), a newspaper concern in the Detroit area. The irony is that Detroit was the first major market to see commercial success with free-form FM radio programming. In 1968 a station using the call letters WABX* came on the air and changed the way people in Detroit and Windsor, Ontario heard music on the radio. Singles mixed especially for the limitations of AM radio and tastes of teen-aged listeners gave way to longer and somewhat stranger album tracks. It was a different time in Detroit, see I NEED MORE - The Stooges And Other Stories, Iggy Pop with Anne Wehrer (http://www.virginrecords.com/iggy_pop/needmore.html) for a great look back. Frank Maynard's site has information about the band from a fan's point of view and has been there from the beginning. This site should serve as an excellent introduction to the band and it illustrates the path that the Ben Folds Five have followed learning to tame down singles for radio and TV.

The next site is the official site for the band and has information about the new album The Unauthorized Biography of Reinhold Messner. Tour dates and merchandise are here along with videos and pointers to other sites. Very nice design here, the band's label is obviously taking them seriously right now.

Kyle Fisher's Ben Folds Five: The Clubhouse is a bonanza for fans of the band, with seemingly authorized, or at the very least ignored MP3 files of early versions, live sets and radio/album versions of much of the band's material. The song count is up over 250 right now and worth looking into. Additional tour information and much more is available here as well.

* Not to be confused with WABX -107.5 FM (http://www.wabx.net/) in Evansville, Indiana although they are currently using the old WABX logo. I have an interesting history of the original WABX in text form, taken from a 1973 station brochure. If you are interested let me know and I'll e-mail it to you.  (Back to top of page)


(990629) Mental As Anything Online
http://www.mentals.com.au/

Mental As Anything Touring P/L
Annandale, New South Wales, Australia

Outside of Australia Mental As Anything remain relatively unknown, not for a lack of trying though. With hits in England and Canada not to mention the fact that they are one of, if not the most successful domestic act in Australia, the band has been almost completely ignored by US consumers. Touring in the early '80s with Men At Work and several albums on both A&M and CBS may have helped a little, but US popularity has avoided them so far. If you've seen Young Einstein or any of the Crocodile Dundee pictures you have heard the Mentals. Songs on the soundtracks of these big movies included instrumentals and a cover of Chuck Berry's Rock And Roll Music. No strangers to recording other people's songs, they have also released fantastic versions of Roy Orbison's Working For The Man and Elvis Presley's signature, Love Me Tender. If I had to describe Australia and her people to somebody unaware, Mental As Anything records would certainly be used. Smart and funny, the individuals in the band have done projects outside of the group and every one of them are outstanding visual artists as well. Visit this site, read about the band, look at their paintings and illustrations (which look like the records sound), and follow a few of the pointers at this official site — any band that has pointers to NRBQ fan sites can't be bad. If you have 15 or 20 bucks to spare, follow the pointers to the online retailer at the site, for the first time in a long time Mental As Anything albums are available as imports in the US. Australia's best kept secret will celebrate 22 years together in August and maybe it's time international audiences finally took notice. Thanks for all the great music so far guys!  (Back to top of page)


(990630) Rob Murphree's Adrian Belew WWW Site
http://www.murple.com/adrianbelew/

Rob Murphree
Murple Web Creations
Tuscaloosa, Alabama, USA

Legend has it that during the sixties someone left the phrase "Clapton is God" on the wall of a London subway station, perhaps it was a rabid fan or it could have even been Eric Clapton himself responsible for the story. It's safe to say that if the story were to be about Adrian Belew, there would be no mention of subways or gods, what you'd hear about would be vandals at the Cincinnati Zoo making speech balloons on the glass in the Penguin House with big old grocery store markers. "Belew is Cool" or something similar maybe. Adrian Belew is one heck of a guitar player, one of the best ever. His work producing and performing with the likes of King Crimson, The Bears, Jars of Clay, Laurie Anderson, Joan Armatrading, David Bowie, Crash Test Dummies, Cyndi Lauper, Mike Oldfield, Robert Palmer, Paul Simon, Talking Heads and Frank Zappa have only helped to enhance that reputation. Rob Murphree's Adrian Belew WWW Site contains interviews and letters from Adrian Belew as well as a complete discography and music files galore. While you are visiting this site, be sure to look for information about the connection Adrian Belew has with Maury Amsterdam. If you are still not convinced, Rob Murphree states at this official site, "If you like the Beatles, you'll like Adrian Belew." He's right too.

I hope that you have enjoyed this somewhat abbreviated Theme Week, if you have found a new favorite in any of the five acts profiled this week please drop me a line, I'd love to know which ones you liked  (Back to top of page)


 

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Copyright 1999 Edward J. Pelegrino. All rights reserved.
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Updated June 30, 1999

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