Civilization is the lamb's skin in which barbarism masquerades.
Thomas Bailey Aldrich
Entropy Gradient Reversals


The Wolf at the Door

oh fuck! It sure has been an interesting couple of weeks over here at EGR World HQ. The company for which we'd been working lately -- or at least from which we'd been collecting a paycheck -- found out the hard way what happens when you Swim With the Sharks in nothing but your underwear. For obvious reasons, we cannot detail the predatory business practices, collusive subterfuge, and outright corporate corruption on the part of one of our very favorite Fortune-100 companies that precipitated this particular passion play -- let's call it "Death of a Cash Cow." Suffice it to say that the impact on our own financial circumstances was devastating and immediate.

Oh no, we thought, here it comes: full-bore karmic payback for the years we've wasted fucking around with EGR when we should have been sucking up to the very companies we've been pissing on! Oh shit oh dear we're gonna starve to death and so on. However, while this turn of events may sound life threatening, its effects were in fact no more dire than, say, being hit full-on by a Steinway piano falling from a sixth-story window.

When the initial Foaming-At-The-Mouth-in-Panic Phase had abated sufficiently that we could again think clearly -- or as clear as it's ever likely to get at any rate -- our first thought, of course, was for the resume:

http://www.panix.com/~clocke/resume.html

This damn thing is so obsolete it still refers to artificial intelligence, expert systems and robotics, as if anyone with any money could give a flying fuck. Or how about SGML, document management, and computer-supported cooperative work? Now there's a handful of high-pull buzz words! Are we talking Growth Industry here or what? It was painfully clear that we were going to have to spend some serious time bringing our sadly neglected CV up to date.

Meanwhile, we saw this call for speakers at some local Denver Internet whoop-up, and figured maybe this'd be a good place to troll for other sorts of work. So we shot off the following precis:

Scream III: Horror Stories from the World Wide Web

Technology and implementation issues often crowd out all others when companies construct their web strategies. However, these are typically not the greatest challenges facing such projects. While technology is clearly important, expectations and assumptions about the medium itself -- and the qualitatively different type of market attitudes it has spawned -- are far more likely to determine failure or success. Understanding these differences doesn't involve rocket science or academic handwaving, yet these surprisingly simple lessons are too often learned the hard way.

The speaker will share his personal experience of some costly failures -- with emphasis on how NOT to replicate them -- and provide counter-examples that are winning over whole new markets.

Incredibly, the conference management thought this was a great idea and we're slated to give the talk -- right after we figure out what we could possibly have been thinking when we wrote that silly crap. Too late, we realized this was just another procrastination gambit and that we'd been wasting precious time we could have been using to revise our now-critically-necessary resume. Yeah yeah, we'd get right on it.

However, just as we were steeling ourselves to this resolve -- oooh, oooh, looky here! -- we surfed onto this Special Offer to Announce Your Website to 1200 Editors at Major Hotshit Publications in the Real World. And hey: only 55 bucks! We did a quick check -- yes, we still had nearly $60 in the corporate coffers. We figured if we took advantage of this Unprecedented Opportunity, chances were good we might land that center column in The Wall Street Journal -- "Gonzo Webzine Proves New Model for E-Commerce" -- and all our troubles would be over instantly. Sounded like a winner.

But let's see, we only had like 50 words to convey the essence of EGR, so what to say? We spent several days composing this critical message upon which we figured our entire future hinged. Here's what we finally submitted through the web interface at:

http://www.newsbureau.com/burro
Entropy Gradient Reversals
http://www.rageboy.com

Fortune-500 wageslaves and low-life hacker scum convene here
to heal their battered psyches from all the lying boring
corporate garbage the web has dumped into our unwilling laps
and laptops. Rants and screeds by an ex-Mecklermedia, ex-MCI,
ex-IBM exec who went AWOL and became a full-time surrealist.
Can you spell S-T-O-R-Y?

"1200 Media Professionals" -- yeah right sure uh-huh. Those cocksuckers! We didn't get a single flame, not a single LOL. What are these people, extras leftover from Night of the Living Dead? So jammed on Haldol they can't change gears once in a fucking lifetime? Jesus!

So that didn't work.

But wait! Here was another page at

http://www.siliconalleyjobs.com/jobs-edi.htm

with all kinds of editorial-type job descriptions. Hmmm... one-a these babies could be just the ticket. So again, we put on our corporate-type Thinking Cap and wondered how we could most effectively reach the well placed decision makers at these New-Media-type organizations.

First, we used the little-known but ultracool IE Power Toys right-click option to dump all the URLs on that page, including of course, the MAILTO links. Then we Viewed Source to get at the raw HTML and, after a little quick regular-expression magic (nevermind that you have no idea what we're talking about; just be impressed), we came up with a dozen or so unique addresses of the Human Resource Professionals corresponding to these job listings, which actually said things like:

  • "...seeking a bright, original, ass-kicking creative..."
  • "...looking for a talented, mentally unstable individual..."

Sounded promising. So we pasted the addresses we'd extracted into our trusty spam cannon and sent the HR droids the following Expression of Strong Interest in all their various positions, making sure that they could see it was a mass-mailed form letter. Again, this was the product of several more days of careful planning:

Valued Job Description Poster:

You posted <Some Sort of Editorial-Related Job Description> at:
http://www.siliconalleyjobs.com/jobs-edi.htm
Good for you! You have successfully passed Phase I of our testing process. This qualifies you for Phase II. Please understand that not all of you will be able to successfully complete this portion of our screening procedure; however, many of you will go on to lead rich, rewarding lives nonetheless. Phase II a) Easy Part Read our online resume at: http://www.panix.com/~clocke/resume.html b) Not So Easy Part Read our 100,000-word cover letter beginning at: http://www.rageboy.com c) Phase III Qualifier Write a brief essay explaining why you believe your organization is qualified to use the word "creative" in a public document. Entries will be assessed with respect to rhetorical suasion, stylistic panache, and on whether they make us laugh (in any of several possible senses). Best of luck, and remember what John Lennon said: reality leaves a lot to the imagination!
Amazingly, this hasn't brought any response either, except for a bunch of Thank-You-For-Your-Input garbagings from these companies' puke-back robo-mailers.

the mercMeanwhile, there was the rent check to think about, payments were coming due on the Ferrari, the Merc and the Jag -- and all these were dwarfed, as usual, by our standing bill at Amazon.com. We finally started getting really nervous. We were going have to bring in some serious bacon -- and soon -- but how? We thought of renting out RageBoy® to do after-dinner talks at annual corporate pow-wows. He's done a few of those, though nobody's ever asked him back. We thought of charging a subscription fee for EGR -- for about ten seconds. We thought of asking for donations -- for about two.

Finally, we realized we were just going to have to get over this whole irresponsible teen-age lifestyle, quit screwing around and get serious about making a living. In fact, if we planned on surviving this "transition," we were going to have to dump EGR!

Well then, consulting maybe...

OK, we thought, there's certain shit we're pretty good at. We'll just hack up some really slick web pages describing our World-Class Consulting Capabilities and start working that set of circuits. But what would we offer specifically? The first set of bullet points we came up with seemed to lack something:
Super-Professional-No-Crap Consulting (SPNCC) Can Help Your Company to:
  • fire everyone in marketing!
  • fire everyone in engineering!
  • tell long-time customers to get fucked!
  • alert new prospects to your latest lies!
  • raise venture capital from anonymous South American sources!
  • leverage Y2K confusion to pad executive Swiss bank accounts!
  • learn the innermost secrets of the biggest spammers!
  • sponge free IP bandwidth from clueless Federal laboratories!
  • diversify into hot new opportunities in agriculture!

Not that each of these isn't An Idea Whose Time Has Come -- but taken together, they just didn't seem to add up to a cohesive program. Clearly, this wasn't working. However, as it became increasingly obvious that we hadn't the foggiest idea what we were doing, and adrenalin-driven panic began to replace even the remotest possibility of rational thought, we finally started doing what we should have thought of a lot sooner. We began to whine a lot.

Now this is generally not a good idea. If you tell a friend that you're out of a job -- especially if it happens that your children all have incurable leukemia and now you won't be able to afford the medications that will ease their last few fleeting hours -- your pal will almost invariably reply: "Get away from me you loathsome loser! Eat shit and die!"

On the other hand, if you tell the same pal that you lost your $25,000 gold Rolex in that darned sand trap on the 15th green at Myrtle Beach, he'll probably say: "Look, I've only got six grand on me at the moment, but here, take it and buy yourself a cheap watch. No, forget it, don't bother to pay me back. What are friends for?"

Aren't people funny?

But the EGR Irregulars are funnier than most. So when we started whining in random email and telephone exchanges -- "Oh shit, we're finished! Fuck! We're gonna die!" -- they responded exactly opposite to what long social tradition would normally predict. One after another, some truly stand-up CEOs came forward and said: "Well you know, we've got this little project that'd be right up your alley, RB. It's just gonzo enough..."

Long story short, we seem to have successfully launched Entropy Consulting without ever having put together any song-and-dance about what we actually do. This is great, as we figure it's always better to make it up as you go along anyway. It's also great because now it looks as if we can stop looking for the perfect refrigerator box to replace the offices we've been working out of, and stop searching out promising food-related dumpster locations.

Plus, EGR will continue to publish -- as evidenced by what you're reading here -- and resume editing be damned.

This whole experience has taught us a lot about business. It has even taught us something, if we may be so immodest, about Life -- which you know we just can't resist sharing.

[Cue swelling orchestral soundtrack...]

Valued Readers, when things get rough out there in Reality Land and you're crapping your pants with paralyzing paranoia, resist the temptation -- and it is a temptation that will surely come -- to reform your life, to finally do the right thing for a change. Rather, hold fast in your darkest hour! Think up some even weirder shit to pull! When the wolf is on your doorstep, don't run the sucker off too quick. Invite the dude inside and see what's on his mind. It turns out that old wolf is a cagey motherfucker and he's been around the block more times than you're ever likely gonna get to go. Tell him to make himself at home. Listen carefully to what he's got to say. Especially pay attention when he laughs out loud at what you're thinking.

Make friends with your wolf -- and, just maybe, he'll teach you to be more human.


EGR World HQ
RB Takes the Chicks for Rides
at EGR World HQ



Entropy Gradient Reversals
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          Entropy Gradient Reversals
          CopyLeft Christopher Locke

          clocke@rageboy.com
          http://www.rageboy.com

"reality leaves a lot to the imagination..." John Lennon
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