Jewish World Review August 15, 2001 / 26 Menachem-Av, 5761

Ian Shoales

Ian Shoales
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Consumer Reports

A wild and crazy world! --

A New Mexico teenager put his immortal soul up for auction on eBay last year, closing the auction after a week when the bid hit five bucks. Apparently he got the idea from a SIMPSONS episode, in which Bart Simpson sold his soul for a comic book or something.

Also, according to the Riverside California Press Enterprise, a kid from Canada tried to sell his soul on eBay. His soul got as high as twenty bucks and change before eBay decided that this was a bad idea.

According to the ARIZONA REPUBLIC, "eBay has put a stop to people trying to sell their eternal souls for a little extra cash becasue the existence of a soul is not something that can be documented, and therefore sold."

Yeah? Well, tell that to Satan, pal.

Capitalism is a strange beast. Just the other day, I heard some entrepreneur on a radio discussion chat show explain the new economy as one that places emphasis on increased value rather than increased profits. In other words, a company that may at some point in the future deliver a doohickey worth zillions is worth more than a company that today produces a doohicky worth hundreds. I think.

That seems to be spirit of the new capitalism, its soul, if you will. I don't know where you sell a thing like that. Oh, wait a minute! I remember now! You sell it on Nasdaq!

The Internet seems to be driving certain among us insane. And that would be capitalists.

See, the Internet used to be the exclusive province of cranks, I think, who only used it to swap complicated scientific formulas and codes and flame one another in chat rooms. Then came the Web, and e-mail accounts for the masses, and we graduated to sending each other dirty jokes, funny lists, and warnings that funding for the NEA was going to dry up.

Then we had dancing hamsters, the amorous Turk, and complicated if unlikely conspiracy theories. Then we had e-commerce, which tried to shoulder everybody out of the way, with a flurry of buzzwords so thick, and changing so fast, the folks involved didn't even know what they're talking about from one day to the next.

Then Venture Capitalists ventured into marketing, a field in which they had no previous expertise. They managed to spend over a billion dollars on advertising in one holiday season, to make their start-ups stand out.

The result, as everybody may dimly remember, was a bunch of weird teevee ads during the SuperBowl. Active Research, a Web research firm, found that nearly one fourth of Internet users polled couldn't recall a single dot com ad. ranked first, but number two, Yahoo!, was dimly recalled by only 3% of respondents.

It must have driven those guys crazy! Here they were trying to build brand awareness for a dotcom, the precise nature of which was unclear-- something to do with functionality, outsourcing solutions, and sticky eyeballs? I don't know. But what do they get for it? Mahir gets the eyeballs, and they get panicky investors. And the world got purely fed up with dotcom mania. When you get down to it, how excited can you get about scalable outsourcing solutions?

We're such cattle, we really are. We've got to move in a herd-- well, that's not really true, we have to create imaginary herds for our fellow human beings so we can sneer at them for belonging to a category that we invented for them.

Hippies. Remember hippies? For a brief period, hippies were perfectly content to smell flowers, take hallucinogens, have free love, and come to hold odd beliefs about Atlantis, without calling themselves anything at all. Then the media started calling them hippies. Then the world gathered round. "Stupid hippies," shouted the world. The hippies became self-conscious. They put their clothes back on. Instead of smelling flowers, they start arranging them. They put on Birkenstocks. Instead of rapping with their own stars over a doobie, they soberly consulted high end astrologers. Reagan became president. Coincidence? I think not.

What about yuppies? Did yuppies think of themselves as yuppies? No. They were in competition with each other. If they thought anything they thought, "I am a money making machine." "Nah ah, I'M a money making machine." Then the market crashed, and nobody cared about yuppies any more.

Remember the Brat Pack? They were so embarrassed by the nickname that only Demi Moore became a superstar, and even she's viewed with mixed feelings.

Generation X? They were depressed enough, before the big x got branded on their despondent pale foreheads. Then it got abbreviated to GenEx, and except for Johnny Depp, we've pretty much written all those people off.

Now we've got a new youth group, sort of, that's both counter-cultural and power capitalism-- and that's the new

entrepreneurial-code-monkey-business-to-business-value-based-have-no-life-and-proud-of-it-class-- well, there you go I'm doing it myself. This group has had a lot of names on the street, none of which has really caught on-- dot commies, webbies, what have you.

TALK Magazine, the latest in a series of indispensable periodicals, courtesy of the category-less Tina Brown, proclaimed that this new generation should be called "Yetties." Yetis? I had to go beyond the cover and read the article itself to figure that out. Young. Entreprenueurial. Tech based? Get it?

Well, I dunno. Who are the readers of TALK that they would have the power to wave a magic wand and make the name, Yettis, stick to an entire class of people? Maggies?

Yettis. Hmph. That's a long way to go for a nickname, in my opinion. Why not eekies? For e-commerce? Or Slippers? For the pink slips they collected?

JWR contributor Ian Shoales is the author of, among others, Not Wet Yet: An Anthology of Commentary. Comment by clicking here.


08/10/01: When the future was "as real as a dime"
08/08/01: Garage Dearth!
08/06/01: That Big Clock
08/02/01: Stop the pop!
07/31/01: Catchphrase history of the world
07/26/01: The Bride of Science
07/23/01: That java jive
07/17/01: Homogenized hegemony
07/13/01: Applying Newton's First Law of Physics to textbooks
07/10/01: The dumb and the dead

© 2001, Ian Shoales