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Christmas Gift Guide
Culture

Ex-dot-commer causes a commotion

The Internet Age has these many years stumbled along without its muse. But now it's found Odd Todd and his autobiographical cartoon, "Laid Off: A Day in the Life."

All too rarely, an American artist comes along who so perfectly captures the national Zeitgeist that he or she is catapulted from the swamps of obscurity to the Parnassus of our culture. Fitzgerald rode astride the Jazz Age, The Beatles the '60s, and Madonna--God help us--everything since.

But the Internet Age has these many years stumbled along without its muse. Though there have been attempts to fill the position, no artist has yet succeeded in commanding the spirit of the age--until now. Readers, geeks, bankrupt day traders, the voice of the Internet generation has arrived. I give you Odd Todd.

The 32-year-old New Yorker and downsized AtomFilms biz dev director, né Todd Rosenberg, has been the toast of the water cooler (for those who still have access to one) since early this month when he posted "Laid Off: A Day in the Life," an autobiographical cartoon about a canned dot-commer.

In chronicling the quotidian vicissitudes of mood and whimsy that sweep through the mind of someone who has basically nothing to do, Rosenberg has given us a representative character for our time, a veritable dot-com Mrs. Dalloway. Not incidentally, he has also painted a vivid portrait of the kind of talentless, unmotivated slob that not so long ago passed for a skilled member of the New Economy work force.

Like so many members of his generation, Rosenberg's cartoon alter ego suffers anxiety and insomnia, sleeps late, drinks coffee, neglects to shave, stares at the wall, surfs the Web, breakfasts on fudge-striped cookies and Pringles, watches the tellie until noon, frets about unemployment, considers and abandons plans for get-rich-quick scams and volunteer work, commences and gives up on a screenplay, watches more tellie--you get the picture.

Rosenberg's material is striking a chord as newly idle Web site staffers while away the hours by clicking on the gravel-voiced cartoon. Traffic for the last three weeks is closing in on a half-million visits, Rosenberg told the Rumor Mill, with 30,000 to 40,000 visitors tuning in daily.

"People are coming up to me and saying, 'That's my life! That's me!'" Rosenberg said. "I guess they don't feel so alone, because until now there's been this facade of people running around looking for a job. But there's only so much you can do. You send a few e-mails and make a few phone calls and then you're done. At least I am."

Rosenberg's fans have shown their appreciation to the tune of about $3,000, the amount his tip jar has grossed so far. But with the spike in traffic to the site, he's had to fork over more money to his hosting provider. Now he's hoping the buzz around the cartoon will turn into a "lucrative development deal."

The cartoon is autobiographical, Rosenberg admits.

"It depends on the day," he said. "Some days I actually do things other than watch television and surf the Web. I do have fudge-striped cookies and Pringles in my apartment, but now I'm branching out into Mallomars."

In the holiday spirit
Last year about this time, all the talk was about the cancellation or "downsizing" of corporate holiday celebrations. This year, like the Christmas season itself (which at its present rate of recession is in danger of preceding Labor Day or even the Fourth of July), the holiday humbug hubbub is getting earlier and earlier.

Intel went through a dry run of holiday celebration criticism after a party thrown for several workers let go as part of the chip giant's downsizing efforts.

"Intel's blowout party for recently laid-off workers struck some as an extravagant waste of money considering the guests of honor," one Skinformant reported from a post near the company's Hillsboro, Ore., campus. "If they could afford to rent out a place and have a band and cocktails and all that, couldn't they have not laid off as many people?"

An Intel representative denied the company had thrown "a major big-deal party," and suggested the affair in question was organized by a group within the company. The representative also took issue with the use of the term "laid off," pointing out that Intel staffers are being "redeployed."

Shifting slogans
Microsoft's ad copy was redeployed at a busy London intersection recently, when an advertisement for Windows XP was altered with a distinct editorial spin.

"This inspired bust of the MSXP 'Suddenly everything clicks' poster is situated at an incredibly busy junction near Liverpool Street Station--tens of thousands of people will see it every day," noted Londoners who posted the image to the Web. "We spotted it from the top of a bus and it made our day. It's all 100 percent cut-and-paste and it's really high up--so mad props to whomever did the Spiderman routine to get all the way up there."

We remain curious about Redmond's response to the East End editorial changes, as the company did not return the Rumor Mill's calls.

Mad props to all of you who send me your rumors.