MAD DOG: Surfing for the Saviour

I predict that by this time next year everyone on the face of the Earth will have their own website. As it is you can't go anywhere without seeing those three w's smacking you in the face. They're on the sides of buses, candy bar wrappers, even TV commercials, which makes no sense at all. I mean, who has time to watch TV commercials when we're all so busy putting animated images of dumb Scottie dogs running back and forth barking on our website just so everyone else can sit around staring at their computer screens waiting an eternity for a page to download and say, "Oh, that again?."Though a recent survey shows that San Francisco is the most Internet-wired city in the country, with 70 percent of the population online (the other 30 percent being just plain wired), Los Angeles has to take the prize for most blatant website promotion. There's hardly a restaurant, gas station, ice cream store, or shoe repair shop there that doesn't have a banner hanging out front broadcasting its web address.While there's no doubt this is convenient for some things, I'm not sure it's always practical. Sure it would be nice to check out the daily specials at the doughnut shop before I leave the house in the morning. And yes it would save gobs of time if I logged-on to the DeliCam before going to lunch so I could make sure the roast beef is rare enough. But face it, they're not all this useful. Something tells me that when the day comes that I need to point my browser to "www.e-z-bailbonds.com" I'll wish I had memorized their phone number instead of their internet address. Unless, that is, the police start letting us use their computer so our one phone call can be to get online. No one wants to be left out of this stampede. Big corporations have websites. The pimply kid next store who just wiped out your bank account by buying bomb supplies online with your credit card has a website. Even revolutionaries like Mexico's Zapatistas and the Kosovo Liberation Army have websites (www.spin.com.mx/~floresu/FZLN and www.zik.com/). More and more of these sites have webcams. These are stationary cameras which are kept on 24-hours a day so people can log onto a site and watch nothing happen for very long periods of time. Think of it as the Al Gore of the Internet. One which is a big success is the JenniCam, where a young woman goes about her life while grown men fork over their hard-earned cash hoping she'll do, well, the types of things they dream about doing with Jennifer Lopez. Or Shania Twain. Or just about anyone other than their wife.There are webcams that show traffic, the changing leaves in Virginia, and even the inside of a refrigerator so you can sit around and wait for someone to open the door and reach in for the milk. A religious group, Daystar International Ministry, has taken online voyeurism one step farther by setting up the MessiahCam. That's right. Now you can drop by www.messiahcam.org any time of the day or night and look at live shots of the Eastern Gate of Jerusalem, which is where they claim Jesus will show up. Of course they don't say when he'll show up, which creates a big problem. At least with the ChangingLeavesCam I know to watch during the fall.The MessiahCam raises the proverbial bar for the religious use of technology. Until now the prize was in the hands of the Lubavitch Jews, who a couple of years ago took to carrying pagers so they can be alerted when the Messiah shows up. Wouldn't it just be too embarrassing if they got paged by someone watching the MessiahCam?The Vatican, never liking to be more than a few hundred years behind the times, is taking this seriously. Not the MessiahCam, the Internet. They already have their own website at www.vatican.net. I guess www.pope.com was already taken. But they want to do more, so they're thinking about—hang onto your electronic rosary!—assigning a patron saint of the Internet.And why not? They have patron saints for television, headaches, and postal workers (Matrona, Teresa of Avila, and Gabriel). They have patron saints for comedians, sore throats, and hairdressers (Vitus, Blaise, and Martin de Porres). They even have a patron saint of married women (Monica) and one for snakebite victims (Hilary) which makes you wonder if Nostradamus had a hand in choosing them.The frontrunner for the title of Patron Saint of the Internet is reportedly Saint Isadore, who set up the first webcam over 1,400 years ago but had trouble attracting anyone to her site since, well, nuns don't do anything worth watching. Just kidding. Actually she wrote a 20-volume encyclopedia which they say is kinda sorta like a database. In a way. If you squint real hard.If this becomes a reality it won't be long before we can sit in front of our computer while it boots up and offer a prayer to Saint Isadore, asking her to protect us from crashes, viruses, and Microsoft. We'll be able to download screensavers of Isadore that play "Amazing Gates", I mean, "Amazing Grace" while little animated angels run back and forth across the screen barking. We'll even be able to email prayers to everyone in our address book asking Isadore to save us from being flooded with chain emails.On the other hand, we could just keep doing what we're already doing—staring at the MessiahCam and JenniCam while we place bets online about which will be the first to show the Second Coming. I know where my money will be.

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