"a fish, a barrel, and a smoking gun"
for 22 December 1995. Updated every WEEKDAY.

The Net Giveth, and the Net Taketh Away


[South Park]

Ah, the things one does for love,

or lack thereof. Irresponsibly

thinking we'd devised the crime

of the century, we end up living

out the nightmare of a Cheap

Trick refrain - a daily

declaration of surrender, a

daily descent into giving

ourselves away. In absence of a

compelling charismatic cheater,

we took to making ourselves the

punchline to, if not the

proverbial cheap trick, then, at

the very least, a cheap laugh.

For the time being, we've

arguably found a temporary but

sure-fire method of killing the

boredom, but at the beseeching

of our friends, family and

consciences, we're forced to

ponder: what else has fallen

victim in the bargain? Our

Christmas gift to ourselves,

then, is a moment of repose, to

look back and reminisce on that

which we gave up in favor of a

life spent chained to our

keyboards. Those with allergies

to masturbatory introspection

are invited to turn away now,

while you still have a chance -

the reflection you see may be

your own.




Onanistic proclivities excepted,

sex for us this year was a bit

of a flop. With our seduction

skills perhaps not quite on par

with those of more suave

contemporaries, frank

resignation seemed prudent - who

could blame the vast masses of

potential valentines for taking

a dim view of the dysfunctional

online exploits of confessed

cavern-dwellers afflicted not so

much by bad hygiene as lack of

discretion in personal lifestyle

management? In absence of carnal

intrigue, we upheld the clarion

call of the true geek via

tautological sublimation (i.e.,

Suck), and our decision to keep

it inside our pants did not fail

to go unappreciated, especially

by the hitcounters at The Spot.


[South Park]


Newsweek may have declared it the

year of the Internet, but the

pub didn't bother to translate

what the net meant in '95: point

and click, skim and print.

Technology devolved us from

voracious readers to expert

searchers and heavy users of the

Find command, with frequent

trips to the printer for those

documents which necessitated a

quick going-over. The one book

we did manage to page through

between us was Kaplan's

Start-Up, leant to us by

HotWired's managing editor.

Since we gave up long ago on

trying to divine the deeper

motives of HotWired's lead

editorial team - what did they

mean, by giving us a book with

the title of Toy Story? - we

won't try to place the former GO

exec's cautionary tale into a

larger context, but instead note

that it was typeset, and printed

on a neutral stock - and it

didn't require a mouse. We

theorize that there are more

readers of publications about

the net than of the net itself, but

only because it's less painful.


[12 Monkeys]


In the realm of prepackaged,


entertainment experiences,

nothing can parallel the

efficiency of the movie

industry. (Well, we won't go

into amusement parks...) While

it shares factory-precise

schedules with its cathode

cousin, TV, the cinema offers

its own social and consumer

economy in the form of tickets,

popcorn, long lines and cramped

seating - all the good stuff in

less than two hours. How is it,

then, that not only did we not

spend our evenings enjoying the

latest features, but we spent

most of our time oblivious to

their very existence?

Interesting questions pop to

mind: did all those QuickTime

previews kill our enthusiasm for

their extended progenitors or is

a 12-second preview ample time

to communicate the zeitgeist of

any celluloid opus? More to the

point, did the near-universal

disdain shown for our commentary

on anything vaguely

Hollywood-related stooge us into

avoiding the issue and the

industry altogether?


[South Park]


As if wandering through a maze of

twisty little URLs, all alike

wasn't bad enough, we took time

out in 1995 to wander through a

maze of twisty little polygons,

all rendered. VRML gave us such

brave new worlds as a virtual

refrigerator, a virtual airport

terminal, and our favorite, a

virtual park modeled after the

one outside our building. Color us

reactionary, but we would have

had a better time if we had

actually left the office.




Too tired, bored, or demoralized

to work, but without enough of a

life to go home, there was

always chat or IRC. Whether or

not the talk invariably seemed to

denigrate into a series of IMOs,

LOLs and BRBs, with the

occasional "What are you

wearing?", the very act of

entering a chat room was the

adoption of a virtual community.

To quote the introductory text

to our favorite chat space, the

space bar, "You are not alone."

Unfortunately, instant

communities are a lot like

instant noodles - they're not

very filling, and only serve to

remind us of our true cravings.

To think we could have instead

ventured outside the office to

spend time with our real friends -

or even have talked to whomever

it is who sits in the next





If our hasty decisions to migrate

westward were less inspired by

opportunism than by an innate

directive to separate ourselves

from our closest genetic

relatives, we could hardly have

met with less success. Brief

encounters with Webster's

wayward brother proved forever

that we would never again

fashion ourselves "punk," even

in a figurative sense. (Frankly,

we doubt we could work up the

nerve to match his experiments

with elaborate facial

tattoo work.) And with almost

every member of Duke's family

leaping online (each bringing

their unique spin on criticism

to bear on his every

miscalculated thought) what

seemed like an escape emerged as

a Thanksgiving family reunion

nightmare from which awakening

was forever ruled out. After

carelessly exposing our favorite

online haunt, we've prudently

placed moratoriums on discussion

of our favorite mailing lists,

having realized that not every

half-assed stab at community is

necessarily wanting or deserving

of prime-time staging.




South Park - SOMA, SF: digital

industry frontier by day, local

cable red-line district by

night. Living a block away from

one's work may be the calling

card of obsessed misfits or the

flatly stupid, but if we could

at least get an occasional

half-hour of public-access TV,

we might make it home more

often. As it was, '95 was the

Boobtube Blackout Year for the

Sucksters - a conscious decision

predicated as much on the

absence of cable service (and

poor reception) as upon the

knowledge that even surfing

weightlifters' home pages made

for a more compelling experience

than the best TV had to offer.

After watching one too many

Budweiser commercials turn our

drinking games into embarrassing

clichés, it just didn't

make sense to subject ourselves

to the systematic deconstruction

of our very souls. And who needs

dealing with the daily terror of

desperately searching for a

half-dozen remote controls when

one mouse with one button yields

similarly satisfying pap?




Once upon a time, we would've

thought nothing of taking money

hard-earned prostituting

ourselves to the digital

industry and blowing it on the

door and bar of any given loud,

sleazy dive. But even in a big

city, the same panoply of faces

becomes familiar even quicker

than the Lego-inspired

songwriting skills of today's

crop of kettlebangers. It's a

toss-up whether the

grandchildren will be bored more

by tales of marathon

surf-sessions or stories of

being able to stomach a mere 15

minutes of Courtney Love's

faux-S&M birthday bash (sans

Courtney, of course). We found

ourselves opting for the former

with disturbing frequency -

though we were delighted to be

able to empirically prove after

samplings of the Santana and

Rolling Stones MBONE productions

that we weren't just sourgrapes

over not being able to get

tickets to the real events - our

threshold for tedium simply

isn't that high.




Java-based games reminded us once

again that we've never been much

more than drooling key-punchers.

Now, the applets may have saved

us a few quarters in order to

discover what we already knew,

but the time we spent waiting

for the games to download was

probably about as long as those

quarters would have lasted at

the arcade. 3-D Netris,

Asternoid, PacMan, or Missile

Commando: we haven't played such

crappy renditions of arcade

classics since the Atari 2600,

although the 2600 never crashed

like Netscape does, unless there

was a bratty sibling involved.

Perhaps it would have been wiser

for us to have acted the roles

of a couple of drunk assholes in

a smoky pool hall than two

pasty-faced nerds playing just

one more game of Web Invaders?

Hindsight is always 20/20.

courtesy of the Sucksters