NEW YORK--Silicon Alley may be kaput, but New York is leading a new high-tech boom this week with a cultural celebration of the dot-com era's most embarrassing foibles and fiascoes.
The volume of high-tech riches showered upon the literary and theatrical worlds in recent weeks forced the Rumor Mill staff to divvy up critical duties. My 12-year-old son Vermel read Mike Daisey's "21 Dog Years: Doing Time @ Amazon.com"; Vermel's theatrically inclined classmate Jai Pegue attended the off-Broadway play of the same name; Vermel's paramour
Ammonia Blossom tackled the new literary offering of F***edCompany.com Webmaster Philip J. Kaplan, aka "Pud," the decorously titled "F'd
Companies: Spectacular Dot-Com Flameouts"; and I, having exhausted myself delegating all these tasks and desperately in need of a stiff drink, attended the Kaplan book party.
Vermel on "21 Dog Years"
Simon & Schuster's Free Press
After reading Mike Daisey's book, it's finally clear why the company only started making money once he left. The guy spent the whole time stealing office supplies, auctioning off products he was supposed to be reviewing (and not reviewing them), giving away books and refunds to customers at random, hanging up on others, fabricating a report that got him promoted from customer service stooge to BizDev BS artist, and writing long, stalker-style e-mails to Jeff Bezos. In one of these love letters he describes a dream in which he eats the CEO's left hand. This book is not for the faint of heart.
Still, there are some good laughs and a few insights into Internet insanity. It's fun having our worst suspicions about Amazon and dot-coms in general confirmed by an insider, like the fact that Amazon routinely described its system crashes to the public as "scheduled maintenance;" that when you demand to speak to a customer service agent's manager your call is passed from one $9-per-hour drone to another; that dot-com managers holed up in offices wasted months and years playing video games, waiting for their stock to vest.
Daisey also has some entertaining running gags, like the e-mails to Bezos and the intermittent voice of sane skepticism from his fiancée. On the whole, this is a good warts-and-all look at Amazon from the inside, though even from a 12-year-old's perspective there was way too much ink spilled about male private parts.
Jai Pegue on the Daisey play
Open-ended run at New York's Cherry Lane Theater
Mike Daisey's show is much like the book Vermel just described, only louder. Daisey played to 50 people in the 180-person theater Monday night, but for the energy he expended and the sweat he sprayed, he might as well have been rocking Madison Square Garden. Witnessing him bellow and bounce around the stage of the Cherry Lane is like watching Chris Farley reincarnated as a dot-com dropout. Whether that sounds like a fun night at the theater is entirely up to you.
The potty-mouthed logorrhea, crotch-grabbing and high-tech horror story may appeal to some. And indeed, Daisey kept the majority of his small audience laughing--including, in all fairness, this critic. But some of us require more than oversexed Dilbert high jinks to justify a $45 night at the theater. For that much money, you could buy two-and-a-half shares of Amazon stock.
Ammonia Blossom on "F'd Companies"
Simon & Schuster
The dot-com era may have finally found the biographer it deserves.
This catalog of idiotic ideas is replete with references to Pud's sexual fantasies and other unmentionables that can't be quoted at any length in a family oriented column. No doubt the puerile pack of ambitious white boys who were responsible for the whole mess in the first place will revel in the sheer vulgarity and unvarnished sexism as Pud free-associates about dismal ventures such as Furniture.com and the "quality" of Urban Box Office's "female employees."
As for the rest of us, the book reads like a collection of hastily cobbled-together obituaries penned by an overgrown, sexually frustrated 13-year-old. Simon & Schuster ought to be ashamed of itself.
The Skinny on Pud's book party
New York's Cutting Room
Well, Ammonia Blossom is a young woman of strong opinions, but perhaps even she would have been impressed by Pud's performance Tuesday at the Cutting Room in Manhattan. There the 26-year-old gave a thrashing performance as drummer in the band Spel.
The book of honor lay unobtrusively on the stage, where it was roundly ignored.
After a cramped hour of letting the disenfranchised dot-com crowd jostle for drinks--only to find out that the free Ston vodka drinks could only be obtained by tracking down a floating Ston representative, filling out a questionnaire, and signing away one's e-mail address--Kaplan took the stage for a brief Q&A.
Shouts for jobs and demands for an open bar drowned out any serious questions from the crowd, like one attempt: "When will the economy turn around?" Kaplan quieted the crowd briefly when he announced that Razorfish founder Jeff Dachis had been spinning in the DJ booth all night.
When Pud's book pitch fizzled under more cries for "open bar," Kaplan led Spel on stage.
Two glam rockers--one in a ruffled white shirt, the other shirtless and in skintight black pants that kept coming unzipped--launched into head-thrashing metal with Kaplan behind an enormous drum set.
"Is this for real?" someone whispered.
Pud's biggest fan was a Czech emigré who shouted that his cousins in the home country would love this, bobbed his head violently, and spiked his fingers in the air in the universal Beavis and Butthead sign for "this rocks."
Everyone's entitled to their wrong opinion, but I'm only interested in your rumors.