Discipline at the DuBaud household is a two-way street. Since the Rumor Mill board is controlled by my 12-year-old son Vermel and his classmates, I answer to them on matters affecting the column. But I'm still Vermel's father, and every so often I must crack the parental whip.
"#^*&$," I overheard Vermel say to his classmate, Jai Pegue, the other day.
"!#?&* "Join the ~+&*!" Vermel shot back.
Jai Pegue's riposte: "Your #%?&3+ company--"
At this I burst into the room, indignant and aghast.
"Hey, you two--mind your mouths," I said. "What do you think you're doing using that kind of language in this house?"
"We were reading aloud from The Wall Street Journal," Vermel replied, all innocence.
I found this hard to believe and snatched the page from my son's hands. Behind those exclamation points and pound signs above lie not your everyday pottymouth expressions but the ultimate vulgarity, the supreme leader of the Network Seven. The Wall Street Journal, Vermel expected me to believe, had used the F-word.
Turns out, it had--four times. There it was in black and white on dead trees: the F-word as a noun, plural noun, past participle and truncated past participle. The occasion for this orgy of obscenity was a screen shot of FuckedCompany.com, prominently featured in the Journal's Oct. 10 "Special Advertising Section" on e-commerce recruitment.
It's one thing when the Rumor Mill, Network Solutions or the governor of Texas utters something uncouth. But I was shocked--shocked!--to find such language in the august and rather prim pages of the Journal. In my state of shock, I contacted the paper to get the inside story.
"It took me two minutes of playing 'Where's Waldo' to find the word in this graphic," huffed the Journal's Dick Tofel, whose skill at "Where's Waldo" failed to unearth the other three instances. "It appears in an advertorial. And it was certainly inadvertent."
What is the Journal's policy on this sort of thing?
"If we think we need to use this word in news columns, we use 'f---,'" Tofel replied.
Why "f---," I wondered, when you could use "&$@!"?
We've long been a fan of the dot-com deadpool--and never more than when it caused the Journal to cuss--but apparently not more than a publication that's cracking down on it for the unauthorized use of a trademarked logo.
FC's visitors nowadays see a badly blurred masthead linked to an explanation.
"Seems a certain magazine doesn't like the FuckedCompany.com logo," writes site founder Phil Kaplan. "So now I need a new logo. There are enough designers that take pleasure from my little Web site that I'm hoping somebody makes me a new logo. Otherwise I'll have to stick with this big blurry mess."
The magazine in question turns out to be the similarly and previously christened Fast Company. While it may not like its vulgar cousin's logo, the magazine stressed how much it likes its vulgar cousin.
"We really admire the site. It's great fun," said Linda Lewi, Fast Company's chief marketing officer. "We thought it was a riot and would have let him go on with it indefinitely. But once he went about commercializing the site, once he put it up for sale on eBay and started moving from being a spoof to a commercial entity, we couldn't have a situation go on where he would sell the site and the right to our logo along with it."
Gorillas in the mist
Speaking of screwed companies, rumor has it that now-extinct Red Gorilla, a business-to-business business, paid $30,000 for the red-neon sign that adorns its headquarters on San Francisco's Market Street. This expenditure came shortly before the company failed to come up with payroll and closed its doors.
Asked why the company couldn't raise more cash, CEO John Witchell cited poor capital markets and the fact that potential investors got scared when an initial round of layoffs at Red Gorilla appeared on the dot-com deadpool site.
"When investors were asked why they were pulling out, they said, 'We saw you on FC, and that makes us very nervous,'" Witchell told the Rumor Mill.
Kaplan scoffed at the notion that his site wielded such influence.
"Blaming the media for your patheticness...is ridiculous, pathetic and just plain sad," he said.
Adobe had its own share of pathos this week when its Net address was commandeered by Chinese hackers.
"Somebody hijacked it," said Adobe spokesman Kevin Burr. "People couldn't get into the site and wound up on some site in China, and people couldn't send email to Adobe.com addresses."
Burr said Adobe worked with Network Solutions and ICANN to rescue the domain, and the site was back up and running within a day or so.
Would that I were so privileged as to be able to lose my own domain! Alas, with all its Web real estate riches, CNET somehow missed out on Skinny.com, now property of an outfit by the name of Skinny Intertainment Network.
But there's still hope for me to be hacked out of house and home page: Skinny Intertainment came a-calling this week to see if I'd be interested in buying them out.
The father of a smart-alecky 12-year-old, I'm a fairly experienced negotiator. "How much is SI asking?" I asked coyly.
"We're not sure yet," said SI founder Scott Wamsley. "We'd like $50K, but that would probably scare you guys off."
Fifty thousand dollars! You could buy a neon orangutan for that amount of money.
Wamsley proved a loquacious negotiator. Before long I knew who my competition was--weight loss concerns such as Jenny Craig and Weight Watchers! Secretly I'm hoping I get beat out by the folks over at SkinnyPill.com. There you can find out about the Skinny Lifestyle, chew on Skinny Sticks, and join the Skinny Club.
Like Groucho, I'd never join a club that would have me as a member--much less one named after me.
I asked Wamsley why he was giving up such a prime address.
"The idea of the sale is to clear our debt," he confided. "We ran the site for two years, and it was a fun project, but we never really got around to raising our second round. We just lost energy in terms of raising capital."
Hey, Kaplan, how many points do I get for Skinny Intertainment?
There will be no Rumor Mill layoffs until Vermel grows up and I regain control of the board. Meanwhile, help me become master of my own domain. I'm taking up a collection--of your rumors.