It was my honor and privilege to commission Merle Kessler to write and record 70 commentaries for a now-defunct website on (mostly) Internet-related topics between April 1999 and May 7, 2001, in the voice of his character Ian Shoales. I have received his permission to post them.
Hear his 21st century work
--Paul E. Schindler, Jr.
His internet commentaries for TechWeb:
Hello, My Name Is Yuma (October 2nd, 2000) The Internet Underground recently sponsored a contest asking soon-to-be parents name their child after the site - IUMA, that's I U M A (pronounced Yuma), in return for five grand. Ian shares his thoughts.
Itoke (September 25th, 2000) Itoke wants to sell marijuana over the Internet. Ian Shoales says: "I'll bet they did have a business model. Then they got stoned and forgot where they left it."
E-Books (September 18th, 2000) Ian Shoales says everybody has gotten hysterical about e-publishing. Articles are written, business models drawn up, ventures launched, opinions shared-- and then all of a sudden, it's over.
Gravitas (September 11th, 2000) Ian Shoales says journalists have sprung an unfamiliar word on us, but acted as though it's a word we use all the time, even though most of had never even heard of it before they sprung it on us. That word is: gravitas.
Tomorrow's TeeVee (September 4th, 2000) Ian Shoales wants to know: does anybody remember, before this whole Internet thing blew everything else out of the water, that the next big thing was going to be the television of tomorrow-- the telecomputer.
Androids (August 28th, 2000) Ian Shoales wonders: what is the deal with WIRED Magazines obsession with androids?
Telephone Bills (August 21st, 2000) Although he telephone has sort of got lost in the shuffle in the Internet hype, Ian Shoales still reads his phone bill each month, and it's come to his attention that there's a bit of controversy around its content.
Tomorrow's Kitchen (August 14th, 2000)
Ian Shoales says the dotcom economy is an analog to interior decoration. Sooner or later you gotta cook something, don't you?
Darva (August 7th, 2000)
The other shoe has dropped, along with Darva Conger's clothes, ending months of suspense, says Ian Shoales, at least for the diminishing demographic of the kind of guys who like see the kind of gals like Darva Conger with no clothes on.
Football (July 31st, 2000)
Ian Shoales found himself surrounded by football stories. The Green Bay Pickers? Dennis Miller on Monday night football? What can it all mean?
Eminem (July 24th, 2000)
Ian Shoales is tired of canned self-serving outrage by the interchangeable smooth-talking moral arbiters that swarm all over our airwaves, at places like MSNBC.
Census (July 17th, 2000)
Ian Shoales wonders why so many people were so upset about the census.
New York (July 10th, 2000)
Ian Shoales hates the way New York has to be not only on top of everything, but has to charge the rest of us for the privilege of sharing the information that only New York can offer.
Auction Intangibles (July 3rd, 2000)
Ian Shoales says after all the yanked auctions at EBay, it's clear that when you set the marketplace free, that sucker really knocks over some furniture doesn't it?
Service Economy (June 26th, 2000)
Ian Shoales says people are getting excited about the icons of fully clothed sultans, and there might not even be an emperor behind the virtual curtain, naked or not.
Dr. Dre (June 19th, 2000)
Ian Shoales, an expert on disrespect, finds Dr. Dre's concept of marketing fascinating.
Stock Options (June 12th, 2000)
Ian Shoales has thousands of dollars in vested stock options in an Internet company. If only he could figure out how to cash them in.
Journalism Elite (June 5th, 2000)
Ian Shoales just wonders why those wads of money being thrown at technical journalists by Line56 aren't being thrown at him.
Disney V. Warner (May 29th, 2000)
Disney V. Warner. Ian Shoales says its about money, and about Regis, and should we really care?
Napster (May 22nd, 2000)
Ian Shoales, an inveterate oldies fan, has something to say about Napster. Does this surprise you?
Internet Bubble Burst (May 15th, 2000)
Ian Shoales isn't surprised the Internet bubble burst, considering some of its contents.
On A Taco (May 8th, 2000)
Ian Shoales wonders why deceased religious and cultural figures chose to instantiate themselves on tacos.
Oprah (May 1st, 2000)
Ian Shoales just LOVES Oprah, and he's pretty impressed with her new magazine as well.
Generation What? (April 24th, 2000)
Ian Shoales says Generation Y feels a need to simplify its life. Heck, he just thinks it needs a better nickname.
Internet Attacks (April 17th, 2000)
The new economy rushed on with a despair marked by an enthusiasm that greatly resembles the manic phase of manic-depression
Pacific Bell (Circa 2000)
Pacific Bell, in an effort to promote its high-speed DSL internet service, has aired a series of commercials showing a neighborhood disintegrating.
Arnold in The Sixth Day (Circa 2000)
E-Lite (April 10th, 2000)
Ian says We're nothing but cattle. We have to create imaginary herds for our fellow human beings so we can sneer at them for belonging to a category that we invented for them. Don't agree? Remember hippies?
Ads (April 3rd, 2000)
The Internet seems to be driving certain among us insane. And that would be capitalists
E-Bay Souls (March 27th, 2000)
A New Mexico teenager put his immortal soul up for auction on eBay on February 3, closing the bid on February 13 when the bidding hit five bucks.
Future of Print
Whither print? That's what Ian thinks. He deals with such issues as the future of content providers (bottom feeders or fish?) and the fate of such publications as Coin Laundry News and Bingo Scene Magazine in the digital age. It's just good business practice!
Ian Shoales asks whether we really need cyber everything, an unreadable magazine and its equally unreadable guide to the new language of the Internet. Wired Style: Principles of English Usage in the Digital Age takes a licking, as do its authors, the editors of Wired magazine.
Ian's just a content provider who wants to know who's the fish and who's the fisher and how to become proactive with his peeves. He's here to tell you how to avoid contact with other human beings--after all, isn't that what e-mail's for?
Bill Gates doesn't wants a Picasso because it's a Picasso; he wants a Picasso because it matches his neo-Cubist rattan sectional, according to Ian. Gates claims that he wants technology to be fun, but making a profit runs a pretty close second, Ian says.
Ian says Push Technology is a desperate new business model, x in a series of attempts to make money off the Internet. It could be cool. But he wants all of these things to go away if he shouts at them. As it stands now, every time he screams at his computer, nothing happens at all. So he screams at you.
Wily entrepreneurs are registering web domains that famous individuals or major corporations may want later. This brand new profession is called Cybersquatting, and what an attractive name it is. Cybersquatting. What a pleasant image it conjures in the mind. Would it surprise you to find that Ian has something to say on the subject?
Here's what happens to Ian when he gets multimedia e-mail: It takes fifteen to twenty minutes to download, and then requires some plug and play which he has download, try and get to work for an hour, give up, throw everything in the trash, and email the senders back to tell them to describe to him, in thirty words or less, what exactly it is he would have seen, had he had the ability to see it.
The words you need to survive in the digital age, spoken really quickly, with snide remarks interspersed. Ian doesn't know what it all means, but he hopes you do. He's gotta go.
Ian notes there are things you can't do in Cyberspace. You can't pick your nose, though you can pick your friend's nose, in certain chat rooms, if you have the right password. You can't shave. You can't pad around your wretched hovel scratching yourself and mumbling. There are no wretched hovels in cyberspace.
Internet Is Crap
Ray Bradbury was asked to give advice to young writers. According to the Orange County Register, he told them to "read, read, read, and put away computers." He said, "Forget the Internet, that's all crap." That's all it took to set Ian off.
Dried Plums (May 7th, 2001)
The final days. The end of empire. We're doomed, as prunes become dried plums, says Ian Shoales.
Web Charm (April 23rd, 2001)
Fractured English. The promise of glamor. No information about what is actually sold. It all doesn't add up, according to Ian Shoales.
Acronyms ASAP (April 16th, 2001)
Ian Shoales says the dot com meltdown stems from acronyms, IMHO
Sound of Music (April 2nd, 2001)
Ian Shoales isn't about to pay $22.50 to sneer at a movie he can sneer at in his own home for much less.
Drug Wackiness (March 26th, 2001)
Female mustaches or sleeping sickness? It's drug wackiness, according to Ian Shoales.
Animals in Ads (March 19th, 2001)
Ian Shoales wants to know: what's with all the bears in commercials?
Firing Styles (March 12th, 2001)
Dot coms become dot bombs; it's just bald ambition with a hippie wig, says Ian Shoales.
Ginger (March 5th, 2001)
What was it with all the hoopla about "Ginger" or "It." Don't ask Ian, he's just sneering about it.
Haircuts (February 26th, 2001)
Afghanistan, hairstyles of the 70's, its all the same to Ian.
Textbooks (February 19th, 2001)
While he admits he's not the best qualified person in the world to comment on Newton's first law, Ian does so anyway, in the context of error-ridden science textbooks.
Suits (February 12th, 2001)
Ian Shoales believes that a fashion sense governed by whatever free tee-shirts we gathered from a software convention in 1998 is a doomed fashion sense. And he found an expert who agrees.
Bush (February 5th, 2001)
George W. Bush can bring back Eisenhower-era steak and spuds, lard, doughnuts, and mixed drinks, says Ian Shoales. "All we have to do is pretend Clinton, and of course Florida, never happened."
Marketplace (January 29th, 2001)
Ian is a little bit tired of hearing about the wisdom of the marketplace.
Hillary (January 22nd, 2001) Ian begrudges politicians who parlay the coin of their fame into gazillion dollar book deals that result in hardcover books that show up like clockwork on the shelves of Goodwill stores roughly six months after they were published.
Speed Dating (January 15th, 2001)
Speed dating? Once again, reality is so weird it threatens to put Ian Shoales out of business.
Claudia's Palm (January 8th, 2001)
Supermodel Claudia Schiffer offers the new Palm Pilot on her website. Ian Shoales wonders why.
What Is Death? (January 1st, 2001)
Welcome the new year by listening to Ian Shoales opinions on the dormant 250 million-year-old dormant bacterium scientists recently unearthed from a cave in New Mexico.
Work Radio (December 25th, 2000)
"Your upbeat listen to at work station." Ian Shoales deconstructs this ubiquitous radio station slogan and its ilk.
Cliches (December 18th, 2000)
Ian Shoales is trying to think out of the box, to come up with some scalable b to b solutions, while he's still on top of his game--working on his cliches.
Voting (December 11th, 2000)
If Ian Shoales follows Governor Bush's logic correctly, human beings really have no place in the voting process.
Playstation (December 4th, 2000)
Ian Shoales offers Christmas advice: buy PlayStation 1 when you're shopping this Christmas. Don't open it though. Keep it in the original packaging, and sell it on eBay for ten thousand dollars five years from now.
Commuting (November 27th, 2000)
According to Ian Shoales, "Only in America, could you cram a bunch of people into a bus, have them watch lame movies they've seen a zillion times before, thus somehow convincing them they're not wasting an hour."
Graffiti (November 20th, 2000)
Sega, says there are two kinds of graffiti-- graffiti art, and graffiti vandalism. Ian Shoales says its all rock and roll to him.
Names (November 13th, 2000)
If he'd been a dot-com instead of a singer, would Sting now be E-sting, Ian Shoales asks.
Ratings Grabber (November 6th, 2000)
Ian would book John Eagan as a guest on his show, if he had a show. Because he knows how to pick up women in night clubs.
Coat Phone (October 30th, 2000)
Levi Strauss has partnered with Phillips the electronics people, to create a jacket that will come equipped with a cell phone. Has anyone asked why? Ian Shoales has.
Power Point (October 23rd, 2000)
Ian Shoales thinks it's pretty safe to say without Power Point the entire global economy would collapse like a house of cards.
Cue Cat (October 16th, 2000)
Ian Shoales says Cue Cat sounds like it wouldn't be a hellish multimedia experience in any way.
Old Stuff (October 9th, 2000)
The laser-light show, a fixture at the Morrison Planetarium in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park for 26 years, has shut down. Ian Shoales mourns.