News & Politics

NetNomad 19

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: El Vez ... The Hollywood Sign ... Neal Cassady Raps ... The Pollution Calculator ... Patrick O'Brian Web Resources.
El Vez (members.aol.com/elvezco/main.htm)

To paraphrase Mark Twain, the reports of Elvis' death were greatly exaggerated. In fact Elvis is alive and well; he's simply changed the spelling of his name to El Vez. And rediscovered his Latino roots. El Vez --AKA Robert Lopez-- known as "the Mexican Elvis" has set out to prove (as he once told the Seattle Times) that "by looking at Elvis in the terms of my heritage, people see you don't need to be white, middle-aged and male to be King." There is a tour database listed here, as well as a complete discography, merchandise (including a Graciasland T-shirt and locks of hair) and reviews from a number of sources, but the history page is still to be written.

The Hollywood Sign (www.hollywoodsign.org)

Just about every star has a sign in Hollywood, but one of the most famous attractions is The Sign. The Hollywood sign "stands 50 feet tall, stretches 450 feet across, and weighs 450,000 pounds." This site features a Webcam as the main draw, but the history of the sign is just as fascinating (the original was created in the 1920s) as are details on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Sorry to gush so; we really had anticipated mocking the site but it is in fact very informative and tasteful. Go figure.

Neal Cassady Raps (www.mamba.demon.co.uk/choice/cassady.html#go5)

It was July 23rd, 1967. Or was it September? Anyway, it was the Grand Reopening of the Straight Theater on Haight Street in San Francisco, circa 1967. Neal Cassady, he of Jack Kerouac and Beat Generation fame, rapped with the audience while The Grateful Dead played behind him ("making Prankster music") with Garcia's riff as incessant as Cassady's own. What the hell is he talking about, anyway? The rap is fully annotated, replete with hyperlinks and streaming, so you can hear it all, even if you cannot understand it all! " ... Six days it was. Finally she grabbed the Vick's VapoRub instead of the Vaseline it was and that was what ended it ... " Cassady went to Mexico shortly after this recording was made and never returned.

ELPC Pollution Calculator (www.elpc.org/polCalc)

The Environmental Law and Policy Center (ELPC) Pollution Calculator allows residents in some Great Lakes and Midwest states to enter the amount of their monthly utility bill and then calculate how much pollution their electricity usage has created. A monthly bill of just $10.00 calculated in Minnesota would create CO2 pollution that would be equivalent to driving 3444 miles (4 trips from Chicago to New York), nitrogen oxide equal to driving 2121 miles (3 trips from Chicago to New York) as well as sulfur dioxide, nuclear waste and mercury.

Patrick O'Brian Web Resources (www.io.com/gibbonsb/pob)

When called upon to comment on the death of author Patrick O'Brian, playwright David Mamet is quoted as saying: "...And I will not say I cried at his death, but I will not say I did not." Not nearly enough people did cry on the occasion of O'Brian's death on January 2, 2000 at the age of 85. O'Brian was the author of dozens of books, including the masterful 20 volume set of sea-faring adventures known as the Aubrey/Maturin novels. Detractors often use the term "historical novels" in describing this type of fiction, and while there is no doubt that most of his books do indeed fall into such a category, they are in fact in a class of their own. Those of us who only discovered his work after his death will be shedding our own tears soon enough.