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Random Stuff on the WWW

By Devin D. O'Leary

AUGUST 30, 1999:  When people think of computers, they tend to conjure up images of timeliness, efficiency and information. Anyone who's ever spent any time online, of course, knows that this is complete bunk. Computers and the Internet are really just about wasting time. Every single day, someone comes up with another completely useless application for a computer. It's got nothing to do with increasing efficiency, and everything to do with wasting all that extra time we now have thanks to today's superfast computers. Witness the growth in "random" sites on the Internet. These are basically gussied-up versions of the old random number generators that we all created as our very first computer test programs back in junior high. Today's Java-enhanced random generators are capable of creating a vast computer library full of amusing and entirely useless crap. If you wanna know what all the computer programmers were doing instead of working on that Y2K problem, here's your answer.

Internet Conspiracy Generator

Westword, one of the groovier alternative weeklies out there, maintains its own damn fine Web site. To lure people to their home page, they've created this amusing time-waster similar to the old "Mad Libs" word games. Click on the button to generate your own random "X-Files"-esque conspiracy theory. Our nutty rambling: "It is rumored that Lee Harvey Oswald was seen using the Force just before the October Surprise while receiving a case of campaign donations implicating involvement in a sinister scheme designed to enhance self-esteem." It would be more entertaining if you got to enter your own conspiracy words, but it's an OK waste of about 25 seconds.

Band Name Generator

Vancouver-based music mag The Jam created this random band name generator, one of several on the Web. Like Westword's Conspiracy Generator, it's really just a little gimmick to lure people to the site. The word bank seems fairly small, so I'm not sure you could wrestle too many chart- topping band names out of this thing. Our rather puzzling band name: Whiskey Bacon Carnival. ... Hmmm. Might work for a cowpunk trio.

Lee's (Useless) Super-Hero Generator

In addition to having one of the best home videogaming sites on the Internet, Lee K. Seitz boasts one of the most entertaining random generators in existence. Believe it or not, this thing has actually been added to and refined many times over the years to reach its current useless state. Just click off all the options you want, such as hero name, villain name, team name, weapon, vehicle, power, source of power, adjectives, suffixes, Kewlifier (misspells everything for cool -- sorry, "kewl" -- Image Comics effect) and Marvelizer (guarantees your powers will be mutant-based for increased sales). Once you've clicked off everything you need, hit the generate button and you're comic book bound. Our randomly generated hero: The Strange White Y who travels around in his Y-Paddle Boat fighting evil with his meditation-generated power of Machine Control. Be sure and click on the "possibilities" option to see all the other alternate arrangements of your superhero name. The Strange White Y didn't reach his full superhero potential until we realized he might also be known as the "The Strange Whitey."

Random Food Generator

This site is apparently in Australia, so not only do we get weird, randomly generated menu items, we also get some bizarre Aussie delicacies thrown in for good measure. A complete menu, filled with half a dozen scrambled selections, is included with each random generation. Some of our items sounded vaguely edible (like "spicy cream cheese"), others sounded disgusting ("creamed glucose"), and still others were teasingly obscure ("chocolate-coated lamington sponge").

Surrealist Compliment Generator

I'm guessing there's not a whole lot to do over at the Molecular Biology and Pharmacology department of the Washington University-St. Louis branch. How else do you explain this exactly-as-advertised Web site? Our surrealist compliment: "The searing runes crossing your divided consciousness do speak of contemptuous cardinals setting a Spanish villa ablaze." Kinda makes you wonder what it is the students are inhaling in pharmacology lab.

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