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Carly preps speeches, Iconocast beseeches

Stanford University picks HP's Carly Fiorina to speak to bright-eyed graduates about job prospects, while Iconocast's Michael Tchong goes on a "Back the Net" crusade.

    I spent the last two weeks doped up on Vicodin after a trip to Dr. Les Plack, the high-tech dentist with a large clientele of young professionals like myself whose teeth are crumbling under the strain of the dot-com lifestyle. As Dr. Plack pulled this and filed that, my mouth began to feel a queasy sense of kinship with the New Economy itself, though decay, I suppose, is common to all things.

    Tooth decay has apparently left Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina unscathed, even if the New Economy hasn't. The chief executive is smiling this week after the four presidents of the Stanford University class of 2001, along with Prez John Hennessy, picked Fiorina to speak at Stanford's 110th commencement. Why Fiorina? Because the 1976 Stanford history grad "embodies the best of this institution," according to the university.

    We at the Rumor Mill applaud the choice of Fiorina, and urge the CEO to use her speech to squarely discuss issues of the day, for instance the opportunities open to aspiring entrepreneurs in the graduating class. Or perhaps she could discuss graduates' employment prospects with HP and their earning potential once they leave Stanford as newly minted information age laborers.

    We advise that she acknowledge Stanford's multinational student body by tackling international issues and to close by offering some sunny predictions for the future about to commence for these bright-eyed scholars.

    Whatever Fiorina winds up saying, female graduates should take heart from her example. She is, after all, one of only two women leading the 500 largest U.S. companies.

    But after listening to Fiorina, Stanford grads who want a boss with two X chromosomes might want to place their resumes with the other female CEO on that short list. Andrea Jung, head of Avon Products, is hiring.

    As much as we like the choice of Fiorina, we think the Stanford committee passed up a great opportunity to have Iconocast's Michael Tchong speak to the graduates. Tchong, after all, is planning to singlehandedly revive the tech sector with his Back the Net "crusade." The campaign, which is circulating in a form that only the unsophisticated would confuse with an e-mail chain letter, urges everyone to do something online April 3, whether that's using your credit card online or buying 10 shares "in a company you admire."

    We're glad that we have until April 3 to come up with an Internet company we still admire. Too bad Iconocast isn't publicly traded! Meanwhile, for nostalgia's sake we recommend taking a gander at Iconocast's ventures from the old days, including its vivid Web Attack graphics of Godzilla stomping through San Francisco, ripping up skyscrapers, downing bridges, and scattering 50s-style pedestrians pathetically clutching televisions, newspapers, and other old media antiques. Also check out the New York version featuring King Kong.

    The new face of Iconocast? No lizard or ape this time, just a balled fist in the air, nicely appropriated from 1960s struggles of the downtrodden and oppressed. But judging from the tenor of Tchong's campaign, perhaps an outstretched palm would have been the more appropriate gesture.

    Amazon.com CEO Jeff Bezos doesn't need any handouts, but even billionaires apparently can't satisfy all their wishes.

    Bezos fesses up to quite a few fantasy purchases in his Amazon personal profile, which has been publicly available on the company Web site for months. The profile feature lets online shoppers post wish lists and product reviews, and Bezos sets an example that's hard to follow.

    The embattled CEO offers a photo of himself dressed up in an Austin Powers costume, and says he's "known for his laugh." He also lists 53 assorted items that he'd love to own, topped by Star Trek, The Animated Series, vols. I and II, a pair of videos that go for $11.99 each that he added Feb. 26, according to the site.

    Few product purchases would break Bezos, even these days. Despite the precipitous fall in Amazon's stock price, he was still worth a cool $1.2 billion Friday morning. Plus, the family bank account is flush with a cash infusion last month, when the CEO sold 800,000 shares of Amazon stock for $11.7 million--sales that came just before a negative analyst's report on the company was made public.

    Unfortunately, all that money hasn't helped Bezos close the loop on his most humble dot-com desires. Only 3 items on his wish list are reported as purchased: Harry Hairball Plush Toy; Tesla--Master of Lightning (a video); and an Aluminum Ladybug Xing Sign. Total value: $36.97, plus shipping.

    Oh well. With mounting class-action lawsuits against his company and a rumored Securities and Exchange Commission investigation into the February stock sales, Bezos probably has a few bigger wishes to worry about. I'm easy to please--just send me your rumors.