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NetNomad 44

Five offbeat, timely reviews of Web sites on the arts, politics and news -- with a dash of the absurd thrown in for good measure. This week: . . . Dead or Alive? . . . How Stuff Works . . . Rock's Backpages . . . Jeffrey Wigand . . . North Mississippi Allstars.
 
 
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Dead or Alive? www.dead-or-alive.org

If you've ever tried to find out if a famous person is "dead or alive" you know how frustrating it can be. This site lists 4722 famous (and semi-famous) people from all walks of life -- entertainment, politics, sports, science, journalism and more-- so you can find out if they're, well, dead or alive. If you use the search engine you can search by name; we tried Bob Hope and were pleased to find a smiley face next to his name, indicating that he is still with us. Not so Jimmie Davis. We had never heard of him before his death last week but it turns out that he wrote the classic song "You are my Sunshine." (We're not being our usual sarcastic selves here; listen to the words of the song sometime. It is as simple and timeless as any song every written.) Davis was 101 when he died, we learn here, and by gosh now we're going to miss him!

How Stuff Works www.howstuffworks.com

Let's face it; most of the stuff we have in life we take for granted. From phones to computers, cars to toasters, we just assume they are going to be there when we need them. HowStuffWorks won't teach you how to fix something that isn't working, but it does provide a fascinating overview on how things actually do work. You'll find info on computers and Internet, engines and automotive, science and technology and even body and soul. And of special interest these days, you'll find a section on How the Electoral College Works, although it might take more than a well-meaning essay to sort out this one!

Rock's Backpages www.rocksbackpages.com

There have always been those poor lost souls (this writer included) who firmly believe that there are few things in life as exciting as the world of rock 'n' roll. U.K. music journalist Barney Hoskyns is so certain that this is true that he has set up a subscription site that will, he hopes, become home to "the disaffected 30- to 50-year-olds who don't connect with commercial pop but are unsure about alternatives." The site is free for now, and it is well-worth a look-see. There are said to over 1500 articles available, many from 30 years ago and most exclusive to the site. On making The Band's second album, for example, Levon Helm says: "We had actually figured out some methods of how to really turn the heat up and get the music to cook: how to blend our voices three different ways, how to get the track together and not make it so complicated."

Jeffrey Wigand www.jeffreywigand.com

Jeffrey Wigand served as the inspiration for the Al Pacino / Russell Crowe biopic "The Insider" and we were curious to find out about the man behind The Man who helped teach Big Tobacco the true meaning of the word whistleblower. We were half-expecting to find out that the press had gone to Wigand's head, but were decidedly pleased to discover that he has not only put his life back together, but is using his "insider" knowledge to educate young people on the dangers of tobacco. He talks to them -- and others -- on a regular basis. The site contains his itinerary as well as links to many of the documents associated with his fight with Big Tobacco.

North Mississippi Allstars www.nmallstars.com

You could say that music is in Luther and Cody Dickinson's genes. And in their jeans. Their father is producer and musician Jim Dickinson, who produced among others, Ry Cooder's classic "Boomer's Story." The Dickinson's younger have taken their own path, fashioning a highly spirited tribute to bluesmasters Fred McDowell, Walter "Furry" Lewis and others. Theirs is a mix of blues and rock with an eye on the future as only the young can master. Their official Website features a complete bio on the boys plus bass player Chris Chew, along with two tracks from their wonderful "Shake Hands with Shorty" CD.