For reasons better left to a back room at the Swiss Hotel, the powers that be asked your humble lifestyle editor to aid in the implementation of the some of the paper’s recent online initiatives. Forgive the corporate-speak, but I’m trying to swing with the day-job parlance of my era, though so far my communiqués seem only to baffle and come off vaguely French. From what I can tell, the way to speak corporate is to make up your own words, usually by turning innocuous nouns into verbs (i.e., “pretexting”), which is exactly what the scientist-saviors do in vintage sci-fi flicks: “If the [insert noun] is properly [insert noun + ing] then we might — just might — have a chance.”
I feel particularly well-suited for a onlinenizing the paper given that the Internet and I have something of a history together. Make that case history. And it has nothing to do with Al Gore, to whom the Internet screams, “You’re not my real father!” Listen, back in the late ’90s, I was part of the first wave of online entrepreneurs when the new business paradigm was really just the old business paradigm but extracted of all economic reality. The era reminded me of Monty Python’s “Whizzo Butter” sketch in which an animated pitchman exalts that his product has “a 100 percent more less!” This, of course, was the same model on which many erstwhile Internet businesses were based. Some were only a notch above conceptual art, vague Fluxus-fueled ephemera for the Information Age — consider IfoldSpaceWithMyMind.com, once digital chic, it’s now barely a punch line. Ditto the myriad “online séances” that swarmed servers back in the day, which were just as worthless as the “mass suicide countdown page” which featured a “days left” counter of time remaining before the customer base would collectively off themselves. Mercifully, the company folded before Jonestown 2.0 occurred (theoretically, the company would have folded anyway having lured their customers to annihilation). Of course, those years of folly were adroitly parodied with Southpark’s Underpants Gnomes whose three-point business plan went “1. Collect underpants. 2. ? 3. Profit!” Like the gnomes, those caught in the aftermath of the bubble likely had a need for clean underpants as well.
My own ventures into virtual business entailed a series of ill-fated online publications, the dot-com names of which were worth more than all my original content combined. I sold much of this cyber real estate to underwrite my forays into film before pulling up stakes and moving to Los Angeles to await ratification of my “standard rich and famous” contract. This was just after the bubble burst, however, but before Hollywood realized that the fabled “convergence” of TV and the Internet was still years off. Now, it seems that “convergence” has morphed into “divergence” as media consumers continue to trade the remote for the mouse. Likewise, as oft-ballyhooed, the notions of “point and click” and “point and shoot” have joined in the form of digital filmmaking so that now, literally, everyone is a director. This certainly accounts for the staggering amount of amateur porn now available online (uh, I hear).
At 34 (which is ancient, in technology years), I’m old enough to remember the quaint days when op-ed pages crowed that the Internet was the gateway to Orwellian-style surveillance, but the present reality is more like “smile, you’re on YouTube.” For that matter, op-ed pages and their ilk, theoretically, are evolving into blogs, which ironically often score book deals, the product of which are often excerpted in periodicals, then recycled in a birdcage. Ah, the circle of life.