Get On-line, Little Chillun'


When I decided to enter the gothic arena, it was almost a birthright. After all, Transylvania, where I was born, gave the world Dracula and Ceausescu. And that's only two dark figures in a region that teems with them.

When a Transylvanian child grows up, he or she gets to view the pantheon of this inheritance and choose a ghastly figure to take into the world. It provides the child with an advantage, a head start.

I chose Countess Elisabeth Bathory of Hungary, who is alleged to have bathed in the blood of 650 virgin girls in order to keep her beauty and insure her immortality.

By Transylvanian standards she is not that gruesome. Somewhere, let's say, between Zsa Zsa Gabor, Tammy Faye Baker and Jeffrey Dahmer. So I brought Countess Bathory to life and started my book tour.

Imagine my surprise when I found that the slight head start that a Transylvanian monster gives you has all but vanished. Right ahead of me, leading a team of vampires, was Anne Rice. At a book signing she jumped out of a coffin in a bridal gown. Thousands of book-buying vampires were waiting for her. I realized then that just having a monster is not enough: you must give people a reason to dress up.

In such a situation, there are only a few options. My friend suggested that I mudwrestle with Anne Rice on the "Letterman Show." "Go for the thighs!" he advised.

Another option is to hire Bathorettes, young virgins with a drop of blood on their necks to do the Cajun step behind me at book signings. Another is to slip the book to Bob Dole, who can trash it on TV.

That would be good because the book is a "10" on the Bob Dole scale of sex and violence. Mostly sex, though, surprisingly.

In a recent issue of "Wired," -- yes, friends, I'm on-line -- I found two items of interest. The first was a full-page picture of my former student and friend Robert Toups, all naked, except for a Mac laptop in front of his, uhm, front.

He was thus displayed because he has become an overnight success in cyber-space because of his "Babes-On-The-Web" web site.

Apparently, he rates photos of women on the Internet and thus provides a valuable service for those who don't have the time to cruise on their own.

I didn't teach him any of this when he was in my class. He learned all this on his own, like the good Bush-era college kid he was, one who naturally likes Rush Limbaugh and thinks that Newt Gingrich is the Messiah.

The second item, in the same issue of "Wired," was an interview with the Messiah himself. Newt Gingrich is a big fan of the Internet and a computer prophet.

His famous remark about outfitting ghetto dwellers with laptops was controversial but catchy. The only trouble with it is that he'd cut off milk and bread in exchange. We all know how tasty plastic is.

That aside, the speaker's replies to the "Wired" questions were interesting because he does indeed think that he's the Messiah. He accepts the epithet "visionary" and is quite at ease with his duty to save the world. To accomplish this, he says, "We have to do nine things in parallel," and then enumerates them.

These things sound reasonable, but why nine and not 10 or five? I suspect that this is a mind that will not accept chaos, fog, fuzz, paradox or ambiguity. Unfortunately, the world is all of those and there are lots and lots of real people between those nine points who aren't on-line but live in throbbing, hungry, messy cities. Are these the people to be saved or eliminated? Is there a world already saved, inhabited by Robert with his laptop and by Newt with his? Are these worlds compatible or even comparable?

Andrei Codrescu is on-line but hopes nobody finds him there.

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