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Netscape thinks pink while Falwell makes a stink

"I'm sick and tired of hearing you bellyache every Thursday night about not being able to write the column," said my 12-year-old son Vermel, ever my pillar of support.

"I'm sick and tired of hearing you bellyache every Thursday night about not being able to write the column," said my 12-year-old son Vermel, ever my pillar of support. "If you don't have any items, just make some up. It's a rumor column, for Christ's sake."

The kid's got a point. Here goes:

Skinside information has it that Bill Gates is planning to preempt the Justice Department by breaking up Microsoft all by himself and dividing his estate and personal fortune between Clifford Stoll and Mothers Against Drunk Driving. Gates intends to leave the technology industry altogether, take up organic gardening, and live in middle-income housing in California's Central Valley. "Go ahead, use Communicator, see if I give a rat's ass," the burned-out billionaire is expected to say upon announcing his departure.

We hear that some hot, hot, HOT IPOs are coming your way. is coming first, shepherded to Wall Street by a bunch of dirty old rich guys in polyester suits with unzipped flies. Soon to follow on the IPO trail: Hell. Funds raised by this offering will be used to build additional quarters to handle an anticipated influx from Silicon Valley.

Judge T. P. Jackson has purchased a home computer. It is rumored to be an Etch-a-Sketch.

Now that we've dispensed with the rumors, how about the stuff we know happened, which is much harder to believe? Everyone knows Jerry Falwell's thinking's on the blink with this kinky thing about Tinky Winky. But if he's really serious about exposing subliminal homoeroticism in the media, he should have a look at Netscape's latest marketing blitz for Netcenter, which showcases--in both the examples I've seen--lots of naked manflesh in the form of strapping ballet dancers and a shirtless raver tripping on ecstasy. "Bring soccer hooligans and men in tights together in harmony," urges Netcenter, verging on the liminal. Not quite what the Moral Majority had in mind...

While Falwell chases purple teletubbies and Netcenter chases the pink pound, who's answering the phones over at Netscape PR? It's increasingly a world without women over there, what with PR chief Roseanne Siino climbing mountains; Jody Kramer on maternity leave; Chris Holten taking some vacation and then that enviable Netscape sabbatical and then, probably, off; and the lovely and talented (if severe) Andrea Cook Fleming fleeing to handle marketing and investor relations at Liquid Audio. Could these departures be a harbinger of things to come at other AOLscape divisions?

More from Microsoft's enemies list: Macworld Expo has again moved to New York this year after it was announced last year that the venerable show was being moved from New York to its original Boston haunt. Why is Expo management waffling on the location at such a late date? Some suggest that the (heavy) hand of Steve Jobs is behind the relocation in an effort to better woo Silicon Alley and broadcast types. Wall St. is a target audience too, with the release of Apple's industrial-strength OS X looming larger by the July show, as well as the consumer notebook known as WebMate.

Our toner-stained comrades over at CMP have been the source of some buyout rumors this week. Details no responsible journalist would report include whispers that IDG (Acquisitions for Dummies) is a potential buyer. Some people are speculating that the entire company will be bought, and though that defies common sense it shouldn't be ruled out in the current climate. Note that several of CMP's consumer-oriented Net properties, including NetGuide and GamePower, are on the block, and may be attracting IDG's interest.

Its nice to learn that some people do business the old fashioned way--on the golf course. Lucent has been seen pressing Comcast president Brian Roberts hard to purchase Lucent's communications equipment for telephony over cable systems on the links. Roberts hasn't decided whether to go with an IP- or circuit-based network, let alone Lucent. Comcast is still considering whether to partner with the likes of AT&T to facilitate the rollout. Psst, guys, let him win a round or two, OK?

Fans of the Red Herring will enjoy a site dedicated to the magazine's editor, Jason Pontin. Owned by professional Net wise guys and original Sucksters Carl Steadman and Owen Thomas through their charitable Pontin Organization, the site provides a rare intimate glimpse into the life of a true son of the Web, though it's very disappointing there's nothing in there about his date with Kim Polese. And another thing--what's that factoid about being "Skinny enough"? Is that some kind of crack?

This week's spam is a little dirty, but anyone who's read this far deserves what he or she gets. It's email about email. See if you can guess what else it's about:

10. Those who have it would be devastated if it was ever cut off.
9. Those who have it think that those who don't are somehow inferior.
8. Those who don't have it may agree that it's neat, but think it's not worth the fuss that those who have it make about it.
7. It's more fun when it's up, but this makes it hard to get any real work done.
6. In the distant past, its only purpose was to transmit information vital to the survival of the species. Now it's used mostly to kill time.
5. If you don't take proper precautions, it can spread viruses.
4. If you use it too much, you'll find it becomes more and more difficult to think coherently.
3. We attach an importance to it that is far greater than its actual usefulness warrants.
2. If you're not careful what you do with it, it can get you into a lot of trouble.
1. If you play with it too much, you go blind.
That's all the sex education for this week, folks. Now do my family a favor and send me some rumors.