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Internet whirled

Who needs hordes of screaming teens when you have the floor show at Internet World! A mad, excruciatingly loud, and gaudy scene of carnival barkers, snake oil salesmen, and swindlers biting the heads off chickens. There were Santas and walking lips, man-sized flies and improv body painters--everything but a swarm of mosquitoes and a pile of mastadon merde. Who knows what they were selling? Who cares?

NEW YORK--What a town! My 12-year-old son Vermel and I had a room booked at the Times Square Millennium (Y2K compliant, the reservation desk assured me) and were greeted as we got out of our cab by hordes of screaming teenaged female admirers.

"Son, it's important not to let these kinds of scenes go to your head," I said to Vermel after we'd fought our way through the melée. "Today you're hot, tomorrow you're yesterday's Sporty Spice."

"Get over yourself, Dad," said Vermel, who sometimes responds poorly to fatherly advice. "That's MTV Studios across the street. They're waiting for 'N Sync."

I knew that.

But who needs hordes of screaming teens when you have the floor show at Internet World! A mad, excruciatingly loud, and gaudy scene of carnival barkers, snake oil salesmen, and swindlers biting the heads off chickens. There were Santas and walking lips, man-sized flies and improv body painters--everything but a swarm of mosquitoes and a pile of mastadon merde. Who knows what they were selling? Who cares? Better to just take in the tumult, not think about it too hard, and anaesthetize yourself as deeply and frequently as possible.

The highlight of the event was the keynote speech of Oracle's resolutely wacky CEO, Larry Ellison, who prophesied like a Delphic priestess making her debut on Comedy Central. Ellison kept his capacity audience in stitches, particularly with his trademark rant against Microsoft. Windows, the network computer advocate contended, was too complicated. He asked the audience to imagine the doctor who decides to skip out on his hemotology conference to stay home and bone up on his new, fully loaded Windows computer.

"Someone's crazy! Someone's crazy!" Ellison cried. "There's something deeply wrong here!"

My thoughts exactly, especially on learning that press--not excepting responsible, acclaimed practitioners of the journalistic art such as myself--would be limited to attending one session, out of many dozens, for the entire show. Are reporters for Internet.com--which puts on Internet World--bound by the same restriction? Not if they flash their handy-dandy Internet.com badge, a conference flak conceded. So much for the separation of church and state, if there ever was one.

The reason behind this hideous elitism is to make sure there's room for paying customers to get into the sessions, which is understandable. But meanwhile, the policy left poor Esther Dyson starting her illustrious Linux panel 25 minutes late in hopes that her half-empty room would fill up. "Is anyone outside?" she asked plaintively, kneeling barefoot on a chair onstage.

So much for Internet World. Back in the real world, employees at stodgy Texan battleship EDS are shaking in their boots as rumors of another round of layoffs persist. The staff has even given the ubiquitous head count shrinkage a charming new name: Brownsizing, after their fearless new chief executive, Dick Brown, who has been struggling to build momentum as the company's stock drifts. Nonetheless, in a recent internal memo to company insiders, Brown lauded the 3,500 people who took early retirement at the firm, stepping aside as Brown works to "build a new EDS."

Skinformants close to the upcoming Random House book about Microsoft's 3D geeks, Mike Drummond's Renegades of the Empire, say lawsuit threats are flying from one of the book's sources. The book, which chronicles the internecine political squabbling and corporate fumbling that undermined 3D at Microsoft, had sources deep inside the company--but one of them has since lost his nerve.

"One of the three renegades driving the narrative threatened to sue to stop publication of the book," reports our Skinformant. "Seems he lost the courage of his earlier bellicose convictions after reading in print taped interviews. All the elements that were purged during an editorial cleansing--in addition to photos, audio clips, internal company emails, and other stuff--will be appearing on a Web site soon." And that's what the Web is for, isn't it? You could tell me what the Web is for, or you could save some bandwidth and just send me your rumors.