"a fish, a barrel, and a smoking gun"
for 17 January 1996. Updated every WEEKDAY.

The Other Java


[Inside the CyberCafe]

Ever choose to sit on the can in

a gas station restroom when you

could do it in the comfort and

safety of your own home, or

better yet, at the office, while

the work clock ticks? No?



Then it's time to check out your

local "cyber café," where the

double espressos flow freely and

"getting wired" is a clever

double entendre. It's a lot more

straightforward than adding a

disclaimer to your .sig for

using an AOL account, and a lot

less humiliating than buying a

book that says it's "For




At Cybersmith, a new chain

opening in Cambridge, MA that

follows the cyber café

blueprint, you can choose

between "55 computer stations

featuring high-speed Internet

access, CU-SeeMe, image

morphing," and "Virtual

Reality," not to mention the

requisite slew of t-shirts

proving once again that

from now on every revolution

(of the technical variety, those

social ones being horribly

passé) will be commodified. Now,

while we may frequent food

chains, we sure as hell don't

eat on the premises - yet cyber

cafés continually tout the

advantages of using the Internet

"in a social atmosphere." We're

just a little confused about who,

exactly, would prefer to run

that search on "butt-munch" in a

joint filled to the brim with

proselytizing poseurs waxing

philosophic on art for arts'

sake and the horrors of selling

out (followed by exchanging tips

on making those unemployment

and/or trust fund dividends

stretch to cover the daily $25

latté and pastry tab). But maybe

we could tell a net-buddy via a

chat session how one-dimensional

the locals are.


[People In Front Of Computers]

Of course, we do recognize the

convenience of having an

inexhaustible supply of drugs

within easy reach (even if they

be caffeine, alcohol, and

nicotine), but in order to truly

get LOST online in the most

escapist sense, isn't it

preferable to be a) avoiding

work or b) avoiding the real

world? Like snarfing down

candy bars on the way home from

a Weight Watchers meeting,

cruising the net has a certain

guilty-pleasure appeal

inextricably linked to its

status as A Big Waste of Time in

the context of More Important

Things To Do (laundry,

inter-office memo composition).

Put that net connection in the

context of a crowded café, and

you're no better or worse than

that flock of hipsters with

Burnt Sienna lips slurping down

cappucinos and trading charming

anecdotes re: last night's

Alanis Morissette concert.



Besides, it hardly seems prudent

to go out into the real world to

use the net, given the threat of

actually having to talk to

someone. We Sucksters spend most

of our time on the net not

because we love what we do, but

because we find "real" life

downright disconcerting - we

hate to meet people without first

viciously prejudging them via

the bad poetry and glam shots

from their home pages, and we

get mighty impatient when we

can't bookmark exceptionally

dull conversations and move on.

But then, there's "digital

ambience" - at Icon Byte Bar &

Restaurant, an SF-based cyber

watering hole, that means lots

of welded metal, walls crusted

with conglomerations roughly

resembling chips, and 3-D

animation clips flying

dizzyingly overhead. Plus,

according to their site:

"Sometimes the video gets routed

to a video projector, so

whatever you are doing will be

on the wall, 5 feet wide." Uh,

we don't mean to be party

poopers, but we can only imagine

the gasps and gut-rumblings

resulting from a sudden projection

of just one of the net's less-savory

offerings. Excellent fried

calamari or no, full-screen

Faces of Death-style butcherings

hardly seem likely to aid

digestion in the digital dining




And let's not forget that

futuristic retro touch of a

continual McDonald's-style

digital message board behind the

bar, flashing out all of the

latest hype on Icon: "Where the

local digerati go to meet and

greet. - Newsweek" Hunched

miserably over our pints of

bitter (that we can barely lift

to our mouths thanks to carpal

tunnel and overall

Web-weariness), we're comforted

by these Vegas-style reminders

that we're important after all.

We only wish we could get one of

those things for our bedrooms.



But maybe a cybercafé is the

place for you - maybe you've got

severe credit problems. Maybe NO

computer has a small enough

footprint to fit between your

Ziggy Page-a-Day Calendar and

your '79 World Encyclopedias.

Maybe you just want to check out

enough to sputter, "Don't

believe the hype" every time the

word "Luddite" gets hurled in

your direction. Or maybe your

14.4 connection puts you to

sleep every time you try to get

a little peek at Jenny Garth's

latest, uh, work.



Besides, cyber cafés are noisy,

they're inconvenient, and best

of all, they cost a lot - some

joints charge up to $6 per half

hour. What better way to justify

hours of wasted time sorting

through crap than by paying for

it? (Why else would we get

cable, aside from the obvious

lure of E!?) Sure, we could spend

that money on other things - a

square meal, the new Star Wars

Action Figures, psychotherapy -

but we'd much rather go to the

cybercafe and chat with all our

new-found virtual friends from


courtesy of Polly Esther