NOTES on a long weekend: All the papers have been read. The flag has been
fished out of the back closet and hung from its appointed place on the
porch rail. After a moment to reflect on the departed, I turn my attention
to the needs of the living, for there is much watering, weeding and
transplanting to be done.
I don't mind the work, not at all. In my book, any hour spent
interfacing with the flora is an hour spent not thinking about Internet
protocols, Netscape extensions and next week's Major Paradigm Shift. I've
come to know the Hula Hoe and the Garden Weasel as implements for
meditation, tools for greater self-understanding.
Still, on even the most languid and freewheeling of holiday weekends,
there are certain phrases one simply cannot bear to hear from one's
helpmate, partner and co-Webmaster, certain phrases that can seize the
tender reverie of the moment and pinch it like a hose wrapped around the
base of a rosebush.
''I need you to do your personal-facts list for the Web page today.''
I set down my tools and flash her a withering smile, a smile that says:
''I will get right on it, sweetness. Right after I finish defoliating the
rest of the front yard on my hands and knees with a nose-hair trimmer.
Right after I complete a lap-by-lap statistical analysis of the Indy 500,
cross-referenced with the 25 previous races. Yes, right after a pack of
winged primates egresses with great haste from yonder asparagus patch, I
will complete the requested task. Right away. Yes.''
It's like that sometimes.
Here is the problem: I believe that as a virtue, full disclosure is
vastly overrated. And in the virtual world, disclosure is vastly overdone.
The temptation to make personal home pages a bit too personal should be
resisted at any cost.
I find the minutiae that adorns some personal pages to be wasteful,
thoughtless and a profound indictment of the author's intelligence. Do I
really need to know the details of your second wedding, your weekend at the
water ski expo and your emergency hemorrhoidectomy? Do you think I really
want to see five jumbo-sized scans of the Heathkit weather station that won
you the science fair prize 20 years ago, Braniac?
As for fleshing out my own home pages, I think it's a preposterous idea.
Familiarity breeds contempt, and I already say quite enough in this space
that's contemptible. Any additional self-revelatory blather on my part
would be coals.html to Newcastle.com, no?
I'm fighting this battle on two fronts and taking a whipping fore and
aft. At work, the merry czars of Mercury Center have been tinkering with
the Web page you see referenced at the bottom of this column each week. It
wasn't really broken, but they were determined to fix it nonetheless. After
we got done discussing the visuals (''What's wrong with just rescanning my
old picture?''), they demanded a short list of favorite links. I could
stamp and hold my breath till I turned a nice shade of Pantone Indigo No.
56, but the bottom line is it's their site. So I coughed up the list.
I'm getting the same grief on the home front. Pray tell, what salient
messages should I put up for every modem-driving lookie-loo in the world to
see? Perhaps a political page with two sets of links: ''Who's Right'' and
''Who's wrong.'' Yeah, right. Nothing like making sure everyone goes away
angry. How about a cyberian take on Vanity Fair's ''Proust Quiz,'' with
questions such as ''Which living person do you most despise?'' (Hi, Bill!)
and ''What do you consider your greatest achievement?'' (Showing up at work
before the crack o' noon.) (Editor's note: He's not kidding.) No.
That would not do. That approach would wreak more havoc than a Garden Weasel.
I suppose I could list a few personal facts, considering nobody said
''boo'' about context. The following statements are true. Also, the
following statements mean nothing. To paraphrase Mark Twain, any attempt to
find meaning in the following statements will be referred to the proper
Section: Smoking, but not next to the kitchen door.
Bags: Paper, please.
Race: Nope. Not since I messed up my knees in college.
High school GPA: freshman, 3.5; sophomore, 2.2; junior, n/a.
Favorite $18 motel: The Fobes 40, Crowley Lake, Calif.
Greatest fear: Forgetting how to write.
Revered icons: the Dalai Lama, Kathie Lee Gifford, Ed Powers, Tony
Orlando & Dawn.
Most cherished possession: a 55-year-old toolbox from the Mare Island
Writers I envy: Van Morrison, Lynda Barry, Charles Osgood.
Things I would take to the afterlife: A gallon jug of Inner Beauty hot
sauce, the complete unreleased works of Neil Young, an (after)lifetime
supply of Silver Oak cabernet, a round-trip ticket, a Hula Hoe.
There. The odious deed is done. Now if certain Webmasters are quite
satisfied, I think I will go back to my yard.
BIG-TIME OPERATORS: The four11.com Web-based directory
service added a nationwide telephone white pages feature last week, putting
it in direct competition with Switchboard and Yahoo.
ARE WE HIP YET? Hot on the heels of Turner
Broadcasting's vacuous Spiv, behold Stim, yet another youth culture
Web-zine suckled at the corporate teat and trying a bit too hard to be
alternative. This monthly product, by Prodigy, of all companies, is billed
as a journal of ''deviant pop culture.'' (Look, I know Prodigy is trying
mightily to buy itself a clue and shake loose the old parental influences
of Big Blue and Sears, but this is really stretching the bounds of
plausibility. I hope the poor marketing muffin who wrote the ''deviant''
copy didn't have to be removed from her cubicle in restraints).
The premier issue -- posted now at http://www.stim.com -- is a mixed
bag: cute Java-intensive design, the same creepy faux-teenspeak as Cousin
Spiv, a cute gimmick that will fill your screen with random aphorisms (and
crash your Netscape browser), 3-D chat based on Palace software and a host
of other toys.
Editorially, it's the same old latte-and-MTV-infused fluff on tech
gadgets, relationships and pop culture. Overall, about as ''deviant'' as
The story is not without an irony-enriched sidebar: According to Simba
Media Daily, the Web-zine Suck, this week's ultimate arbiter of
hypertextual hip, registered the domain names ''stiv.com'' and ''spim.com''
to needle both the wet-behind-the-ears poseurs. Prodigy, displaying an
uncharacteristic sense of humor, fought back by registering ''stuck.com.''
(By the way, if you're wondering where the original hipper-than-thou youth
zine is in the middle of all this, Spin has yet to find the Web.)
AND THEN THERE ARE HOOPS: The NBC Web site for the NBA
Finals is up and running at http://www.finals.com. Fans will find real-time
commentary by veteran analyst Steve Jones, cybercasts of post-game media
conferences, photos and stats, plus many megs of historical material on
TALK O' CYBERTOWN: Spinal Tap unlocks the mysteries of
the rock 'n' roll universe tonight at 7 on Prodigy (JUMP: CHAT).
Singer/songwriter Tish Hinojosa checks in on America Online Monday at 6:30
p.m. (KEYWORD: WARNER). Jack Klugman and Tony Randall wax nostalgic Tuesday
at 6 p.m. on AOL (KEYWORD: NICK).