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NetNomad 36

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 . . . Sewers of the World Unite . . . The Annotated Dennis Miller . . . The Puppet Cafe . . . Two-Lane Blacktop . . . Banco de Gaia
 
 
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Sewers of the World Unite (projects.artinfo.ru/sewers)

One man's manhole is well, another man's manhole. Unlike roses, manhole's are not one of life's pleasures we usually stop and smell, but here is a "global mail art project focusing on images of manhole covers, gutters, and grillwork related to sewers." We are almost afraid to inform you that there are over 300 manholes in the gallery, and even more amazed to discover that the images are absolutely wonderful! Honestly. All of the photos "must be taken from above, focusing on the center of the object" and it is this splendid uniformity that captures each manholes subtle, and sometimes not-so-subtle, differences. The site seems to be based in Russia, and also includes news and links to other manhole projects.

The Annotated Dennis Miller (www.Britannica.com/bcom/original/article/0,5744,12332,00.html)

Something odd is happening over at the Britannica.com site. Something almost --dare we say it-- human. The latest human trait is The Annotated Dennis Miller page. The thinking man's comedian has a reputation for being so very-well read that on occasion his worldly references might leave fans in the dark. No longer. The folks at Britannica now provide a blow-by-blow of Dennis' comments made during his NFL games. It begins with a particular quote ("Well, it's not that bad a surface--I tripped over Hoffa down in that far end zone") followed by the meaning of the reference (he was alluding to former Teamsters Union president James "Jimmy" Hoffa who vanished without a trace in 1975) and finally an interpretation of what Miller might have meant (most urban zoning laws do not allow the burial of human remains on the grounds of major sports arenas.)

The Puppet Cafe (www.thepuppetcafe.com)

We can't help but think of the movie "Being John Malkovich" when we talk about this site, but Jim Henson Interactive has launched "the first-ever global community for puppeteering professionals and enthusiasts." The site is hosted by Smarmy, a virtual puppet-host who guides guests through the downtown bohemian-style nightclub. Smarmy is an animated something-or-other who explains the ins and outs of the site. One almost forgets that he is not a puppet! Once inside visitors are treated to a wonderful selection of current and archived puppet videos, puppeteer biographies and links to puppeteers' home pages.

Two-Lane Blacktop (www.redrival.com/denny/mag.html)

It was 1971. The hippie era was pretty-much dead, but Hollywood, as usual, was just a few years behind. The film "Easy Rider" was Hollywood's answer to the era that had just ended, but some held out hope that the last word had not yet been spoken. A new director, an up-and-comer named Monte Hellman was being touted as a representative of "The New Hollywood". His film, "Two-Lane Blacktop," staring James Taylor, Warren Oates and Beach Boy Dennis Wilson would provide the new voice. Or maybe not. The film died a quick death and remained in obscurity until it was recently released on video. The verdict: The film is an understated wonder that, unlike Rider, is a genuine artistic expression and not simply a remembrance of things past. This site features a first-hand account of the making of "Two-Lane Blacktop," published in 1971 while the film was still in production.

Banco de Gaia (www.banco.co.uk)

To begin at the beginning: The name Banco de Gaia is an intentional bastardization of The World Bank. It is a music group, comprised of, for the most part, a single individual, Toby Marks, who happens to reside in the UK. Some press releases refer to his music as "modern dance music" or "global dance music" but that seems like a bit of a slap in the face; it reminds us more of the work Philip Glass has done for some of his film projects. But there is no doubt that the work is global in its perspective. His latest CD, "Igizeh" contains snippets of music from around the world, including field recordings made on location inside Egypt's Great Pyramid. His official site contains a sampling of audio and video clips and a discography. And in keeping with Marks' sardonic sense of humor, the page entitled "The Meaning of Banco" is, of course, blank.