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Tears & Laughter
By Linton Weeks
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, May 13, 1999

  The Navigator

This article contains links which take you outside washingtonpost.com.

If you wake up with a pain in the middle of the night, you now have lots of online places to go for comfort. The Internet is awash with sites where people can complain, and listen to others complain, about medical ailments.

At Mediconsult.com, for instance, someone who says he's a narcoleptic experiencing problems with Ritalin can find others in the same waiting room. One headache sufferer banged her head against the wall for relief. Obese people suggest diets.

You can jaw all you want with other sick people, but if you need some real answers from a real doctor, surprise!, it will cost you real money. For about $200, you can receive an online consultation from someone who seems to be a medical expert. The site maintains an impressive list of doctors.

There are experts, and then there are the people who really do the labor -- temporary workers. One of the funniest bits going is the amazing adventures of The Available Temping Man, an animated cartoon on a site created by Them Keener Boys. The episode is strange, it's bawdy, it's almost brilliant.

When the Available Temping Man learns that a choice office job was given to an inept, out-of-work actor, he sets out to save the day. On the way to the office, he's involved in an auto accident and must send his trusty sidekick, Sticky Boy, to do the mundane chores.

The Temping Man, according to the Web site, is based on characters devised by Tom and Dave Keener, two stand-up comic brothers from New York. "The response to ATM was immediate," writes Dave Keener. "When we heard people laughing at collating jokes, we knew we had hit a nerve." The Keeners wrote the script (which contains some obscenities); animators did the rest.

If you're looking for an antidote to humor, you might want to check out the official Web site of Thomas Harris, an amazing and masterful writer. In his second novel, "Red Dragon," Harris introduced one of the most terrifying characters in American literature -- Hannibal Lecter. Lecter returned in "The Silence of the Lambs" and he's back once more in Harris's new novel, "Hannibal," which will be published next month.

True fans of Harris will want to dig deeper, into the Definitive Hannibal Lecter Homepage. The Web site was pieced together by someone with a University of Oregon address.

And speaking of sequels, a number of parody pages have sprung up around "The Phantom Menace," the new Star Wars movie. On his Movie Juice Web site, Mark Ramsey mocks the trailer of the film. One streaming video speaks reverently of a time Before Darth Vader . . . Before Dartha Stewart . . . Even Before Darth Brooks . . .

The satire will make some folks guffaw; it will make others sick.

And the latter bunch can turn to Mediconsult.com.


   
© Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company

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