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Harlot's Web

A Chance Meeting with William Blake at Times Square

by Douglas McDaniel

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"What is now proved was once only imagined" --- William Blake

"Harvest out-of-the-box mindshare" --- a random phrase created by Dack.com's Web Economy Bullshit Generator, a JavaScript provided by Leslie Lee

--- Generate seamless schemas --- engage visionary initiatives --- reinvent vertical content ---

Now that I have sufficiently recovered after taking a big bite out of the forbidden fruit of knowledge otherwise known as the Big Apple -- it seems appropriate to render my impressions of the first ever e-Show ("The Consumer Internet Event," held Sept. 9-10, 2000) a convention for newly devised concepts in e-commerce -- a real neo-portal for the plain people party at Madison Square Garden.

Duly recorded are the following observations for these archives -- for as long as we have electricity -- or before we grow old, forgetful and blind.

Syndicate dot-com bandwidth

First, there was that conversation with Chinese-American business site content provider as I sought an information-free zone within the twisty catacombs of the Garden. Sorry, I've forgotten his name. I think he was a little touched in the head. I know I was. By that late Saturday afternoon, I couldn't remember my name, much less address the potential viability of another Web site with a catchy e-name. It had been a day full of all kinds of positive, joyful, optimistic chatter about consumer selectivity, affiliate deals and click-centric databases for those people still willing to punch their credit card number into the free-floating sieve of the Net.

Anyway, I was ducking the relatively small convention floor into an outer hallway, and once again I'm chattering, bullshitting about the biz with the man, who looked a little puffy and tired.

"There was this guy out there selling hot dogs cheap," he said, pointing out through the big glass wall window toward Babylon. "He was selling them so cheap, the guys running the other stands were getting totally pissed"

I looked down at the ground. At his feet was a $100 bill. I reached down and picked it up, thanking God for his good grace. We both looked at the folded green and realized: The bill was only a promotional tool for another new Web site. I'd been had. I looked up at the guy, smiled and said, "Oh yeah, it sounds like he's trying to undercut the competition," in a distracted reference to the hot dog stand. "That sounds like a good open source model"

So there I was, talking Martian, again. A regular and all-too-analog Web Economy Bullshit Generator.

"Hey! I'm part of the New Economy. You can't touch this!"


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"I have a Masters degree in Technobabble and a PhD in E-commerce Speak."


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"Bill? Yeah, I saw your site on FuckedCompany.com today. You looking for a job, man?"
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Looking back on those words now, I feel somewhat sickened.

I am increasingly able to spin off this kind of drivel without even thinking. Just today, I said, when talking about how the utility of various Websites gets better and better in terms of numbers crunching, "The technology will always drift toward databases that only need numerals to communicate"

What does that mean?

I don't know. It was Martian.

I'm a cyborg now. I apologize that, as this archived content-provider-to-end-user interface moves along, it starts to get scary, Frankenstein style, and mock-biblical, William Blake style.

Expedite scalable relationships

Other impressions float in an ill-mannered jumble of images: How Times Square is just like the Web (a robot thought I have about everything these days), a jarring eyesore of lights and noise and fully licensed, cross-promotional insanity.

The feeling must be a common phenomenon for visitors: If this is the pinnacle of civilization, maybe it's not so bad the lights will eventually go out. So the law of entropy says.

Still more memories:

    The equally mind-numbing noise from the jaunty performers hyping CeMeRun.com. The troupe filled the entire floor with booming shouts and banter. This was disturbing for me as the people at the Intel tried to explain why we really need a wireless household wizard for a half -dozen PCs, including one for the kitchen.

  • Other innovations include an appliance PC prototype with half-a-brain, without much of a hard-drive, that is, since apparently the trend is leading toward our acquiescing of power tools to the archons of the Net. Intel has come up with a solution for being able to slip the unique identifier into our machines for tracking purposes. If that company gets its way, everyone worthy of a credit card account will own a Pocket PC Camera, capable of taking photos and producing real-time video. It even has motion-sensitive capabilities, thus making it easier for those running the show to keep an eye on us all.

Customize consumer reflex

Another impression on that PC camera was this illicit consideration: Intel's ridiculously easy-to-use interface for posting video will set a new low for amateur porn.
The item clicks and whirrs like a regular camera, even though there are no working parts inside. My question to the Intel guy, hungry for knowledge as I happened to be at the time, was this: How many focus groups did it take to determine that a placebo noise would make consumers feel more comfortable with the product? He said he didn't know, but he'd get back to me.

I was sucking up information all around me.

Organize impertinent initiatives

Later on at Times Square, a few hours after a graffiti shower had sprinkled the place, I asked a police officer by a barricade how many street-cleaning machines it would take to clean up the mess. He said he didn't know. Then a man on a bike asked me to take his picture in the traffic island by some statue --- The Overlord of Overload, I guess --- and I went and dropped the damn thing on the cement. Still, it clicked. I then realized what the Intel guy, back at the e-Show, was referring to when he said, "Robust technology" That's cyborg for: It can't be broken, no matter how stupid or insensitive or clumsy you happen to be, humanoid!

Target robust content

I regret my failure to successfully engage in the high-speed Internet access offered for $9.95 in my hotel room. The glitches in my laptop continue, I suspect, due to that one-hour fuss as NYC anxiously beaconed, a screaming siren on the shores, outside.

Monetize user-centric paradigms

Writing down the words, "Gotu Kola Herb," as a considered downloading -- Ok, OK, drinking! -- a special brain drink that reminded me of some alchemist's elixir. Also this was on my mind each time I took a bite from the ATM tree: That line in the Bible about no one being able to buy or sell without the mark of the beast.

Reintermediate next-generation relationships

I still have the same eerie feeling after speaking to the guy, who stood alone at the unimpressive e-Show booth, who said he wasn't really offering anything consumer oriented. His company performed Internet countermeasures and cyberwar stuff for "government agencies [he] could not name. Some you would be surprised, others of you would not" After everybody else was so eager to fill my head full of Web economy bullshit, his reluctance to talk was downright chilling. Not that he wasn't engaged in a considerable evangelical outreach. Each young cyber-savvy soul who came by his booth was told they'd be contacted for future unspoken tasks. To join the cyberstazi, I suppose. I won't say what the name of the Web site was because I don't want him pointing his scanners at me.

Incentivize 24/365 models

On the way out of town, in the rest room while I was waiting for a train at Penn Station, the icon for Half.com in the bottom of the urinal with the slogan, "Don't piss your funds for music away" Or something like that. I thought, Jeez, you can't take a piss without getting a message in merch-code.

Fully licensed, cross-branded insanity.

Anyway, I'd already been downloaded on Half.com at the e-Show. The site, which allows people to trade, buy and sell used CDs at reasonable prices, has one of the best databases for stuff. Once I ordered something, though, and it never came. I kept my mouth shut, even so, when I got to the booth. It wasn't like he was going to produce a copy of "The Divine Horsemen" before my eyes.

Loved that band, "The Divine Horsemen." L.A. post-punk at it's best. It included a Stones-like sound and a male-female call-and-response style of vocals. The man, Chris D., sang in a weird baritone about being haunted by sin, and the woman, Julie Christie, sang in the angelic higher range. The Divine Horsemen were a kind of marriage of heaven and hell.

Revolutionize strategic technologies

And when I first drank the elixir of life, a Red Bull energy drink with a medicine dropper full of "Gotu Kola Herb" for memory, I was in Times-Square again, in a trendy megalomaniac's idea of video arcade called Bar Code. I was sitting at the bar, feeling the weird lifting effects of complete exhaustion made suddenly energetic by the iced-caffeine and herb brain drink. And then, I saw it, a quote by William Blake from his poem, "The Marriage of Heaven and Hell"

Written on one of the many inconographic wall hangings for the huge facility, intended to appeal to all cyborgs, were the words,

"What is now proved was once only imagined"

In the poem, Satan spoke those words as he tried to make the case that up was down, and down was up.

I looked around and I realized that all of the wall hangings had references to different forms of code. But there was one I didn't notice: The open sourcerer's motto, "Code is law"

But the waitress had never heard of Lawrence Lessig or William Blake. I was in the land of forgetting, yet my memory was randomly accessing all the icons around me. I was suddenly feeling a surge of creativity. So I got my Notebook and Manual Writing Device, otherwise known as a ball-point pen.

I then wrote the following blasphemy:

"Bar Code is law. Black and white vertical lines, of varying width: Our worst subterranean fears attuned for positivism, licensed, packaged for material accumulation, logical logistics for America the Database, DNA and identity.

"Code of conduct, the angel or devil you know, or, don't know. Each decision to click you either adapt or resist, filling in other black vertical lines, forming a more perfect shadow that moves into a different space.

"Better the devil you know, as a blue light circular globe emits a scan across this very page, then recedes, the ebb and cache of electrical pulse, 'What is now proved was once only imagined.'

"Urizen's code, Napsterized, the imaginator subsumed beneath the hierarchal layers of the Void. Layers of forgetfulness. The Bar Code girl at the bar, taking my credit card, does not know her name is Gaelic. Material law mandates one cannot buy or sell without code, but we need not ask why. It is just so.

"The blue light scan, that eye, again, expanding the artificial consciousness of database. The divine aggregator crunches the code and the fittest meaning survives: New Rules Game Bar, Rules Game New Bar, Game Rules New Bar, Bar Rules Game New --- the bee in the hive never knows why it makes honey, why should I? The limit of thought is based on the code, on the versatility of each and every sign.

"Merchandise code, genetic code, moral code and the code that is the one and only law"

Repurpose thyself

OK, duly or unduly recorded. Impertinent and real.

After I paid the tab at the Bar Code I went back out into the light and the noise of the street all made a kind of sense. On the ground was the same graffiti that had fallen from that same Broadway routine conducted in the street early in the morning. Big air-blowing trucks blew the multi-colored paper all around, and I thought of it as a wedding procession for the marriage of heaven and hell.

They would never completely pick those little sprinklets of paper up. Never. Some things defy all processes. It would be forever part of the environment, a little reminder of chaos and disorder to confound the beast. I found comfort in that thing, you know, the part of the random soul that can never be contained, tracked or delivered by code.


Douglas McDaniel is senior editor at Access Internet Magazine . He can be reached at dmcdaniel@accessmagazine.com.


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