I took advantage of a Vermel-free household last weekend by opening a bottle of wine, putting on a 12-CD anthology of Edith Piaf, and trying my hand at Grandma DuBaud's chicken cordon bleu recipe. Either the milkfat or the déluge de Piaf didn't sit right, and I tossed and turned all night. My repose was wracked by a bizarre dream that Bill Gates invited Dennis Rodman to occupy his guest bungalow, consult on a private 2,000-seat basketball arena in the basement of the Lake Washington Castle, and dispense a few hair-color tips. I awoke in a cold sweat, figuring that only in dreams could such an odd pairing come true. I was wrong.
First Lady Hillary Clinton and shock rocker Marilyn Manson are also unlikely bedfellows (metaphorically speaking, bien sur), having both recently expressed a desire to clamp down on irresponsible Internet behavior. Hillary may not shock too many in the role of Net nanny, but imagine my surprise when I heard similar rhetoric from antichrist superstar Marilyn Manson, an Alice Cooperesque goth geek whose anti-religion rants and questionable fashion decisions have earned him--yes, it's a "he"--the vituperation of everyone from Pat Robertson to E. Dolores Tucker to Congress. Despite his wild image and obvious dependence on the First Amendment, the intelligent, soft-spoken Manson (on tour to promote his memoirs) complained earlier this week to National Public Radio's Terry Gross that his reputation has been "maligned" because of the Internet. He says Net-based rumors about his concert behavior--including sex on stage and crowd-participatory child abuse--have often been accepted as fact "simply because they're on the Internet," and that some kind of laws were needed to keep things in perspective. Not exactly an Orwellian call for a thought-police state, but it was a bit disappointing to hear the cross-dressing, rage-spewing, teen anti-idol sounding more like a concerned mother. What's next, a Marilyn Manson bake sale to raise money for the local library?
Hillaryphiles will recall the First Mother's comment to reporters that "we are all going to have to rethink how we deal with the Internet" after Matt Drudge blew the cover off her hubby's sex scandal story. Although her concerns about the coverage of l'affaire L'ewinsky may be justified, it echoed another recent incident in which the feds paid an unfriendly visit to a UC Berkeley student columnist. Blinded by Cal-Stanford "Big Game" fever, the kid's ill-advised column in the Daily Californian identified Chelsea's dorm on the Farm and satirically urged his readers to show their school spirit on "Chelsea's bloodied carcass." The columnist claimed Hillary had ordered the Secret Service to search his apartment. Agents denied the allegations. Chelsea's carcass remained safe.
Another call for more regulation came from an unlikely source last week: Bruce Sterling, contributing writer for Wired magazine and well-known technolibertarian guru. During a speech wrapping up the Computers Freedom and Privacy conference in Austin, Texas, Sterling criticized the U.S. government for essentially abandoning its role in shaping the Internet. He said that the feds have adopted the attitude that "policy development in cyberspace is just plain too hard to do." Instead of democratic debate, we've seen rule by "ad-hocracy," which in the case of the Internet Engineering Task Force and its technology-standards process has been a good thing, said Sterling.
But the overwrought, Silicon Valley IPO-led cybereconomy is a more "virulent" form of ad-hocracy, Sterling said, hinting that the illusory bubble won't hold forever. Watch out, Bruce: Louis Rossetto might not take kindly to this blatant breach of the "government, schmovernment" party line at Wired. Sterling then went on to validate Hillary's other recent hot-button comment about a "vast right-wing conspiracy" that's out to get the Clintons at all costs.
Of course, party lines just ain't what they used to be. Lyrics from a true-blue IBM songbook have been floating about the Net, lovingly copied many years ago by a now ex-IBMer from the company's Poughkeepsie Education center:
"March on with IBM"
Words by Fred W Tippe
Music by Vitterio Glannini
The fame of I B M
Spreads across the seven seas,
Our standards fly aloft,
Proudly waving in the breeze,
With T.J. Watson guiding us,
We lead throughout the world,
For peace and trade our banners
Are unfurled, unfurled.
March on with I B M. Work hand in hand,
Stout hearted men go forth, in every land;
Our flags on ev'ry shore, we march with them,
On high forever more, for IBM
Marvelous, isn't it? It inspired me to write my own Rumor Mill song. A-one, and a-two... Send me your rumors.