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Web Monitor

17:09 UK time, Wednesday, 28 October 2009

A celebration of the riches of the web.

Today in Web Monitor: the difference between an actor and a star, an unexpected question from the war crimes tribunal and the politics of the metaverse.

Michael Caine

• Michael Caine suggests age doesn't just affect the popularity of female actors in Hollywood. Caine said on Radio 4's Front Row he realised he was ageing the first time he was sent a script to play the father rather than the lover. He said the secret to ongoing success was in changing his job description:

"I became a movie actor. The difference between a movie star and a movie actor is that a movie star looks at a script and says how can I change this to suit me and a movie actor says how can I change me to suit this."

• Former Bosnian leader and accused war criminal Radovan Karadzic didn't turn up for the start of his trial on Monday in The Hague.
For Brian Palmer in Slate the name of the Dutch seat of government raises one question - why do we call it The Hague, and not just Hague? In answering this question, he says that in medieval times, place names that were descriptions received the definite article. And in the case of The Hague, unlike other places, it has just stuck:

"We get the official name Den Haag from Des Graven Hage, which means 'the counts' hedge' and refers to the fact that Dutch noblemen once used the land for hunting. Many other place names started off as descriptions with definite articles. For example, the city of Bath, England, famous for its purportedly health-supporting natural spring, was referred to as 'The Bath' until the 19th century."

• Pixels and Policy - a blog that looks at how virtual worlds change our politics, policy and culture, brings up the curious case of racism in Second Life. In virtual reality you create what you look like - your avatar - so are given the opportunity to separate yourself from your age, race or gender. Despite this, Pixels and Policy have found research from North Western University which suggests people are less likely to help someone if they have a black avatar:

"The issue of race can be so uncomfortable in the virtual world that black players will play as white avatars to avoid the awkward coldness experienced by the white player... The idea that a black woman would need to play as a member of another race merely to avoid the social awkwardness of being black in the metaverse is disturbing."

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