Sean Gullette,

Sean Gullette,

A weeklong electronic journal.
July 29 1998 3:30 AM

Sean Gullette,

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       I wake up scowling. Ever since my narrow escape from the "content provider" business in 1996 when my magazine, KGB, folded, the world of New Media has evoked a vague nausea. Today I am scheduled to spend eight hours in the overlighted circus tent that is Silicon Alley.
       The Rising Tide Summit, organized by Gordon Gould and the staff of the Silicon Alley Reporter, is one of those $500, daylong, new technology thinking, outside the box convocations. Pi Producer Eric Watson and I are supposed to go together, but he has to stay On the Phone to L.A., so I head uptown on the C train. When I get there the second session is in progress, and I go upstairs to the Networking Lounge and watch it on closed-circuit TV. I will be the last speaker of the day.
       The first guy is some "let's fiber optic wire the public schools" suit on the Lucent Technologies payroll who has eight young black girls onstage with him, apparently as visual aids. He points at them and says: "These are your future employees. These are your consumers. And they don't know what the Internet is." He calls their program "strategic philanthropy."
       For contrast, we have a baby boomer pot head "Techno Realist" whose presentation mimics Dylan's famous "Subterranean Homesick Blues" video, with an assistant dropping a series of big handwritten cards that say wacky shit such as "Under Ground Node" and "What Network?"
       There is a break for sushi and espresso. We schmooze. After years of editing and publishing KGB, a pop culture magazine in New York City, I see a lot of familiar faces. This is a core audience for Pi, and many of them have seen it. I enjoy some moments of celebrity.
       After the break is the guy I came to see: Noel Godin, the avuncular, chubby Frenchman who, since 1969, has chaired a seriocomic guerrilla group that throws pies at celebrities, artists, and political figures they believe are dégoûtant or nincompoops. They got Bill Gates in Belgium recently with an attack team of 30 people. Godin gesticulates, makes that "Hein?" face, and sticks close to his stage-Gallic propaganDa-Da script, even when Douglas Rushkoff asks him whether he knew Gates ("le maître du monde, le pire") was on a PR campaign to "humanize" himself in the public eye at the time they pie'd him, and that many Americans speculated that Godin and company were on the MicroSatan payroll. Godin is annoying but sort of cool anyway.
       In the midst of this circus appears Clea Koff, an intense young forensic pathologist who exhumes mass graves in Rwanda and will present sophisticated digital renderings of the sites, and victim databases, to prosecutors in the upcoming war crimes tribunal. A dead serious electronic act of witness; it's more than this crowd of profit-driven wonks, entrepreneurs, and rich guys can process.
       The show must go on. A biologist explains the human genome project, and reliably hip postmodernist-to-the-digerati Doug Rushkoff says persuasively that futurists suck. Robert Thurman--Buddhist, pal of H.H. the D.L., dad of Uma--no-shows.
       A businessman comes up so boring that he exerts a kind of dull fascination. Some time after, I'm on deck. I look for Eric, but he's nowhere in sight. A guy who builds deep simulation models of consumer behavior in retail environments wraps up.
       I walk up onstage and bomb a pie/Pi joke. I look around. The circus audience stares back at me with sullen, heavy-lidded, dangerous eyes. They are 404'd, OD'd on data smog, their disk caches are full, they're short-attention-spanned. This is a delicate moment, like being surrounded by wolves. In a steady voice, I begin to talk about 10 years of hating the masturbatory, greedy false promises of "a new media revolution" and being bored by the stupid shopping mall the Internet has become; I challenge them all to stop and think and do something with their respective technologies beyond bequeathing their children another J.G. Ballard "marriage of reason and nightmare" like Nuclear Power, the Automobile, and Television have done; I warn them that their Rising Tide will lift some and drown others; I rant; I'm, like, an asshole. And of course, they love it.

Sean Gullette is a New York-based actor and writer starring in Pi. He built and maintains the film's Web site.