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The Heartbreak of Cyberitis 

Wednesday, Jul 28 1999
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Art by Mike Lee
AN UNFORTUNATE SIDE EFFECT OF reifying and promoting common, nonprofit words as pop-marketing jargon is that some of us get so sick of a given term, we don't just stop using it but develop resentment for those who force it upon us. Then more of us do the same, and so on until no one uses the term except for low-end hucksters and the people who love or satirize them. Recent examples: moral, family, interests; radical, awesome, alt.; new, more, free. And, of course, cyber. When the debris of the Internet's dawning has been shouldered along the Information Hersheyhighway we've made, cyber may well take highest dishonors on the linguistic tchotchke shelf.

Friend Bill and I try to come up with a term which, when used without satire, guarantees a spot on the same level of hell as cyber zealots. Colored? Oriental? No. Bill wins with Frisco. As in:

"Yeah. You know, we were up in Frisco and . . ."

"Frisco? I got some cousins in Gilroy. Hot damn! That Frisco sure is one swingin' town!"

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Cyberitis: (n) (1) inflammation of the linguistic fundament caused by prefixing vulnerable words and phrases for short-term monetary gain; (2) the desire to become a machine. (Gk. kubernan, to govern)

"A SIDEBURN PARTY?"

"Cyber. A cyberparty. You know -- computers and stuff, and the Internet and everything. It starts at 7:30."

"Oh. Okay. I'll try to make it."

Actually, I wasn't invited. But the rest is true. A New York­based publication was hosting a cyberparty in Santa Monica to usher in its new and equally cyber section. And though, as I mentioned, I hadn't technically been invited, I had gone down on someone in the promotions department who then assured me that I was welcome to attend.

The cyberparty was cyberrific. Cocktails served in hard-drive-shaped glasses; napkins that looked just like mouse pads; deviled eggs and jicama cut to resemble tiny scanners and pointing devices; and a big fluffy white cake as moist 'n' tender as the Internet itself. In the midst of all the cybercommotion, six fucked-up 486s were almost ignored by 30 or so employees, clients and guests. Party!

Twenty-one weeks later, more or less recovered, I return to World Café, the site of the cyberparty, to find the computers all gone -- not a cyber in sight. What happened? "People would come in and just sit there all day with a cup of coffee," a server tells me. "The Internet access was free, and we were losing money. So we got rid of the computers. Here's your check."

Cyber gone? Where'd it go?

Trouble finding a public place in which to flaunt your cyberskills and increase your risk of heart attack? The Cybercafé Search Engine (http://cybercaptive.com) will comb its database of "2,567 verified cybercafés in 128 countries plus over 2,000 public Internet access points and kiosks." As an official member of The Cybercafé Ring, TCSE has the world's most direct cyberlinks to Japanese Cybercafés, Cybercafés of Spain and more, exclamation point. Remember: Only verified cybercafés are genuinely hip and zany. Log on today!

AS DUSK DIES, I ENTER A ONCE SELF-dubbed cybercafé in Studio City only to find that it, too, has rid itself of computers. And replaced them with standup comedians. Recent models. No cyber, so I talk with someone from Virginia, have some severely overpriced coffee and leave. Next, I try @Coffee on Melrose. Computers? Yes. Patrons? No. Counterperson Rainbow says most of their cyberpatrons are cybertourists checking their Swedish e-mail. Rainbow says there's a place up on Hollywood Boulevard called CyberJava, and that's where the cyber is.

Sure enough, CyberJava serves cybercoffee in three cybersizes: K, Meg, Gig; cybermemberships start at $2.50 for 15 minutes and end at $299 for three months; a CyberJava Card Account covers 10 hours of Internet access from one of 12 Pentium/T1 cybersetups and 10 alleged gigabytes of cybercoffee for $55; $45 minus the liquid. The place was semicyberpacked with cyberhipsters, some with sideburns.

 

The not-for-profit CyberLife Eternal Foundation (http://cyberdeath.tzo.com/) "is an eternal resting place for life, not death." They claim to preserve something called "heritage" by maintaining an HTML-style database of "men and women of the world that [sic] may never be found in encyclopedias. It is our belief that this technological medium of the Internet may preserve the wisdom and achievements of the common people of the world for all mankind, including their descendants, to access free of charge for generations to come."

 

Streamlined and hard-edged, the Cyberdeath (http://cyberdeath.tzo.com/) page offers little beyond three important links -- Bikini Pages, Downloads and Other Links -- all of which lead to that most final of cyberresting places, www.microsoft.com.

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