"a fish, a barrel, and a smoking gun"
for 19 March 1998. Updated every WEEKDAY.
Hit & Run CXXIII



It was at just about

this same time a year ago that

the Heaven's Gate true believers

opted to become Phil Knight's

most successful models - and

thus proved that there's no

tragedy that can't be turned

into a kick-ass marketing

campaign. This time around the

sun, it's the frostbitten death

of intrepid Everest climbers

shilling for Malden Mills, the

Lawrence, Massachusetts-based

textiles company that brought us

Polartec. Jon Krakauer may well

have turned Mount Everest into

tall dollars, but he's now been

one-upped by the release of

Everest, a documentary about the

expedition shot in IMAX format.

As reported last Thursday in

WWD, the Boston premiere

featured a lobby full of

"mannequins clad in Polartec

jackets, oxygen tanks, and

climbing gear," all of which

stood in, presumably, for the

eight climbers who perished

during the film's making. Not to

be outdone, Phil Knight

announced that he was laying off

1,500 Nike workers - almost 7

percent of the total work force

- to tie in with the release of

Michael Moore's The Big One. The

reason? Because they were there.



Is technology neutral? (No)

Should government be helping us

cope with change? (Yes) These

days you need really big

questions to form your own ism.

The manifesto of the

Technorealists, whom naturalists

classify variously as

"cybertheoreticians" and "a digital

dream team," has already achieved

its primary goal - keeping the

moral debate on technology (Is

the Internet utopian?) going

long enough to let one more

English major or former food

writer become a tech writer, or

just look like one. Sound like

the Lord's work to you? The

Technorealists will let you join

up. Indeed, the list of

signatories to the manifesto

boasts a range of Q-ratings from

zero to one - and Q-rating is

kind of the point. Between the

news stories, a conference today

at Harvard, and one parody after

another, Technorealism looks to

have a media shelf life almost

as long as Punxsutawney Phil's -

and, like Phil, to be back in

some new form year after year

for all foreseeable years.

Today's conference even contains

its own negation. Technozealist

John Perry Barlow - having

jumped right into his role as

Sergeant Slaughter to the

Realists' Andre the Giant - will

be in attendance, possibly to

hurl thunderbolts at the

Technorealists, possibly to

issue a Chief Joseph-style

surrender, definitely to get his

name in the papers. And for the

99.999 percent slice of the

population that never tuned in

in the first place, the

conference will look remarkably

like what it is - a bunch of

pointy heads converging on a

single point, forming a pinwheel

of sorts, spinning wildly but

still surprisingly square. Put

another way, "Auditions for the

next Microsoft Heroes

commercial: Today, 3 p.m., Ames

Courtroom, Austin Hall, Harvard."



"I started to play

golf about five years ago,"

explains super-efficient divot

prototyper Bill Gates in a new

commercial for Big Bertha

oversized golf clubs. "It was

humbling. I really like it, but

it's so frustrating!" While

those with less faith in human

nature than us might interpret

the ad as Gates' cynically

calculated effort to soften his

image from "unethically ruthless

monopolist determined to own the

world" to "unethically ruthless

monopolist determined to own the

world who golfs," we understand

it as nothing more than a


straightforward warning to his

competitors: Once again, he's

found the biggest possible club

with which to beat them. If

anything, what the commercial

really serves as is an ominous

warning to the golf club

industry. Like all Big Bertha

spokespeople, Gates received an

option for 5,000 shares of the

company's stock rather than a

cash payment - which, of course,

means that golf has suddenly

become a game worth winning to him.


[Red Herring]

The Red Herring, usually a

faithful lapdog to budding

netrepreneurs and the venture

capitalists who bankroll them,

can turn vicious when it's

caught barking up the wrong

tree. That must be why it's been

so rough with former cover boy

Kris Hagerman of BigBook. The

Internet business directory is

selling off its vaunted site,

which Hagerman told The Herring

back in 1996 would devastate the

staid yellow pages business -

the ultimate dead-tree industry.

Unfortunately, Hagerman was more

interested in futzing with the

site's interface than developing

any revenue streams.

CEO-in-a-box Woody Hobbs was

brought on board last year to

slap some sense into him and

turn the start-up into something

resembling a business. After

half a year, Hobbs is declaring

victory and going home, leaving

the 40-person firm in the hands

of an experienced multilevel

marketing manager. Its new

business? It's going to focus on

building and promoting Web sites

for small businesses, with a

chain of "independent

representatives" to sell it. We

can see the pitch now: It's

Tupperware meets Microsoft

Frontpage, minus the distinctive


courtesy of the Sucksters