Glomming Free Internet Swag


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Fortunately, they were giving away a lot of interesting swag. I got about 20 pounds of it (including the printed matter) in a fast 40-minute pass through the event before I caved in and left to smoke, never to return. The swag is really the only reason to attend these events. I'll never have to buy a pen again, and I've got enough tablets of Post-It note paper to print out Gravity's Rainbow.


The first thing I got was a plastic swag bag and a press release kit from a cheerful Ebonics-speaking teenager. The presskit contained the usual Prozac-influenced prose I've come to associate with the dot-com crowd. I first logged on in early 1984, to CompuServe, which I found unwieldy and very costly at the time. I switched over to MCI Mail as soon as it became available, and used it very happily for about a year and a half. I mainly hung out on the numerous odd and diverse bulletin board systems of the time. There were a lot of so-called "pirate" boards around at that time, and while I don't pretend to understand a third of what they're talking about, the computer outlaw subculture has always fascinated the hell out of me. They're like bikers: it's a pure meritocracy.


I got a bunch of bright translucent yellow plastic pens from an outfit called refer.com, an online employment agency. This is actually a pretty nifty idea. Taking advantage of the current job market, particularly as regards certain types of IT professionals, is a great idea. This refer.com has the added gimmick of offering a sliding scale bounty of referrals, so it is theoretically possible to register with them, obtain no acceptable work and still turn a very nice dollar on the occasional referral. It's something to think about; I'd have to look at the details of this referral bonus. The pens are nice and fat. I like fat pens.


I grabbed three nice red mini-Frisbees and a big load of refrigerator magnets (the make-a-poem kind, with individual words) from Site59.com, a travel agency specializing in last-minute travel arrangements. That's not a bad idea for the amateur traveler, but I have a solid and very beneficial longstanding relationship with my travel agency, and know for a fact that there is no one better for my travel needs, certainly not some distant person I'll never meet.


I also acquired something called an e-brick, the "Official E-commerce Source-book," which reads like one of the sporadic e-mails I get from FuckedCompany.com, the Internet company dead pool recently on the block at eBay. This little book will come in handy if I ever want to buy lightbulbs or lobsters online. I got three bumperstickers that say, "Kill Time, Not People," three "Mightygrip" tools, good for opening jars, handling hot lightbulbs or removing lint from clothing, a pair of size-36 white Hanes briefs from briefme.com, two lemon meringue Balance nutrition bars, four packets of Sour Skittles, four three-way highlighters from Datek, a very tight elasticized terrycloth headband from some hiphop venture called Hookt, two tins of Altoid-style mints from OnMoney.com, two spare corks with nice wooden tops and three handy little corkscrews from Vineyard.com, three kazoos from Lycos, four Bic lighters from PhoneFree.com, about a dozen more fat pens from various and sundry dot-coms and the very best thing, a big fat pen with a built-in refillable bubble-blowing device. This thing is the best piece of swag I've gotten in years. I got it from Telocity.com. It appeared to be the last one left. Otherwise I'd have grabbed a dozen of them.


I also got a bunch of mini-CD-ROMs that won't run on my Apple and a big pile of printed matter related to a new offer from Time Warner Cable, a company that I will do business with when it rains Guinness. I canceled my cable because of Time Warner's idiotic billing practices, and the idea that I'd want them as my ISP made me burst out laughing when I walked past their booth.


I left feeling that I really should have gone to the beach, but the bubble-blowing pen is a very cool object. The commercialization of the Internet doesn't have anything to do with me. I make all of my purchases with cash or checks, and I like to meet the people I do business with. I spend a lot of time online, but my favorite sites have nothing to do with commerce. I guess my very favorite site these days is rotten.com, a collection of diverse images and news items of an inspirational nature. They got into a little trouble a while back for posting pictures of Princess Di's autopsy. I'm also very fond of iamdrunk.com, where I keep up with the winners and runners-up of the "Drunk of the Month" contest. There's no prize, just the dubious honor of having your picture on the Internet in some awful state of drunken disarray for all the world to see. I go to atwa.com sometimes to check in on Charles Manson, and I like the Nazi sites and kahane.org for laughs. I check Slashdot.org every morning to stay abreast of new technology and related stories.


Long after Jeff Bezos has filed his inevitable Chapter 11, rotten.com will be providing me with uplifting distraction and iamdrunk.com will remain the best argument for knowing when to quit. The shakeout continues. The last time I checked eBay, bidding for FuckedCompany.com had reached $85,000 in just 48 hours. That's a lot of money for an online dead pool.


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