Humor

Cyberspace Aliens

By Dave Barry

The Webs a Nice Place to Visit, But I Wouldn't Want to Live There

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 offers—for 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, you’re 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
Waiting for what seemed like at least two academic semesters per Web page while the computer appeared to do absolutely nothing: 93 percent
Reading snippy messages stating that there is no such Web address: 2 percent
Retyping insanely complex Web addresses: 2 percent
Actually looking at Web pages: 1 percent

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 how—I'm not an expert on computers, I only write about them) and start poking around for yourself. You'll quickly discover that what you’ve 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.