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The Official Guide to Bedlam

The teeming, chaotic, utterly bizarre world of popular music on the Web -- brought to you by MTV and Yahoo!.

Shakespeare's Theatre

A multimedia tribute to the reopening of the Globe.

Classically Inclined

A refreshingly fundamental approach to classical music.

The Museum of Jurassic Technology

"Um, what exactly is this place?"

Women's Health Online

As soothing as a pastel-painted clinic, as informative and helpful as your favorite clinician.


Experience an "activist frisson" on the Web.

Hong Kong Diaries

Making history -- and living it -- on a personal scale.

This Disquieting Structure

Why the cult of Thomas Pynchon is right at home on the Web.

For more, see the complete Web Citations Index.
August 20, 1997

Tom & Ray

People either love or hate Car Talk, the weekly National Public Radio program in which two automobile mechanics, Tom and Ray Magliozzi, sit around raucously laughing at each other's jokes and at their callers, occasionally pausing to diagnose a few automobile problems. Presumably, only those who love Car Talk will venture to its Web site, which has recently moved to the Microsoft Network, but those who hate it still might learn a thing or two about their cars by checking in.

The Magliozzi brothers have built a Web site that stretches the definition of "car talk" even beyond that of their radio show. Summer DrivingReaders can post and respond to personal ads (people must begin their ads by saying what kind of car they'd be), test their wits against Tom's in trivia, send Mad Libs-style hate mail to mechanics or ex-boyfriends, and read columns by Tom or Ray on anything from the evils of skeet shooting to the joys of hosing down the driveway. Although funny, all this can be a bit much, and without the spontaneity of the radio Tom and Ray's jokes seem a bit tired.

While the site at first glance seems dominated by frivolity, it is actually full of information that's useful, not just entertaining. Curious about what kind of car to buy? Check out Tom and Ray's impressionistic test-drive notes and reader responses compiled from a detailed auto survey. Wondering what's wrong with your car? Search through old Car Talk shows, send a query to Tom or Ray, or post a question on the message boards. Nervous Summer Drivingabout finding a good mechanic? Visit the Mechan-X-Files for recommendations by other site visitors of good, honest mechanics.

Whether it's owing to the unlikely cult of personality established by the Magliozzis or the fact that people love to talk about cars (and perhaps hope to avoid a trip to a mechanic), Car Talk's message boards are thriving. And if the talk on the message boards at times becomes more serious about cars than the program that spawned it, there are always the clips of Tom and Ray laughing to lighten things up.

Copyright © 1997 by The Atlantic Monthly Company. All rights reserved.
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