Language of virtual love blossoms in cyberspace

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 02 February, 1999, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 02 February, 1999, 12:00am

It is that squidgy time of year again. As February 14 comes around each year, hearts soar and cash registers ring with the sound of love in the air.

In recent years, Valentine's Day has taken on a new dimension as the word of love takes to the Web.

Valentine's Day was a Roman celebration named after a priest executed for defying an order from the emperor Caligula that his soldiers not marry. Valentine ignored the order, married the soldiers and paid the price.

That is the official version, but the Romans were celebrating love long before Valentine came on the scene. Priests following the god Lupercus chose February as a time of purification and fertility, February being the official arrival of spring. To mark the occasion, they would smear themselves with sacrificial blood and run through the streets whipping women with a goat-skin thong. They knew how to enjoy their Valentine's days back then. This and much more can be learned on the Mining Company's history pages at ancienthistory.miningco .com/library/weekly/aa021098.htm.

Call me a Philistine, but ancient history can get pretty dull at times. Ben & Jerry, makers of some pretty cool ice-cream, have livened up the Valentine's story a little with their Ben & Jerry's Valentine's Day Glad-Lib at euphoria Why it is called that, I have no idea, but you can use the site to recreate your own Valentine's tale.

The town of Loveland in Colorado has spent more than 50 years trying to stamp itself as the heart of Valentine's Day the way Lapland has with Christmas. Loveland Valentine Remailing Program at ine/index.htm receives Valentine's cards from around the world, which it stamps and posts on to up to 300,000 recipients each year. Each envelope goes out with a schmaltzy stamp. Loveland does not do this purely for love - you also can buy your cards on their site.

If you like animations taking over your screen each time you take your hands off the keyboard, then a Valentine's screensaver might be the joy you are looking for this month. Star Promotions at www.starpromotions.

com/soft7.htm has seven Valentine's screensavers that you can download to bring a little love to your workplace.

Valentine's Day is second only to Christmas in importance for the greetings card industry, and card printers must be worried about the effect the Net will have on their businesses. Almost every Web site with a Valentine's theme offers free Valentine's cards by e-mail. It is not as romantic as a traditional card, but it is fast, and free. Blue Mountain Arts at www.bluemountain.

com/eng/valentine has dozens of cards to choose from, all of them animated by soppy music. The site also offers free virtual flowers and poetry.