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COLUMN

Monopoly Mayhem

Philip Burrowes

The story you’re about to read is false and the names have not been changed because nobody is innocent in a world already damned to hell.

All right girls and boys, it’s that time of year again. Gather around the campfire, stuff yourself with candy corn (fact: candy corn is neither a candy nor a corn), and prepare for a tale to chill your bones. Now I warn you, this is not a story for the faint-of-heart or Libertarians. For those brave, foolish, and populist souls who attempt to venture on, your lives will be forever changed by this hair-raising account of a boy, a girl, Redmond, and the Congressional legislation which brought them together.

This story begins in 1823 at Lancaster, a city of the then-bustling state of Ohio. John Sherman’s path out of the town of his birth is really quite fascinating, crossing paths with such greats as Rutherford B. Hayes and Salmon Chase, but suffice to say he was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1881. Senator Sherman drafted (rather myopically) an Anti-Trust Act -- commonly known as 15 U.S.C. 1-7 -- which sought to limit the growth of monopolies. His brother, the former General William Tecumseh Sherman, died of pneumonia less than a year after the Act’s passage. The Senator (eventually Secretary of State) himself ended up resigning from his post in protest of the Spanish-American war, “coincidentally” dying just 9 days short of Halloween. Currently, Ohio is a pathetic ghost of its former glory, resigning itself to that ill-begotten class of states whose capitals are their largest cities. Lancaster itself scheduled this year’s “Trick or Treat” for a brief ninety-minute period, perhaps in memory of its hellish past.

If you think that’s scary (which you should), then the specifics of Henry De Lamar Clayton and John William Wright Patman’s respective tales of woe (Peter W. Rodino Jr. actually seems to be doing quite well with himself) would be too much to bear. Essentially, all their legislation doesn’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy mixed-up world of multinational corporations and neoliberal economics. All this brings us to the present day.

On a night much like this one, in a school much like this one, a boy sat watching the opening of WB’s Maybe It’s Me. The theme seemed eerily familiar, but he let the premonition slide. During a commercial break, he heard the song again, this time in an advertisement for America Online.

Apparently, the singer was very popular among the glorified BBS-turned-meglomaniacal ISP’s hired clientele. Intrigued, the boy wanted to learn more about this Lindsay Pagano, and indeed Warner Bros. records had created an AIM account dedicated just to answer questions concerning the artist.

MosnoKame: I wanted to know if you were a robot.

LindsayBuddy: Interesting...

MosnoKame: Or are you a program like Eliza? Do you know him? Do you computer programs all hang out together like in Reboot?

LindsayBuddy: i’m a smart bot that loves to chat with people and give them info about Lindsay Pagano and other things. Type “home” to see everything i can do.

MosnoKame: I’m scared.

LindsayBuddy: =-O

MosnoKame: Fear is driving me off of AIM.

LindsayBuddy: Tough question!

Fear drove him off of AIM and onto his trusty Internet Explorer. Using seach.msn.com, he found a site that had a music video by Ms. Pagano, but he did not have Windows Media Player. A search for his OS at Microsoft’s web page yielded results for Windows XP and X-Box, but no Media Player download. Yet he swore Microsoft had shown a preview over 4 months ago. Where had it gone? He searched everywhere, but could not find it. It meant only one thing: the program had supernaturally disappeared.

Rage filled the boy’s heart. In an act of rebellion, he resolved never to use another Microsoft product again, and set out to download a new browser. Having been instructed by his school on the security superiority of Netscape, that seemed like a logical choice. Netscape’s web site, however, was not merely a support page for its anachronistic application, but also a garish portal to Time Warner publications’ sites. Links in its “Tech” section ominously asked if XP was “a new nightmare,” conjuring up images (that’s always where it starts) of Freddy Krueger.

Suddenly, it all became frightfully clear. IE, AIM, Media Player, CNET et al. were all pawns in a giant chess game between AOL and Microsoft. Gog and Magog were drawing together, with Lindsay Pagano playing the role of Armageddon. Ragnarok was imminent unless the boy could somehow stop it. He did the one thing he could do: steal Pagano’s single in MP3 format.

Who knows how many thousands of minutes have passed since that fateful day the boy martyred himself to break the vicious, Apocalyptic cycle. Oh, yes, it is an act of martyrdom, for now he is dead to the world. Bereft of either of the two real browsers, he has fallen to the Lynx ghetto. Unable to watch TV for fear of seeing more corporate propaganda, he gets all his news from The Tech. Friends have deserted him, tired of his endless tirades against X-Box. Even his instant messages have degenerated to GUI-less Zephyring. His only company is the incessant bubble-gum pop of Everything U R.

The boy, of course, was me! [Reveal fake hook on hand while waving flashlight]