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Be My Martyr

February 01, 2001|ROBERT BURNS | robert.burns@latimes.com

Valentine's Day is fast approaching and, like most, our thoughts turn to martyrdom. Love hurts, but probably not as much as what was done to the saints the heart-shaped-box holiday is named after.

There were at least three St. Valentines, according to New Advent's Catholic Encyclopedia (http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/15254a.htm), and all were martyrs. Although details are fuzzy, Catholic Online Saints (http://www.catholic.org/saints/saints/valentine.html) points out that one was beaten with clubs and then beheaded.

Though feeling beaten is pretty much a given for a first date, the History Channel (http://www.historychannel.com/exhibits/valentine)offers a few more details on the martyr-love situation. According to legend, one of the Valentines got on the bad side of Emperor Claudius II by performing forbidden marriages. (Claudius thought single men made better soldiers.)

Another of the Valentines is said to have sent a love note from prison--to the jailer's daughter, for whom he fell. Since the future saint was either a priest or bishop, the church must have been a little more loosey goosey about the whole celibacy thing back then. Hey, it was the 3rd century.

The site also has stories of some famous romances, including Harry and Bess Truman's, but former President Clinton has pretty much cured us of wanting to know anything about any politican's love life.

At the Columbia Chronicle (http://www5.interaccess.com/chronicle/back/feb1097/article13.html), we learn the Romans didn't just slay Valentines; they were as romantic as the rest of us. On Feb. 15, the Romans held the festival of Lupercalia, which celebrated spring, young love, goat-skin whips and possibly saint killing.

In the Middle Ages, the romance angle of Valentines was strengthened when people observed birds pairing up in the middle of February. In some places Valentine's Day was called Birds' Wedding Day. Be thankful they weren't watching lemmings. More on birds and the history of the holiday can be found at PhillyBurbs.com (http://www.phillyburbs.com/valentine/index.shtml).

In modern times we've taken love and romance to sophisticated new levels. Take AmIHotorNot (http://www.amihotornot.com), where people post photos and visitors rate their looks on a scale of one to 10. Shallow? No way. A similar site, AmIHot (http://www.amihot.com), includes comments such as "She's cute!" And you thought you needed a reason not to upload pictures.

At ECrush (http://www.ecrush.com), you can let someone know you're interested without, like, actually having to talk to them. Nothing says love like spam.

Then there's Fox's twisted speed-dating ritual known as "Temptation Island" (http://www.fox.com/temptation), which really puts the romance back in infidelity.

There are whole Web rings of personal Valentine pages overflowing with hearts, roses and teddy bears saying, "I wuv you." Yeah, it makes our teeth hurt too.

Christine O'Keefe's page (http://www.geocities.com/Athens/Parthenon/1502/valen.html) has history, customs and a lot of other good stuff, but she lost us with the SnackMaster cherry tart recipe that involves white bread and low-calorie margarine.

At Marvelicious (you just know this is going to be sweeter than bad candy) Valentine (http://www.marvelicious.com/valentine.html), there are tips for around-the-house romance and a recommended reading list.

We could go on with these sticky personal sites, but like a craft show, a little goes a long way. If you can't get enough, try the Happy Valentine's Day Web ring (http://www.ringsurf.com/netring?ring=valentines;action=list) or the Be Mine Web ring (http://nav.webring.yahoo.com/hub?ring=lovetoall&list). Intervention also might be considered.

For every sweet there has to be a sour, and there are some anti-Valentine's Day sites as well. If you're not in the mood for love, try Anti-Valentine's Day Central (http://www.westworld.com/~elson/me/columns) or the 12-step program at Protest Valentine's Day (http://tribune-review.com/music/poems.html). Remember, they're not bitter, they just have Hallmark issues.

For those of you without issues, try Einstein's Emporium (http://www.einsteins-emporium.com/science/human-anatomy/sh331.htm) for that perfect Valentine's gift. Anyone can give candy. It takes someone special to include ventricles and valves.

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Robert Burns is an assistant Business editor at The Times.

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