January 2000
s m u g
by Joe Procopio

Slumming with the Webzillionaires

I'm telling you right now, this whole crazy Internet thing is coming to an ugly end.

My beloved web was once a podium and forum for the select few who took the time to learn the subtle tricks of the medium. Scant years later, what is left resembles a behemoth. The digital version of John Carpenter's The Thing. For all intents and purposes, the PC has evolved into a television that you can type into.

If today's web site isn't pummeling my bandwidth with the ill-advised crude animation of a dozen inane banner ads, it's desperately begging to collect my underwear size so it can send me email about DSL. In fact, the web is invariably on my ass about buying something. Anything. From a loosely reserved airline seat to an item as simple as a CD - the availability of which I will shortly be informed is no longer.

It is because of this very lament that I've been putting off integrating myself into the circles of the webzillionaires, even though the line on these cats is that they're young, like, younger-than-me young, and rich, like, richer-than-God-rich. Conventional wisdom will tell you that this is fertile social ground but - I don't know, my thing is chic. Not geek-chic. Hip. Not hip-to-be-square-hip.

On the other hand, I figured getting on the inside would be like shooting fish in a barrel. Anywhere there are dorks walking around with piles of money and glorified calculators in leather carrying cases, there's a good chance that one of them is bound to give me a million dollars for some pickup lines.

On a recent night that found me stinking drunk and bored at an opening that might as well have been for a can of Spam, I floated a trial balloon to a few of my undisciplined, un-tech, and thus un-rich peers. I told them that I had the makings of a retirement plan.

1) Find the biggest of these Internet Brainiacs
2) Locate the proverbial social thorn in their paw
3) Yank it out
4) Buy an island

The plan was met with kudos and someone mentioned I should also try to get stock options. No one could tell me how they worked, but everyone assured me they were quite valuable. I made a note on a cocktail napkin and hailed a cab.

My first tactic was a quick call to Gates. Admittedly, I hadn't talked to him in months, but I knew he'd love this idea. For one thing, it'd get me off his back. I've been trying to sucker him out of cash for years.

We chatted about the weather for a while. I gently brought up my idea about making a mint off the net kids and asked him to name names. He hemmed and hawed.

"Well, I suppose you should start with - well... if you really want to get on the inside - Wait. Look. Off the record for a minute?"

"Yeah, man."

"You're not going to print this, right?"

"Of course not."

A sigh. Then a long silence. Then he leveled with me.

"Okay. Here it is. I don't have a fricking clue about the web. Not an ounce. Not a fragment. It just makes me want to cry. I don't know what the hell is going on with those freaks. Never did. I think they hate me."

Then he laughed a girlish laugh that melted into a sob.

"Whoo. God, it feels good to get that off my chest."

Well, this put my entire plan into a tailspin. What's more is I would eventually find out that absolutely nobody knows these people. I mean, everyone knows who they are, but no one knows who they are.

The webzillionaires, it turns out, are the new wacky neighbors. Like comedians in the eighties, but with less personality and better fashion sense (that is, if you want to call Structure fashion sense. I just meant they don't all wear sport coats with the sleeves rolled up). Everyone dishes about them, but no one has ever taken the time to get to know them and, in retaliation, they've gotten all passive-aggressive and made themselves very hard to know.

I wasn't getting in through the front door. That was obvious. My only remaining option was to study the traits and see if I couldn't blend into the crowd. Just like crashing a wedding, I figured no one would know for sure that I wasn't supposed to be there and that it would be too embarrassing to ask.

I started out by reading a lot of back issues of Wired and, after I was able to think for myself again, I realized I would need at least one technically marvelous yet utterly useless piece of gadgetry. I chose the cell-phone headset attachment, which I'm wearing as I write this. I also reserved myself a dot-com that I decided would allow people to post their most intimate haiku and let other people read and rate that haiku and then let companies like FreePC.com rent space to advertise the fact that they're no longer giving away free PCs.

I put an index page on my site letting my customers know that the site would go live verrrrrrry soon. Now I never have to look at it again.

I made a T-shirt using a Hewlett-Packard iron-on transfer kit and the inkjet printer at the Smug offices. On the front is my URL and on the back it says "I get haiku with a little help from my friends." I wore the shirt out to a couple of bars and scoffed at the fact that they didn't have any beer from Seattle. I ordered Zima.

After that, I made a quick stop at an all-night VC who loved my business plan. I sheepishly admitted to him that my plan was a poorly customized version of "Template for Web Startup Number Three" from EZ-BizPlan for Linux. He smiled and said he knew that the whole time.

I made a call to a hoity-toity San Francisco advertising agency to see how much it would cost to flaunt my haiku-posting-and-rating site during the Superbowl. They suggested an ad campaign that poked fun at all the other haiku-posting-and-rating sites. I shouted out a hands-free "Bingo!" and bought thirty seconds.

Suddenly, my call-waiting chirped.

"Joe? This is Jeff Bezos. We've noticed that you're making quite a name for yourself on the web. I'd like to talk about us getting involved with your haiku and maybe partnering the whole operation with a brick-and-mortar. I've already talked to Orange Julius, and they're just nuts about you, if you'll pardon the pun"

There was no pun. But I laughed anyway.

"Are you doing anything for lunch tomorrow?"


in the junk drawer:

feature car
ac/dc gun
compulsion vise
posedown cheese
and such
and such
blab fan

·feature· ·net worth· ·ac/dc· ·smoking jacket· ·ear candy· ·feed hollywood· ·target audience· ·back issues· ·compulsion· ·posedown· ·the biswick files· ·mystery date· ·and such and such· ·blab· ·kissing booth·

·contents· ·freakshow· ·fan club· ·archive·


copyright © 1996 - 1999 fearless media