I wonder about the appeal of the Internet during the lazy days of summer.
Surfing the Web is definitely an indoor sport. Computers don't do well outside. Laptop screens are hard to see in sunlight, and keyboards don't do well with ocean sand.
But summer is also a time when many of us more sedentary types retreat into books, either at the beach or lake, or in the comfort of an air-conditioned room.
As a teen, I spent my summers reading pulp fiction magazines, usually detective or horror stories.
Now, this was many years before personal computers were invented, but had I the Web back then, I would have spent quite a few hours at Mind's Eye Fiction - http://tale.com
This site posts short stories in seven genres: Fantasy, Horror, Mystery, Romance, Science Fiction, Urban and "Other side" - just plain weird. There are about 100 stories at the site (most are science fiction) - more than you would find in several short story anthologies.
Many of the authors have been published (some of the stories first appeared in traditional print media) and some also have their own sites where you can find more of their work.
Some more interesting sites for summer reading:
Melville's strange tale of Bartleby the Scrivner is the inspiration for ProjectBartleby http://www.columbia.edu/acis/bartleby/index.html -
a small library of classic English and American literature that can be read online. A search engine will find passages in any of the books.
If you're planning to take on vacation the latest tomes by Marcia Clark, Chris Darden or other instant celebrities of the O.J. Simpson case, you might want to add another one, available free on the Web.
At his Web site - Pulpless.Com http://www.pulpless.com/ojframe/ - writer J. Neil Schulman resurrects "The Trial of the Century" in a long, rambling essay called "The Frame of the Century."
Mr. Schulman presents a strange but plausible theory: that Ronald Shipp, the friend of Mr. Simpson who testified against him in both the criminal and civil trials, is an obsessed fan who committed the murders to frame Mr. Simpson.
While Mr. Schulman admits there is no hard evidence to support his theory, he presents a compelling circumstantial argument for it.
He bases his speculations on "cognitive dissonance" - things that don't make sense.
Whether you believe in O.J.'s innocence or not, it's interesting reading.
For those who buy The New Yorker just for the cartoons, there's the 10 Laughs a Day site http://obryan.com/10Laughs/ - which posts two new cartoons each day. They're posted by cartoonist Sam Gross to promote the traditional witty line drawings that are so hard to find these days.
I see OK!
Anyone who plans to travel America's highways this summer should visit License Plates of the World - http://danshiki.oit.gatech.edu/~iadt3mk/index.html
Yes, somebody has put up an entire site with photos and information about automobile license plates. Find out what Ontario's "Je me souviens" (I remember) means, and who gets those unusual Native American plates seen on pickups in Western states.
Armchair space travel
Large glossy photos - the kind found in five-pound coffee-table tomes - aren't popular on the Web. But if you have a fast Web connection (not AOL at 14.4K), visit NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory site - http://www.jpl.nasa.gov - for some gorgeous images from space.
Watch comets smash into Jupiter, see what our space probes see as they pass planets and distant moons, and glimpse a huge asteroid that will pass Earth (by less than a million miles) in 2004.
Cooking online There are some interesting culinary magazines online. One is the Internet Food Channel - http://www.foodchannel.com - a site that links to recipes and cooking articles buried in many other sites.
E-mail Charles Brewer with questions, comments and suggestions at CBrewer@enquirer.com Charles Brewer's columns can be found athttp://enquirer.com/columns/brewer