In nineteen hundred and fifty-seven,
The Soviets were the first to leaven
Into orbit a little ball of tin
Entitled Sputnik, which, to the chagrin
Of a mortified American pride,
Signaled to the world a colossal stride
In the national race to outer space.
Quickly the Yanks, fearing further disgrace,
Directed the Department of Defense
To spare – as usual – little expense,
And see ordained with urgent fervency
The Advanced Research Projects Agency,
Abbreviated – as per convention –
To ARPA, whereat anal retention
Was a dubious trait among the staff.
‘Twas the ARPAn charge to redeem the gaffe
Of a languorous technical culture,
And salvage from that lauded sepulcher
Of the second world war some remembrance
Of minds that minted atomic ordnance.
So in the service of militant might,
The scientists, often into the night,
Researched and reported on their findings.
For the most part, there were little tidings,
And they may or may not have been aware,
When, in sixty-two, by the constant glare
Of the Cold War, the American Air Force
Set the RAND Corporation on a course
To study how the military brass
Could maintain its command o’er the ass
Of every missile and B-fifty-two
Bomber in the unthinkable boo-boo
Of a thermo-nuclear snack-attack.
To its eternal credit, RAND came back
To recommend a “packet switched network,”
Which, to those for whom such jargon is murk,
Suffice to say is what started the fun.
And so at last, by ‘sixty-nine, ‘twas done:
Together were linked four physical nodes –
Minicomputers from the brains’ abodes
Of S.R.I. Stanford, UCSB,
UCLA, and Utah U. You see?
Now, with its architects fully acclaimed,
The ARPANET was their cartilage named,
And slowly its number of nodes increased
Until, in ‘seventy-three, with at least
Twenty-three machines in operation,
The developing conglomeration
Bodied from it forth TCP/IP –
A protocol built to become the key
By which diverse networks could integrate.
‘Twas from this arrangement did circulate
The first coinage of that word, “Internet,”
And slowly therefrom advanced the onset
Of additional nodes, exacting codes,
And ARPA-funded academic odes.
By ‘eighty-three, sporting some five hundred
And sixty-two host computers, kindred
But by their mundane, numbered addresses
That, for to recall, caused many stresses,
The U of Wisconsin – praise them their wits! –
Fashioned a means where the network transmits
Its delicious packets to domain names
Instead of numbers, and thus the mainframes
Assumed a more humane disposition.
Seven years later came the fruition
Of hypertext, a system to provide
Wanted information in simplified
And more efficient form across the means
Of three hundred and twelve thousand machines.
Two years later ‘twas nineteen ninety-two.
The number of hosts connected thereto
Had by exponential explosion grown
To over a million, and formed the zone
To be known thenceforth as the world-wide web.
‘Twas a breathless place of negative ebb,
Where, with the following year’s addition
Of a graphical user condition
Called Mosaic, one could request a page
To prove the Internet had come of age.
So from this story, told a priori,
What, pray tell, hath become of its glory?
Emoticons! Quote-a-thons. Fucked-up views.
Fan-fics, tittie-pix, monetary news.
Policies: Privacy, Piracy, Spam,
Pop-up ads, silly fads, yet another scam.
Chain letters, game debtors, meaningless shrines,
Guest books, best looks, apocalyptic signs.
File-sharing, couple-pairing, wireless LANs,
Broadband, viral-scanned, hacker-friendly WANs.
E-mail fraud? E-mail God! “Enlarge your Cock!”
Mortgage rates, candidates, self-serving schlock.
Armies of shoppers with credit for cash,
Pirating swappers of digital trash,
Consummate lippers with nothing to say,
Farcical ‘shippers all ‘blogging away.
Please create a username: something Zen.
Now relate a password – six keys to ten.
Make it oblique, to none of it speak, then—
Oops! Invalid password, please try again!
Needless to say, I’m dismayed at the way
Its fleshy content ‘pon the vertebrae
Of electronic phonic has fattened:
‘Tis too far gone fast beyond the satin’d
Simplicity of its body’s intent—

TRISTAN Whoa! Hey there! Hold up! You’re totally dissing everything the Internet is!

RICHARD Your point being?

TRISTAN Well if it wasn’t what it is – your business wouldn’t exist! That’s a little hypocritical, don’t you think?

RICHARD Not at all, my dear Tristan. Sir-Richard-Wadd-dot-com is hardly your standard, run-of the-mill, short-and-shrill, grab-your-fill-and-go porn site. There’s artistry to it. There’s intelligence, reverence, literary might. If every pornographer, every commercial enterprise, every web-based community of bickering fools were as articulate, denticulate, and matriculate as I, let me assure you the Internet would be a place of astonishing majesty, and I’d have no complaint. It’s the crassness of the Internet I disparage. The lack of any kind of widespread aesthetic principle.

TRISTAN Sir Rich—?

RICHARD It exists as but a fraction of its full potential to edify the human race above the bland and dangerous commercial impulse. It is a place of mental and spiritual degeneracy – not only in the devastatingly uncreative realm of porn, but as evidenced in the arena of online religion, where dogmatic and sanctimonious dot-com ministries profess to hold and – for a fee – distribute the divine wisdom of any number of large and small deities; As evidenced in the endless squabbling of monomaniacal tilters who believe, with a laughable degree of intensity, that their contributions to on-line forums have even one iota of influence in the political and economic spheres of the real and physical world; As evidenced by the great multitude of morons who say nothing worth speaking, post nothing worth reading, and create nothing worth contemplating. In summation, the state of the Internet is a profound embarrassment. A dismal and disappointing woebegonument to the idealism of those that first envisioned it. I weep for the Internet. And by so weeping, deflect the charge of hypocrite. For I am lamenting a state of affairs from the position of one who believes himself to be among those who are working toward a solution, rather than as a drone from among the vast unwashed who stupidly and-or stubbornly choose to remain a part of the problem. (Beat.) Tristan, your recording light is not on. In the name of Mary mother of Christ, please tell me you got that.

TRISTAN I ran outta tape about thirty seconds in.

RICHARD Oh for heaven’s sake, Tristan!

TRISTAN I’m sorry! I didn’t want to stop you. You were on a roll!

RICHARD (Big sigh:) I suppose I was. And to stop me would’ve constituted an unacceptable case of hoitus-toitus-interruptus.

TRISTAN Can you do it again?

RICHARD No. Our time is limited. We’re moving on. We’re stepping out into the city. The bewilderness! Into the real and physical world where conditions are considerably worse than what I just described.

TRISTAN Why are they worse?

RICHARD Because they’re touchable. And being touchable, it makes them immediate and dangerous.

TRISTAN Don’t worry, Sir Richard: I’ll protect you.

RICHARD Indeed, Sir Knight: I’m counting on it!

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