By Dave Barry
The Webs a Nice Place to Visit, But I Wouldn't Want to Live
A common criticism of the Internet is that it's dominated by
the crude, the uninformed, the immature, the smug, the untalented, the
repetitious, the deluded, the self-righteous, and the shrill. This criticism
overlooks the fact that the Internet also offersfor the savvy individual
who knows where to look--the tasteless and the borderline insane. Here, I'm
thinking mainly of the World Wide Web. Much of the Internet relies strictly on
text, but the Web is multimedia; this means that if, for example, youre
setting up a Web site devoted to the near universal human fear that a Star Wars
character wants to consume your gonads, you can present this issue in both
words and pictures. But before you put up your own site, look at what else is
out there. In researching this column, I spent many hours exploring the World
Wide Web. My time was divided as follows:
Typing insanely complex Web addresses: 2 percent
for what seemed like at least two academic semesters per Web page while the
computer appeared to do absolutely nothing: 93 percent
messages stating that there is no such Web address: 2 percent
insanely complex Web addresses: 2 percent
Actually looking at Web pages: 1
As you can see, it can take quite a while for a Web page to
appear on your screen. So it's a good idea to have something else to do, such
as reroofing your house, while you're waiting.
Anyway, by virtue of being diligent and not having a real
job, I was able to get through to quite a few Web sites, and I'll describe some
of the more memorable ones. But before I do, I want to stress some points. The
sites described here are real. But by the time you read this, you may not he
able to visit them. Some may have gone out of existence for various reasons,
such as their creators being recalled no their home planets. These sites
represent just a teensy fraction of the Web sites you can visit. Do not assume,
from what you see here, that all Web sites are a total waste of time; the
actual figure is only about 99.999997 percent.
Giant Collection of Viola Jokes
(www.mit.edu/people/jcb/jokes/viola.html). If you're like most people, you
frequently remark to yourself: Darn it! I have an important business
presentation to make today, and I would love to break the ice by opening with a
viola joke, but I don't know any fresh ones!" Well, after visiting this Web
page, you'll never have to make that statement again. Here's a sample. Q: How
can you tell when a violist is playing out of tune? A: The bow is moving.
Trojan Room Coffee Machine
(www.cl.cam.ac.uk/coffee/coffee.html). If you go to this site, you can, merely
by clicking your mouse, see an up second video image of the coffee machine in
the Trojan Room of the University of Cambridge Computer Laboratory in England.
It would be virtually impossible to calculate the time that has been saved by
disseminating this information via the Web, as opposed to previous methods.
People With Toasters
(www.berksys.com/cafeslack/unur/index.html). This page features photographs of
people with their toasters. Need I say more?
Now that I've whet your appetite, what you need to do is get
on the Web (don't ask me howI'm not an expert on computers, I only write
about them) and start poking around for yourself. You'll quickly discover that
what youve read about here exemplifies some of the saner thinking going
on. So go ahead! Get on the Web! It's way more fun than watching television,
and what harm can it do? OK, it can kill brain cells by the billions. But you
don't really need brain cells. You have a computer.