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since 17/07/2000

44 12/08/2001

They Misunderestimated Me What comes to mind when one mentions George W. Bush, President of the United States of America? Toxic Texan? Drink-driver? Dubya? Unprintable obscenities? Chimp?! OK, let me explain that last one. The Internet can be a nasty place at the best of times, but George W. Bush is rapidly gaining a devoted following on the web, thanks to his refusal to ratify the Kyoto Protocol, his narrow and highly controversial election victory, and his patented brand of dim-wittedness. Let's have a few more examples of the gems bestowed upon the world by 'Dubya': "Rarely is the question asked: is our children learning?" "It's clearly a budget. It's got a lot of numbers in it." "The fact that he relies on facts - says things that are not factual - are going to undermine his campaign." "I understand small business growth. I was one." "We ought to make the pie higher." "More and more of our imports come from overseas." The guy should become a comedian. is the home of the "George W. Bush or Chimpanzee?" webpage, launched by Bill Feldspar in October 2000. In his own words: "This is a little project I decided to start once I realized how much George W. Bush looks like a chimpanzee. I'm not a member of any political party, and I have nothing in particular against the man. I just think he kind of looks like a chimpanzee." In keeping with its modest mission statement, the simple site serves up a few hundred JPG images comparing George W. Bush side-by-side with a ... 18/07/2001

Funnies For FREE does exactly what it says on the proverbial tin. It should come as no surprise to even the most casual surfer that numerous comic strips are published on the Internet and available for free viewing. The opportunity of instant exposure to an audience of millions attracts plenty of budding artists, some of whom have the talent of a piece of oak furniture, so the problem is one of time. How do you sort the wheat from the chaff in your search for comic titillation? Webcomics does the hard work so you don't have to, hosting one of the finest collections of comics on the web. And of course, the thrifty inhabitants of Ciao will be pleased to hear that everything is free. Furthermore, it's a hugely pleasant surprise to find neither adverts nor popups throughout the site! The main page is clean and uncluttered, as is the rest of the impressively laid-out site. The toons are placed in two main categories: around 60 comics are daily and 70 are weekly. The most straightforward method of discovering the best comics is through the Top 30, ranked according to views over a period. For instance, "Mostly Business" by Ted Goff, one of my personal favourites on the site, is consistently top of the rankings with over 3% of total views. But if you're feeling in a lucky mood, why not try out the Random Comic function? Once you've finished chuckling at a particular toon, there are several options available. Discuss the comic with fellow readers on a message board, give a ...

NapCameBack Encoder 13/07/2001

MP3 Camouflage

NapCameBack Encoder According to Talleyrand, "Speech was given to man to disguise his thoughts." The NapCameBack Encoder, on the other hand, was created to disguise MP3 files from the filters designed by file-sharing programs to block certain file names. From the very beginning, some of the most vociferous protests of the music industry against Napster came from the mouth of Lars Ulrich, the Metallica drummer. The legitimacy of his objections was and still is debatable, his outspoken complaints triggering a major backlash against the band, but the embattled song-swapping company was forced to comply with a federal judge's order to eliminate all unauthorized song trading. As of March 2001, Napster implemented filters which blocked several million song names by popular artists. The authorities underestimated the ingenuity and determination of the music-loving public; perhaps they should have paid more regard to the old maxim "necessity is the mother of invention". A plethora of new file-sharing services sprang up, many of which were far superior to the original Napster. The loyal followers of Napster also began to misspell file names deliberately; for instance, think Metalica, Couldplay, Britni. Where does NapCameBack come in? Pulse New Media, owner of the software, boasts that: "The NapCameBack software is a simple, yet elegant solution to file filtering. It takes each of the MP3 files in your Napster directory and renames the file names so that your files cannot be easily monitored ... 30/06/2001

AdultCheck Not Required When it comes to MP3 players for the PC, Winamp is by general consensus the leader of the pack. The recent release of an alpha version for Macs means that the player is poised to dominate the market for the foreseeable future. But let's face it: Winamp's default interface is pretty darn boring to behold. Ever thought that the yawn-inducing black background and grey buttons could do with spicing up? That's where "skins" come in. They are basically collections of bitmap graphics files, typically around 150KB in size, which allow a creative designer to customise the look of Winamp down to a 'p'. Think theme packages for Windows, altering icons, colour schemes and cursors, and you wouldn't be far off. Some of the skins available today are staggeringly high in quality, employing transparencies, 3D shading effects, animated cursors and specialised fonts. And they are all free! hosts one of the largest archives of Winamp skins on the web - a lot more than 1001, despite what its name suggests! The homepage offers the expected assortment of site news, information on Winamp releases and banner advertisements. No popups though! It also has a list of links to MP3 download sites, but with the advent of file-sharing programs, they are unlikely to be all that useful. Its companion sites, 1001 ICQ Skins and 1001 Fonts, are featured prominently. Wouldn't it be terrific to have a Winamp skin to suit the genre of music blasting from your speakers? They say ...

Maremagnum, Barcelona 22/06/2001

BS Nueve - Sun, Sea, Sangría, Scousers

Maremagnum, Barcelona "Good Things Come To Those Who... Wait" - thus proclaimed boldly the marketing department of Guinness, and who am I to argue? Our final night in Barcelona, a last chance to sample the delightful nightlife of the glorious city, was by happy coincidence the eve of Liverpool's UEFA cup semi-final in the Nou Camp. Allow me to share with you the wonders of the shopping centre known as "Maremagnum". Barcelona's privileged coastal location by the mild and temperate Mediterranean allows watersports, such as windsurfing and sailing, to take place throughout the year. The districts bordering the sea are generally trendy and chic; excellent seafood restaurants and cafés, serving deliciously fresh dishes, are packed into the Port Olímpic, Barceloneta and Port Vell. As darkness descends, bronzed bodies converge on the open-air designer bars to a soundtrack of predominantly Latin music. A bridge across the harbour links La Rambla to Maremagnum. Prepare to be buffeted by the howling crosswinds, and no, the bridge doesn't wobble! With a profoundly stupid tag line like: "The day is MARE. The night is MAGNUM." you wouldn't expect the shopping centre to be very popular, but then you'd be wrong! The venue offers exceptional panoramic views and draws the crowds throughout the day and night. Maremagnum is not your bog-standard shopping centre and caters for all but the most obscure tastes. Impressive statistics include no less than 12 cinemas and an IMAX theatre! The games arcade is truly ...

La Boqueria, Barcelona 21/06/2001

BS Ocho - Food, Glorious Food

La Boqueria, Barcelona It's times like this when I wish Ciao would introduce a scratch-and-sniff feature on the site! The "Mercat de Sant Josep", known more commonly and succinctly as the "Boqueria", is a true gastronomic paradise - perfect for the hungry, greedy, or just the plain curious! As one wanders down La Rambla, one reaches the section appropriately named "Rambla de les Flors" for the beautiful flower stalls lining the street. Here, opposite the Museum of Erotica and beside the Liceu Metro station (L3 Green), the gentle fragrances of daffodils and roses mingle with the fresh aromas wafting out from the Boqueria. Although Barcelona is blessed with numerous food markets, at least one in each district, the Boqueria has acquired a reputation over the years as the city's finest. The arcaded square, covered by a massive roof of iron and glass, is around a century old and elegantly contructed, though this is certainly not a major consideration once inside! Dozens upon dozens of colourful stalls, selling meat, fish and vegetables. Talkative, pleasant shop assistants, hollering news of the latest and freshest offerings. Bars providing refreshments, because one can really lose track of time there in the hustle and bustle! The ultimate tribute to the quality and range of produce on show is the multitude of restaurant owners who flock daily to the market from all over the city. The Boqueria is particularly strong on fish and sausages, but one can find anything here. However, the skinned ...

La Rambla, Barcelona 21/06/2001

BS Siete - Rumble on La Rambla

La Rambla, Barcelona You've come to the wrong place for a punch-by-punch analysis of Ali vs. Foreman, but La Rambla is just as, if not more, entertaining! The central promenade of Barcelona, a mile in length, stretches from Plaça Catalunya to the port. The magnificent street is chiefly the domain of pedestrians, as the two lanes of crawling traffic and frustrated drivers amply show. A relaxed stroll down the tree-lined walkway is an essential part of any visit to the Catalan city. Locals enjoy regular evening constitutionals here on warm nights; during the tourist seasons, you'll be in the company of thousands of fellow visitors. La Rambla's central location means that accommodation in the area is incredibly convenient but not cheap. Hotels like the "Rivoli Ramblas" on La Rambla itself are naturally costlier (and noisier!) than those hidden away in the quiet nearby squares; we stayed in the "Hotel Sant Agustí" which was only 50 metres from La Rambla. It's definitely worth doing research beforehand. Exploration of those quaint side streets and squares can yield rich rewards. Highly rated restaurants, such as "Les Quinze Nits" in Plaça Reial, and beautifully preserved churches are there to be stumbled upon. As La Rambla bisects the old town, it's easy to wander into the Barri Gòtic, boasting among the highest concentrations of medieval architecture in Europe. In the very unlikely event of boredom, the 3 Metro stations (L3 Green) and numerous bus stops will whisk you away to wherever you ...

Poble Espanyol, Barcelona 12/05/2001

BS Seis - A Snapshot of Spain

Poble Espanyol, Barcelona Promoting itself as "A Picture of Spain", the Poble Espanyol brings together in one setting the unique styles of architecture from all over the country. The "Spanish Village" was built between 1926 and 1929 for the Barcelona Universal Exposition. Situated at the foot of Mount Montjuïc, this was the picturesque site of the 1992 Olympic Games, within the large patch of green known as "Parc del Migdia" in the southwest of the city. Travelling there is not the simplest of tasks, since the park is one of the few places into which the Metro does not penetrate (and quite rightly too!). The nearest Metro station is Espanya, in the square of that name. Stroll up the impressive Maria Cristina Avenue, lined with trees and ornamental cascade fountains, and frequently featured on postcards. A series of stairs and escalators brings you past the monumental Magic Fountain to the Palau Nacional. The latter is well worth visiting in its own right, as it houses the Catalonian National Arts Museum with a splendid Gothic and Romanesque art collection. A pleasant walk and 975ptas (~£3.90) later, and you're inside! Phew! The Plaza Mayor greets you on entry, a massive square containing cosy cafés and congregating crowds. It's the centre of all activity, and a fine place to peruse the guide and get your orientation. The guide is seriously invaluable as you explore the Poble, as I found the buildings to be poorly labelled. The Poble (amusingly pronounced to rhyme with "gobble" by our witty ...

Nou Camp - Barcelona F.C., Barcelona 09/05/2001

BS Cinco - The Pride of Catalonia

Nou Camp - Barcelona F.C., Barcelona Here's something to do while you're in Barcelona: ask (politely!) any Catalan on the street what the most important football team in the world is. It doesn't take an Einstein to realise that FC Barcelona will come up trumps 99.99% of the time. "El Nou Estadi del Futbol Club Barcelona", affectionately known by the Catalan nickname of "Camp Nou", is the current home of FC Barcelona. The venue for numerous glorious footballing moments since its inauguration in 1957, the famous stadium undoubtedly contains the most revered blades of grass in Catalonia, and a comprehensive list of the sporting greats who have graced it would be very long indeed. The fiery Catalan separatist tradition has always flowed naturally onto the football pitch; anyone who has witnessed Barcelona against bitter rivals Real Madrid would find it hard to disagree! FC Barcelona was founded in the late 19th century, and occupied several stadia around the city before moving to the Nou Camp in 1957. This was inevitable as the club's popularity had soared during the 50s, driven by the team's amazing success. With a capacity of 98,000 , the stadium is by far the largest in Europe and second only to the legendary Brazilian Maracana worldwide. Located in the northwest of the city, the stadium is a few minutes' walk from Collblanc Metro station (L5 Light-Blue). Admission is a real bargain at 575ptas (~£2.30) for adults and 425ptas (~£1.70) for students with the ISIC card. With football being increasingly ...

Sagrada Família, Barcelona 09/05/2001

BS Cuatro - Unfinished Sympathy

Sagrada Família, Barcelona Antoni Gaudí was neither the first nor the last architect to work on the Sagrada Família, but his name will forever be associated with the gargantuan project. In 1926, during the construction of the gigantic church, Gaudí was run over and killed by a number 30 tram. When the ambulance arrived, no one knew who he was. An immensely sad story to kick off this opinion, but the tale of the "Church of the Holy Family" begins when Gaudí was still in his teens. In 1869, a devout Catholic bookseller decided to found a church for working class families. (This explains why it was known as the "Cathedral of the Poor" for a while.) A central plot was to be donated by a rich duchess, but she died unexpectedly, so a site further northeast had to be chosen. The architect Francisco de Paula del Villar offered to draw plans for free, and the first stone was laid in 1882. However, disagreements arose and Gaudí officially took over the next year. Gaudí completed Villar's neogothic crypt but his Expressionist style gradually started to dominate. By the time of La Pedrera's completion, he was completely engrossed in the project, living in the crypt among scale models and plans. Gaudí wanted to theme each part of the church differently, drawing inspiration from his enduring Catholic faith and admiration for Mother Nature. His sudden death left the project in a limbo - construction was put on hold, and a fire destroyed most of the original preparatory photographs and drawings. Works have begun ...

La Pedrera, Barcelona 09/05/2001

BS Tres - The Wobbly House

La Pedrera, Barcelona A building with no straight lines and no reinforcing walls? Impossible, I hear you scoff. But that is exactly what Gaudí accomplished with astounding creativity and flair in La Pedrera. "La Pedrera" translates to "the quarry", a nickname coined by the astonished population on its completion in 1910. Without doubt Gaudí's most important civil architectural work, it was declared a World Heritage site by UNESCO in 1984. Also known as Casa Milà, the building was Gaudí's last private commission before he devoted all his energies to religious projects, the best known being the Sagrada Família. Given a completely clean slate on which to design a corner apartment block, his aim was to create an utterly unique work. And once you've visited, you'd be hard pressed to argue otherwise. Located on the graceful Passeig de Gràcia, La Pedrera is a comfortable half-hour walk down from Plaça Catalunya, and literally opposite the Diagonal Metro station. Admission costs 1000ptas (~£4.00), but this is halved for children, senior citizens and students (with the official ISIC card). Opening hours are 10 AM to 8 PM every day of the week. Gaudí once observed, "There are no straight lines in nature", and he took this to its logical extreme in La Pedrera's Art Nouveau design. The huge stones embedded in the exterior resemble mountain ranges and the precipitous cliff walls into which African tribes carve their cave dwellings. The beige, organic and undulating façade recalls desert sand dunes; ...

Parc Güell, Barcelona 09/05/2001

BS Dos - Gaudí-land

Parc Güell, Barcelona Barcelona may not have a Disneyland, but it certainly has a magical park to call its own - Gaudí's Parc Güell. Antoni Gaudí was born in Reus, Spain in 1852. He studied at Barcelona's School of Architecture and went on to become the world's most famous exponent of Catalan modernist architecture, a branch of the Art Nouveau movement. He shunned what lesser others considered "normal" and "conventional"; instead of hiding parts of the natural structure of a building, he would bring them to the fore. He harnessed the complex geometries of nature and mathematical ideas in his ingenious designs, although he received no formal mathematical training. He completed many astoundingly creative works of art before his tragic death in 1926. Parc Güell sits atop the Montana Pelada towards the north of Barcelona. Once you get off the Metro at Vallcarca (L3 Green), be prepared for a bit of a trek up to the park! A visit is worth every step, and if you're lucky, the escalators up the hill will be working... Gaudí was commissioned to design the park, which was built between 1900 and 1914. It was originally meant to be a housing site, but proved to be commercially unsuccessful, and was given to the city as a public park in 1923. As a result, entrance is free! It's not difficult to work out why Parc Güell was commercially unsuccessful as an aristocratic suburb. A landscaped garden city in the Expressionist style, you feel as though you've stumbled into the fairytale land of Hansel and ...

Plaça Catalunya, Barcelona 09/05/2001

BS Uno - The Odyssey Begins

Plaça Catalunya, Barcelona Picasso had a Blue Period, the US elections had a grey period; the time has come for my Barcelona period! My next few opinions on the new-look Ciao will be drawn from my recent experiences on a school trip in this wonderful city. After much deliberation, I have decided against writing a general Barcelona op, as I feel that I could never depict the city in its full glory in a single article without breaking records - and sending you all to sleep... Therefore I'll insert general tips and information liberally throughout the series. Read on and enjoy! Plaça Catalunya is the first port of call for many visitors to Barcelona, as the shuttle trains from "El Prat" international airport (no sniggering please!) stop at the Catalunya metro station serving the square; the shuttle buses also make it a drop-off point. The square is best described as the beating heart of Barcelona, situated slap-bang in the centre of the city, at one end of the mighty La Rambla. Getting to Plaça Catalunya is never a problem. Aside from the various forms of shuttle transport and relaxing strolls down La Rambla, Catalunya is the city's nearest equivalent to King's Cross station - no less than 3 of Barcelona's 4 metro lines pass through the hub, meaning that you'll be there at some point, whether you want to or not! On a general note, the metro system is fast and very easy to navigate around. Stations are clearly identified by an "M" inscribed in a red diamond, and interchanges are a matter of ...

Cypress Hill - Cypress Hill 29/04/2001

How I Could Just Kill A Man

Cypress Hill - Cypress Hill The lads from S Club 7 may have been caught red-handed the other week, but the severity of their actions pales in comparison to the antics of these fellas! Cypress Hill gained notoriety for their endorsement of cannabis, becoming leading campaigners for its legalisation. The release of this self-titled début in 1991 ushered in a new era for hip-hop, introducing slow, stoned, funky beats that made the listener feel, well, stoned! The trio originated from L.A. and comprises rappers Sen Dog and B-Real, and DJ Muggs. The latter is arguably the most important member of Cypress Hill, as the group's highly distinctive sound is built around creepy, remote beats and weird samples, with disturbing wails coming out from nowhere. "Cypress Hill" was recorded back in the days when the group was still primarily a rap crew. In the past few years, these Latino superstars have descended to commercialised rap-metal fusion, which frankly they aren't very good at. (Incidentally, B-Real, with his high-pitched nasal tone, has been linked to the vacant frontman post at Rage Against The Machine) The main theme running through the album is gangsta life in Los Angeles. Lead rapper B-Real depicts the cartoonish violence and dope-fuelled shenanigans with stunning skill. At times, you can't help but sing along to the chant-like songs, without realising that you're boasting about blasting a would-be mugger with a shotgun... Swearing is liberal, but nowhere near the mindless levels of Fred Durst. ... 07/04/2001

Karaoke lyric n. (usually plural): the words of a song (The New Oxford Dictionary of English) How often have you listened to a song and hummed along merrily to its melody, before realising that you had no idea what the song was actually about, simply because you couldn't catch the lyrics? Today's music charts are dominated heavily by rock, hip-hop/rap and dance, and speaking from personal experience, songs from at least 2 of those genres confound me from time to time for the above reason. We've sent men to the Moon, harnessed nuclear power and developed cloning - surely there's some technology out there that can help us? The "Lyrics Search Engine" (LSE) located at can't interpret song lyrics and print them out in real time (yet), but it can do exactly what it says in its name! Having recently noticed a dearth of lyrics websites on Ciao, I decided to share this site with fellow members. It's certainly one of the best of its kind. LSE was initiated and is maintained by a 3rd year college student named Alex (a.k.a. Alee^Kat, according to his provided info!). Its front page is delightfully clean and uncluttered - none of those flipping Flash animations that take half a month to load! Finding song lyrics is as easy as typing the artist, album or song title into the text field and clicking the Search button. The search algorithm, coded and updated frequently by Alee^Kat himself, is unerringly fast and accurate - if the song is listed in the database, a few key ...
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