|ired Magazine headquarters is a fantastic place, a cross between Willie Wonka’s chocolate factory, a McDonald’s restaurant, and IBM’s campus. The furniture is all day-glo colored, molded plastics in vibrant yellows, neon blues, and horn-toad greens. It’s kind of hard to get around the offices because of all the differently shaded lightbulbs, puce over there in design, pale blue over there in customer service, rosy-tinted in editorial. It’s a very hip, very edgy, very new-agey kind of place. They play techno music in the breakroom. Some joker flavored the water-cooler with Very Berry Kool-Aid. All the employees are new all the time, because of the annual Thanksgiving firing drive, except for the temps, who’ve all been there for years. It keeps a kind of flow to things that way, it keeps the juices flowing baby, it’s this year’s model, kid, new blood keeps us in the red. We’re doing the utopia issue this month and the dystopia issue next.
This is the center of the internet economy.
This is where the revolution is happening.
This is where print design forever changed. Udderly changed.
And now it’s alright if your layout looks like shit, as long it glows in the dark, as long as it jumps off the page, baby, don’t think twice, cause it’s alright. Cha, Cha, Cha. The buzz might have just passed you by. Here comes the next, buzz, buzz, buzz. A copy-editor’s trying out a new electric drug. Fiber optic cable trailing out the base of his spine, naked and drooling, he rocks back and forth, he sways with a vacant smile. Plugged in.
Here we follow the Web with a prancing eye. Here we’re courageous. We’re daring. We’re insightful. We speak not only to high-tech professionals and the business savvy, but also to the forward-looking, the culturally asstoot, and the simply curious members of the new plutocracy. Here we salute those who have recently become filthy rich. Here we want to test out your toys. Here we make room for culture with a high market capitalization, baby, run it up the flagpole and see who salutes. Here we run words over words over words, forming unreadable images with words. Let’s try green text on an olive background, let’s see how that visionary looks bathed in silvery light.
The air reeks of frankfurters and we follow the scent through confused clumpings of cubicles. This year’s editors are playing foosball with this year’s graphic designers. Nobody’s got stock options here, and they know what it means. Here’s a guy with eye-popping pants. There’s a woman expressing her technolust in a DVD chair with full-body massage, VRML popcorn maker, and XML footbath. There’s a staffer on a headset literally begging a temp at Oracle for a meeting with the man that he knows he won’t get. Over there in the culture section, they’re having a debate over whether they should get permissions from Schulz to use the cartoon character in the article about Linux, or if they should just do a wireframe rendering from scratch.
You move on by, there some goofy freelancers are trying to fool the biometrics scanner by scalding their hands over an open flame. They are alternately giggling hysterically and howling in pain. You wonder if that was the frankfurter smell. It was not.
You might think of Rupert Murdoch taking a shit. You might of some junk bond trader dressed up like Tina Turner. You might think of Marshall McLuhan, who they call their patron saint. Turning over in his grave.
The frankfurter smell is overwhelming, and you track them down via scent, through a room bathed in black light. The door says conference room, it’s painted there in a wild periwinkle script, and you peer in. A guy is plucking footlong conies from a rotisserie grill of the convenience store variety and lathering them with mustard. He wears a chef’s hat and a seersucker suit. A very powerful looking group in cutoff shorts, or khaki pants, or see-through sweaters, or Mumus, sit about a molded plastic conference table, debating the content of the next issue.
BRAD WEINERS: Ohhhhhh, damn, oh damn that hurts, I burnt myself, oh, oh, owwie.
KRISTINA HERON: Brawwwk! Brad! Brawwwk! Be careful! Brawwwk! Can we get some of that genetically altered Aloe salve with the electrolytes in here? Stat! Brawwwk!
WILLIAM O’GOGGINS: Arrrgh! Malarkey and horseplay, Ah’ve had enough a ye. Can we ban the damnable hot dogs from these meetins? Ah’ve got me swimmin with the dolphins lessons at five ten, and Ah’ll be damned if Ah’ve got to miss ‘em to watch Brad squirm about again tryin to pluck off another sausuge from a hot spit.
BRAD WEINERS: Ohhhhhh, no, oh no, no, I want my tasty meat treats, and I won’t have a meeting without them. My benefits are shit, and I want my tasty meat treats!
KRISTINA HERON: Brawwwk! We gone Brawwwk! over this before, O’Goggins—the hot dogs give our meetings a certain Brawwwk! eclectic flair. They’re retro but Brawwwk! sassy.
WILLIAM O’GOGGINS: Yarrgh! Can we get on with the meetin, then?
KRISTINA HERON: Brawwwk! We’re almost ready to Brawwk! wrap up here. One item left, this Unknown Brawwwk! hypertext novel.
NORMAN SPINRAD: Yes, we’ve gone round and round this thing, we’ve whirled it about, we’ve spun on our spindle. Christina Ganjei, our idealistic young Editorial Assistant, is here to make a case for including a review of it in either our hip Street Cred section or our Just Outta Beta, before the curve, product review section.
BRAD WEINERS: Put it on the screen! Put it on the screen! I want it on my big big glowing screen!
CHRISTINE GANJEI: Here you are, Mr. Weiners. This is the start page of the Unknown—I ran across it when I caught some of the webmonkeys reading it back in the design cage.
KRISTINA HERON: Brawwwk! Who? Which ones?
CHRISTINE GANJEI: Well, Chris C. and Aaron—
KRISTINA HERON: Fire them! Brawwwk! Fire them now.
BRAD WEINERS: Ohhhhhh—do I have to? I hate firing—
KRISTINA HERON: Brawwwk! NOW! Go on.
CHRISTINE GANJEI: See, this is a hypertext novel, it’s a comedy.
BOB PARKS: Waitaminute—you say this is a hypertext novel?
CHRISTINE GANJEI: Yes.
BOB PARKS: Well then where is the 3-D Animation?
CHRISTINE GANJEI: Well, I guess that they mean “novel” as in “mostly words.”
BOB PARKS: Well then it’s not a hypertext now is it?
CHRISTINE GANJEI: Well, I guess that back in the old days, they used to write hypertexts with words in them. Robert Coover calls this one a “return to the golden age of hypertext.”
WILLIAM O’GOGGINS: Well I’ll be blimied—words.
PATRICIA KRUEGER: How unconventional! This is the stuff of nightmares. You could really sharpen your scissorhands on something like this!
CHRISTINE GANJEI: As a matter of fact, here’s a very scary scene set at the National Supercomputing Applications Center.
KRISTINA HERON: Brawwwk! Well correct me if I’m Brawwwk! wrong, but I thought we were bleeding edge here Brawwwk!
CHRISTINE GANJEI: Well yes, but, these words form stories, and the links, if you follow them, are conceptually related to other stories…
CHRISTA ABATOIZ: Images! Images! Give me eye candy!
CHRISTINE GANJEI: Well there’s some of that too, see, here’s a map.
CHRISTA ABATOIZ: Oooooh, I like that, oooooh, that tickles me—
CHRISTINE GANJEI: And when you click on the circles, they lead to other parts of the story—
CHRISTA ABATOIZ: Yawn me—
CHRISTINE GANJEI: And there’s also pictures of the guys who wrote it wandering around Chicago—
CHRISTA ABATOIZ: Yawn me. No neons, maybe if we got them in the studio—
KRISTINA HERON: Brawwwk! Well that’s all great. Brawwwk! How do they make money off it?
PAUL SPINRAD: What’s their market cap?
MICHAEL NOER: When’s their IPO?
CHRISTINE GANJEI: Well to tell the truth, I’m not sure they do—
KRISTINA HERON: Brawwwk! What? Brawwwk! They don’t make money? Do you Brawwwk! know what my time is worth?
MICHAEL NOER: How preposterous. They don’t make money? Well then they’re not very good then, are they?
PAUL SPINRAD: Not visionaries, for sure.
KRISTINA HERON: Brawwwk! Well, I think Brawwwk! that covers it, now Brawwwk! doesn’t it?
CHRISTINE GANJEI: But wait, wait, it’s very funny, it’s very funny, and it’s, it’s very large, it’s the longest hypertext novel you’ll ever—
KRISTINA HERON: Brawwwk! Big? How big?
CHRISTINE GANJEI: It would be over eight hundred pages in print, and it’s got the respect of the literary community—
WILLIAM O’GOGGINS: I’ll be late for me damned dolphin swimmin lessons—
KRISTINA HERON: Brawwwk! Give her a chance, O’ Brawwwk! Goggins. Conference Call, Conference Call. Brad, dial Dougie.
BRAD WEINERS: I don’t wanna!
KRISTINA HERON: BRAWWWK! Brad!
BRAD WEINERS: Okay, okay.
KRISTINA HERON: Dougie, how’s Canada?
DOUGLAS COUPLAND: Oh, Kristina, you know, hanging out with my Gen X pals in Vancouver, thinking about the future, you know, doing what I like.
KRISTINA HERON: Brawwwk! Dougie, just a quick question.
DOUGLAS COUPLAND: Oh, Kristina, you know I’d answer anything for you.
KRISTINA HERON: Have you heard Brawwwk! of the Unknown.
DOUGLAS COUPLAND: The who?
BRAD WEINERS: The Unknown, The Unknown. You know, Dougie, the Unknown. Are you deaf?
DOUGLAS COUPLAND: No. Hey Weiners, you get on my nerves.
KRISTINA HERON: Brawwwk! well that covers it, doesn’t it? None of the literati have heard of the Unknown. Dougie, you go back to—what was it you were doing?
DOUGLAS COUPLAND: Oh you know Kristina, doing what I like to do, thinking about my generation, you know, thinking about people who work in technology, you know, writing a novel in bite sized quips.
KRISTINA HERON: Love you, Dougie-kins. Brawwwk!
DOUGLAS COUPLAND: Love you too, Kristina-bird.
KRISTINA HERON: We’ll get you more easy work soon. Brawwwk! Stay cute. Christine?
CHRISTINE GANJEI: Yes, Ms. Heron?
KRISTINA HERON: Clean out your desk. You’re unwired, you’re tired. Brawwwk! You’re fired.