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Is ZD Comdex seedy? Yes, indeedy!

It's ZD's Comdex, by the way; the rest of us just live in it.

LAS VEGAS--Three days pounding the Strip for tips, as well as a night of pounding chili and sickly sweet margaritas at a chili cookoff, have left me spinning. But thanks to all the gadgets I swiped from the show floor when the demo dorks weren't watching, I'm able to write this dispatch lying in the bathtub with the lights off and a cool damp towel over my eyes and forehead. Thank goodness for wearable CPUs, waterproof slipcases, voice recognition software, and an oddly shaped intelligent massage tool a, um, friend picked up for me at AdultDex.

I never thought it would come to this. In my jours de salade, they called me Skinny DeBauche, but these days I leave the outrageous, all-night antics to the younger set. For instance, check out the frisky kids who showed up at the Yahoo Internet Life party and put the exclamation point back into the magazine's name. At the popular disco joint The Beach Monday night, drinks were not on the bar, but on the bartender--or rather, in his pants. Wearing only a pair of tight shorts, he pranced about with a metal mixer, shook up a frosty beverage, and proceeded to jam the mixer down into his shorts. One female barfly blew in, straw in hand, and knelt before him and slurped with abandon while astonished geeks stood and watched, their left hands typing away at invisible keyboards.

It's ZD's Comdex, by the way; the rest of us just live in it. Now that it's slapped its initials on the continent's biggest trade show thanks to some power-shifting by parent empire Softbank, it also seems to be making overtures toward the nontech world. First of all, am I the only one who's noticed those world news headlines courtesy of MSNBC on ZDNN's front page? Second, a trusted Skinformant overheard a Ziff executive prattling on about the company's desire to put nontech ads in its publications. It's not a novel or particularly inspired thought, I'm told, but this time it sounds like the Ziffies are serious.

The exec in question was gushing with ideas, including one of those ubiquitous milk industry spots, perhaps with Gateway 2000 chieftain Ted Waitt. (He of the spotted-cow boxes, get it?) Or maybe even Mr. Milquetoast himself, Bill Gates, will sport the moustache. "Got NT?" Mais attend: A rethink may be in order with Mr. Waitt--the man's been known to suck heavy stogie. Milk and nicotine, anyone?

More Holsteins for fun and profit: Gateway's archrival may be stampeding across the border from the Great White North. Canadian shareware site Tucows, which uses black-and-white bovine patterns for Web wallpaper is in the moos, er, news, again. First Gateway tried to get the trouble-prone shareware site to change its spots; then a shareware competitor accused Tucows of further intellectual larceny. All these barnyard antics pale in comparison to the cow pie fight currently in progress between Tucows's ISP division Internet Direct and the peering point Canadian Internet Exchange (a.k.a. Canix), which denied Tucows's aptly timed October 31 application for membership the very next day.

Subsequent rumors that Tucows would herd its operations south of the border prompted Internet Direct president John Nemanic to circulate a memo to his management in which he described a relocation to the United States as a "last resort." Canix, whose members are national ISPs that pool their backbone resources, gave the southern Ontario provider a swift kick in the dairy-erre and says it isn't one bit sorry.

Meanwhile, the cows may finally be coming home for that CD-ROM-fortified and currently folded print mag known as The Net. Imagine Publishing pulled the plug on the rag earlier this year and made vague promises of a future version. It seems to be making good, as it's just found a new editor-in-chief, former Wired Web features editor Jim Daly, who is said to be beating the bushes for staffers to turn the publication into a slicker, more biz-savvy item: a cross between the Red Herring and Fast Company, according to one prepress pundit.

The mag's former editor, Jon Zilber, is also beating the bushes but on behalf of his clients. He's crossed over to the Dark Side, working for high-tech PR firm Alexander Communications, according to mes agents de Vegas who ran into the Big Z at Alexander's Comdex fete at the Hard Rock.

In the enlightened world of online journalism, those Wired wits are down

FIRED
  ...and all I got was this lousy T-shirt.
but not out. Erstwhile employees of our South of Market brethren are sporting snappy new T-shirts, hot off the press, that read "FIRED" in the style of the famous pixelated Wired logo. Fedoras off to the downsized who keep their chins up. Plus, we hear the severance packages (which did not include a T-shirt) had at least a few of the departed smiling.

Is it my imagination, or is everyone in town humming "Da, da, da" after seeing the Gates keynote Sunday night? In Redmond's attempt to give chief Bill's image a Lettermanesque spin, the only funny bit was the spoofed Volkswagen ad, where instead of the two young twenty-somethings driving around with the stinky chair in their red Golf, it was Gates and Ballmer (with a stinky Sun workstation). They also used the same German minimalist pop song, with the above catchy refrain, to hilarious effect.

We won't be able to expect the same hilarity from Sun CEO Scott McNealy, my Beltway babblers say soothly. At last week's MicroRoast sponsored by consumer activist Ralph Nader, McNealy gave a kinder, gentler speech--the beginning of a new, less ribald era for the punch-line cowboy. Supposedly his handlers got wind of a crude joke McNealy was to perpetrate on stage and reined him in for good. Crude? Scott? Naaah!

After three days in Vegas, crude has percolated into the fibers of my inner child. The kicker was during a pit stop in the Circus Circus rest rooms, where the plastic gum guards in the men's urinals have "Just say no to drugs" printed on them. I may have been to the rest room of every casino in this town, but I'm sure I missed the drugs and a rumor somewhere. Send me your best Comdex story and I'll round 'em up.