Websites Off the Beaten Track

It’s relaxing after a hard day at the salt mine to do aimless surfing on the Internet.  With enough rudderless drifting across the web, you can haul up at some strange places.

I’m on the lookout for intriguing, thought-provoking, absurd and just plain fun sites.  Here’s a few I’ve come across.

How About Some Tasty Fungus…

I was introduced to Cuitlacoche, a black fungus considered a delicacy in Mexico, at Sneeze.  (Half Zine. Half Blog. Half Not Good With Fractions.) 

With a hilarious commentary (if somewhat over the top), and some revolting photos, the writer welcomes us to the world of cuitlacoche, which infects corn fields and swells kernels with its black spores.  The result can be bought in cans for your next dinner party.

What does it taste like?  “Does it matter??  LOOK AT IT!”

Walking on Old Masters

After that, we better cleanse the palate, and palette,  at Julian Beever’s pavement drawing site.  Julian is an astonishing artist who produces art on pavement, including copies of the old masters, portraits of celebrities, and optical illusions.  He’s decorated the pavement of both Europe and North America.

queen.jpgFor instance, his painting of Queen Elizabeth is tremendously detailed and richly coloured for a piece that will be eventually walked over and obscured.

He paints anamorphic illusions on the pavement, which from a certain angle allow drawings in two dimensions to appear to be 3D objects.

(It just occurred to me that perhaps this site is a hoax.  You can do a lot in Photoshop.  But no, he has too many photos of people standing around watching him, and I have seen those anamorphic illusions before.)

He also does wall murals and fine art oil painting,  with interesting examples on his site.

For the Gentlemen and Ladies 

For those of us who swagger down the street with a walking stick or sashay with an umbrella, we must be prepared to take on the occasional ruffian.  With a little study and practice, this site may hold the key.

It’s a reprint of an article from the 1901 Pearson’s Magazine by E.W. Barton-Wright entitled “Self-defence with a Walking-stick: The Different Methods of Defending Oneself with a Walking-Stick or Umbrella when Attacked under Unequal Conditions (Part 1).”

barton-wright18.gifBarton-Wright was a British railway engineer who lived and worked in Japan and studied jujitsu and judo there in the 1890s.  He then returned to England and started his own school of martial arts called Bartitsu, after himself of course, which incorporated both Japanese and European martial arts styles.

Bartitsu was popular and trendy for a time, due in large part to the martial ability of Japanese and European fighters who joined Barton-Wright for a short while, but then it declined and became largely forgotten until the last few years.   Interest has been rekindled and there is now at least one website ( devoted to the art.

Lake Wobegon Effect

There’s a thorough and potentially insightful list of cognitive biases in this article on Wikipedia: everything from choice-supportive bias (the tendency to remember one’s choices as better than they actually were) to mind-projection fallacy (the notion that probabilities represent intrinsic properties of physics rather than a description of one’s knowledge of the situation) to the Lake Wobegon effect (the human tendency to report flattering beliefs about oneself and believe that one is above average).

It strikes me that there is a rich mine of material here for character creation and development, as well as plot devices, in fiction. Besides all the reflections and refractions I can find in my own character.

Wireman – He’s Out to Save the World

And finally, here’s an amusing and addictive if slight game to play.  It is a side-scroller with a drunken little figure shooting out “wire” (but more like sticky bungie-cords to me) to negotiate up and down and to the right through the game’s obstacle course.

If the little feller doesn’t move fast enough to the right to keep ahead of the scroll, you’re done.  I’m proud to say that after a few tries, I got him swinging like Tarzan for about 21 seconds.

It attains a high standard of mindless entertainment.

Explore posts in the same categories: Art, Games, Internet, Martial arts, Writing

6 Comments on “Websites Off the Beaten Track”

  1. Eliza Says:

    Fencer: Bartitsu sounds interesting – Malaysia has been very rainy lately so I may decide to make the brolly part of my wardrobe! Anyway, is your nickname inspired by a fencing hobby, by any chance?

  2. fencer Says:

    Hi Eliza,

    Yes, I’m a long-time recreational fencer, mostly foil, a little epee. It’s good exercise, and good training in some specific ways.

    I just like the sound of ‘Bartitsu’ — sounds so made up.


  3. bloglily Says:

    Whenever I try rudderless drifting, I end up crashing into the rocks. You, however, wash up on lovely island after island of interesting stuff. Is there a secret to this? xo, BL

  4. fencer Says:

    Hi Lily,

    It is time consuming to separate the chaff from the wheat, and then distinguish which is which.

    One secret, actually, is Stumbleupon (, a free browser extension which has its own community of stumbleuponers… almost too involving.

    And I also use Quintura Search alot (

    Pardon me, I’ve got to head for the crowsnest again!


  5. Dan Says:

    Here’s an odd one, how about my site which is literally called The Beaten Track :)
    I love aikido by the way, been going to classes for 3 months now. I’m getting there.

  6. fencer Says:

    Hi Dan,

    How about that… Thanks for stopping by! I took a look at your site and enjoyed your comic strip. There’s an admirable pithy conciseness there which I lack.

    Sorry to learn about the hernia operation… Hope it goes smoothly so you’re back at the aikido dojo in no time… Take it easy though.


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