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The parody is over

Nobody ever accused either the computer or advertising industries of excessive good taste, but the recent spate of high-tech advertising and related spoofs has me concerned.

Nobody ever accused either the computer or advertising industries of excessive good taste, but the recent spate of high-tech advertising and related spoofs has me concerned. Should Vermel and Grandma DuBaud be subjected to this kind of trash? Should I?

Apple's Think Different campaign has caused the company no end of grief. First we heard the outcry of grade-school teachers and other grammarians who decried the abuse of modifiers, wistfully remembering the days when an adjective was an adjective and an adverb was an adverb. Then we endured the spectacle of the revolution-minded computer maker pulling from Asian markets all Think Different ads that featured revolutionary Tibetan spiritual leader and China gadfly the Dalai Lama.

But the worst was yet to come last week when the Cupertino think-different tank decided that among the ranks of humanitarian and intellectual heroes like Einstein, Gandhi, and Rosa Parks belonged a third-rate television comedian who has engaged nine years of a once-intelligent nation's attention with absolutely nothing.

No surprise, then, when into my in-box popped two parodies of the Think Different ads featuring Adolf Hitler in lederhosen and a cross-eyed Charles Manson.

Humor on this level might be expected of some irresponsible anonymous Internet rogue, but Larry Ellison is hardly anonymous. The Oracle honcho probably wasn't behind the Apple ads, but he was recently heard saying, "For Bill Gates to say 'Please, please, please, just let Microsoft innovate,' is the most staggering lie I've heard since the 1930s in Germany."

The only staggering thing here is the insensitivity of the billionaire playboy in comparing, however indirectly, monopolistic business practices with genocide. Maybe Larry should spend some of his hard-earned money on his own sensitivity training, or some soap for that grosse bouche of his.

Meanwhile, anonymous vandals aren't through with Apple. Two splenetic tirades, supposedly by former employees, are now posted to the Web for your reading pleasure. Hard to tell if it's testimony or creative writing, but either way there are wonderfully sentimental tidbits--like the time Steve Jobs placed a hamburger inside the Woz's Apple, jammed up against the power supply, which cooked the thing to at least medium rare before the Woz figured it out. Kind of gives new meaning to pommes frites, n'est-ce pas? Another vivid tableau from those salad days in the garage: "One time Jobs turned all of Woz's electronic manuals backwards in his bookcase so he wouldn't be able to find the right books and had to spend hours turning them back." That prankster!

Speaking of pranks, ZDNet pulled a good one on its subscribers the other day when it sent them invitations to use ready-made Web-based email accounts as a free gift. Most of these subscribers were undoubtedly overjoyed with their new ZDNet mail, except for those who objected to the fact that ZDNet--whose privacy policy promises to keep personal information secure--had included in the emailed invitation the subscribers' user names and passwords in plain text! So remember folks, always change your passwords from site to site even if you stand no chance of ever remembering them again. Companies with privacy policies may not understand what they mean. I may print your information, but it's nothing personal. So send me your rumeurs.

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