It didn't take long for the Internet to succumb to crass Christmas commercialism dot com. But even in the midst of interactive excess, some folks are using the new technology to rediscover age-old truths and traditions.
A few weeks ago, for instance, Colleen Lynch launched her Christmas '98 Web site. "Already," she writes on her homepage, "the toy stores are mobbed with pushy mothers and grandparents who 'just have to get' a certain toy for a child. During these busy times, it's nice to just look outside and see the children happily playing in the snow."
On Lynch's site you can send someone an online Christmas card, learn the history of Christmas and read O. Henry's "The Gift of the Magi" and Clement Moore's "Night Before Christmas." It's a simple and sappy site for what should be a simple and sappy celebration.
Stacey's Merry Christmas site is also light and unpretentious. Using the links on her home page you can send a letter to Santa, check out the weather at the North Pole, discover the secrets of an intriguing, fact-filled advent calendar and view a clever online version of "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" by Dr. Seuss. You can also learn about Stacey, whose favorite Christmas films include "The Lemon Drop Kid" starring Bob Hope and the original "Miracle on 34th Street." The true miracle is that her page does not link to an online video store.
For Christmas music, Thomas Nedzbala has pulled together scads of carols on his Santa's Christmas Music site. Stay away from the gaudy ad links at the bottom and you can find the lyrics to everything from "Adeste Fideles" and "O Holy Night" to a parody of "God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen," called "The Restroom Door Said Gentlemen," and one of "Winter Wonderland" called "Walkin' 'Round in Women's Underwear." Okay, Tom.
These keepers of the holiday have put a lot of drudgery and design work into sites that will mostly be seen by friends and family members. One GeoCities member named Becky has created a smart (if smarmy) Christmas Page that contains a Christmas quiz and "The Night Before Christmas for Moms." Here's an excerpt:
It was the night before Christmas, when all thru the abode Only one creature was stirring, and she was cleaning the commode.
From the looks of it, Becky is a card-carrying Cajun. She has a recipe for Christmas praline cookies and a little graphical box that opens and says "Heaux Heaux Heaux." Unfortunately, she's fallen for the icky Internet fad of icon adoption. Web sites "adopt" little faeries or angels or dragons or babies that link back to the adoption center. Becky's site is cluttered by two faeries and a dragon.
When you've had your fill of holly jolly Christmas sites, you can check out a few of the anti-Christmas pages. The best of the lot is Don Jackson's Special X-mas Page. Jackson, full of bah and humbug, enumerates 11 reasons why we should hate Santa Claus. Among them, he commits tax evasion, trespassing and illegal surveillance. "He is dangerously overweight," the list reads. "He never exercises. What are we teaching our children about health and fitness?"
Linton Weeks can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
COME ON BY, WE'RE NOT HERE
On the Web, however, everything's still standing. Check out the room decor! Register for an upcoming slot-machine tournament! Call for reservations! (I did, and, boy, was I relieved to learn the number had been disconnected. This site was starting to give me the creeps.) "We're a Las Vegas 'Original' and you'll see why the Sands withstands the test of time," the site boasts. BILL WALSH
GO AHEAD, PICK A NUMBER . . .
GIMPS is the Great Internet Mersenne Prime Search. Primes are numbers that can be divided evenly only by themselves and 1 like 3, or 7. Mersennes are cool because they are the largest known on the order of a million digits. Despite three centuries of looking, only 37 of them have ever been discovered. Yet three of them were found recently by folks running GIMPS, the most recent in January by a 19-year-old, Roland Clarkson of California.
The free program from the GIMPS Web site sits in the background, invisible, crunching very large numbers only when your computer has nothing else to do. (I've been running GIMPS for the past month to make sure any latent problems in my new PC turn up while the machine is under warranty.) If you get a hit, you're more likely to gain glory throughout the known universe than from any screen savers. ALLAN WM. JOHNSON JR.
Found something intriguing, improbable, insane or especially useful on the Net? Write it up and send it to Joel Garreau or Robert Thomason.
© Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company
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