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Culture

IBM nixes Comdex, prompts public protest

You might think the news came to me from a far-flung Skinnysource.

As Vermel and I were threading the pagan Christmas bush through our suddenly microscopic front door, pine needles rocketing everywhere and pinging off our faces, it occurred to me that certain traditions are worth keeping despite the pains that accompany them.

The proof of this maxim appeared in the pudding when we got our noble shrub upright and watered, watching as it eagerly awaited its glamorous accoutrements like a backstage supermodel. As Vermel began to drape the colored lights, I was reminded of another proud tradition that has just ended--IBM's participation in Comdex.

You might think the news came to me from a far-flung Skinnysource. Mais au contraire: Word of the severance came straight from the mouth of the jilted Jason Chudnofsky, president and CEO of ZD Comdex, who recently let fly a rather emotional press release saying that, despite news articles to the contrary, IBM had not given him any warning that it was deserting Comdex after this year. Chudnofsky's public gambit would be a fine example of proactive spin control were it not for the fact that a bare minimum of ink has been spilled over the IBM-Ziff tiff.

I could only find one st ory about the IBM/Comdex situation, which leads me to believe that Chudnofsky's press release might well have reached more people than media coverage of the original problem. If it ain't fixed, no use breaking it again, Jason.

Also notable is the petulant twinge of desperation in Chudnofsky's release, no doubt boosted by the trend of large companies and analysts that have decided that Comdex just isn't worth the dough. But the real piece de resistance is the plethora of information in the missive about "booth selection" at the megashow, which brings to mind Melville's encyclopedic descriptions of whaling in Moby Dick. (The whole spat apparently started when a rival company selected IBM's preferred booth for next year's show.)

In fact, you learn so much about booth selection that by the end of the release you feel like you could easily assume the task at ZD Comdex yourself, or perhaps even become a freelance BSC (booth selection consultant). In closing, Chudnofsky does manage to say that he's still willing to talk with IBM about the situation, but then feels compelled to insert yet another paragraph on--what else?--booth selection. I'll never look at a Comdex booth the same way again.

Regardless of its excesses, in a world of dry press releases filled with things like MHz, 4.0, APIs, and MMX, Chudnofsky's passionate note sets a new benchmark for dirty laundry-cum-corporate communication.

Corporate executives are not the only ones in need of passionate communication. Let's say, for example, that you're a Net-savvy Jewish lesbian, and you're new in town, like Mary Tyler Moore was--or more appropriately, Rhoda. Is there a way to use the Web to meet Ms. Right and still keep the kitchen kosher? You bet your tuchus there is! It's a Web-based service called NuYenta, "where Jewish gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender singles can meet." The site's yenta figure encourages you to fill out a profile, ask for a match, read the house rules, visit affiliated sites, and so on. No word on how successful the site is at locating that special someone, but it certainly looks promising. Dradles and menorahs are great, but if you really want to give someone a Chanukah gift that keeps on giving, it seems to me there's no better choice than a NuYenta membership. (You should be so lucky...)

Yet another holiday making its way onto the Skinnyscope this time of year is the rapidly growing festival of Kwanzaa, currently celebrated by 18 million African-Americans. Created by Dr. Maulana Karenga, chair of the black studies department at California State University in Long Beach, the celebration is popular here in the Bay Area, as illustrated by the excellent Kwanzaa pages created by the San Francisco-based Web site NetNoir. Elsewhere on the Net, interested surfers can also find a Kwanzaa glossary, recipes, music, and even a screensaver. Truth be told, it's Kwanzaamonium here in cyberspace--so click away and enjoy. Remember, it's better to give rumors than to receive.