Watching the kitschy 70s film Boogie Nights, clad in traffic-sign-yellow bell bottoms, a tangerine Huggy Bear turtleneck, and six-inch platform shoes--it struck me just how big the 70s are these days. Even square companies, who wouldn't know hip if it slapped them with a groovy stick, are using that decade of decadence to spiff up their images.
Take Intel, for example: No doubt you've seen their latest TV commercial, in which a 70s-style neon maxivan manned by Intel techies in day-glow spacesuits--who are gyrating to Shake Your Groove Thing--cruises down the street. Try as they might, Intel will never score big among the hipoisie, but there's yet another image that might seem just as strange to associate with Grove & Co.--a Wall Street force of nature. And yet, that's exactly what I heard from a Skinnysource in the exotic world of high finance.
As you recall, the fiscal El Nino that tore into the Dow just recently first dumped it 554.26 points, then shot it back up 337.17. According to my source, about 250 points of this Day Two reboot were due to a well-placed falsehood: namely, that Intel was going to start a share buy-back program later that week. This confidence-boosting rumor got around, the market recovered, and only after all trading stopped did Intel officially refute the buy-back rumor. How convenient.
My stock spy doesn't know who started the buy-back rumor, or if Intel was directly involved, but the sheer fact that the whispers are still flying shows how many could believe that Intel had been an antidote to Wall Street's Asian Flu.
Okay, so Intel wants to show us how "fun" they are--but what is Jobs's Apple trying to convey in its latest TV spot with the words, "Here's to the crazy ones"? It's not like they have to convince us that there may be something in the Cupertino water supply that makes even the steadiest tech execs get a little loopy (Hi, Gil!). At any rate, hammering home their new "Think Different" mantra, the spot parades an array of cliche "geniuses" such as Einstein, Picasso, Edison, Dylan, Hitchcock, and so on, finally wrapping it up with the Duh-riffic bromide: "...the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world...are the ones who do."
The Jobsian sanctimony is ripe for parody, and, as usual, the Net does not disappoint. A QuickTime movie by Harvard student Todd Bangerter uses the original script, read by schmaltzmeister Richard Dreyfuss, but replaces the cast of canonical characters with footage of such notables as Ted Kaczynski, O.J. Simpson, Hitler, Beavis & Butthead, and even Heaven's Gate leader Marshall Applewhite. From insanely great to greatly insane in three easy steps.
The Apple ad parody isn't exactly for the PC at heart, so beware. But some things just scream for a dose of political incorrectness. Apparently, the lastest hacker holy grail is the super-secret API for Microsoft's Animatronic Barney doll, which, in its present evil incarnation sings along with the Barney TV show. With such information, mischievous code conspirators would ostensibly be able to make the purple whinosaur say anything they want--including the choicest lines from the aforementioned Beavis and Butthead or the latest obnoxious cult cartoon, South Park. Finally, a Barney for the rest of us.
Finally, Emerson may have had a point when he said that "all history resolves itself very easily into the biography of a few stout and earnest persons." After all, when Grove, Jobs, and Gates shuffle off this mortal coil, Intel, Apple, and Microsoft will just have to get along without them, right? Well, maybe not, if a stout group of monkey-head-transplanting medecins d'Angleterre have their way. These decapitating chaps have successfully transplanted some monkeys' heads on to fresh monkey bodies--and one of them says he knows just how he'd do the same for humans.
Think of the possibilities! Instead of letting you die, doctors could upgrade your mind status by stapling your noggin onto a young, healthy bod. Microsoft would then acquire the technology and release a perpetually "pre-release" quality product called "Transplant 99," and in a couple of decades Janet Reno will hopefully come out of retirement--perhaps with Pamela Anderson's body and Cosmo Kramer's hair--to slap Bill Gates's head/Barney's body with another antitrust suit. Never mind the monkeys. If I don't receive a fresh crate of juicy rumors this week my editor has threatened to replace my head with that of some cat. So spare me the guillotine--and send me the gossip.