Lost in Cyberspace

copyright 1997-2021 by H.B. Koplowitz, all rights reserved.

“Lost in Cyberspace” is the name I gave for a series of columns I wrote for a Los Angeles weekly called “Entertainment Today,” and tried to freelance to other alternative weeklies, between 1997 and 2001. ET wanted me to write website reviews, but I turned the column, called “Cyber Nation,” into rants and ruminations on cyberspace, pop culture and current events. Many of the cited websites have moved, gone out of existence or turned into something else, so there’s no telling where the links might lead, if anywhere. But the columns catch a moment in time when the Internet was new and a Wild West ethos prevailed. “Lost in Cyberspace” ventures into strange online museumsTonya Harding Web sitesstick figure snuff flicksSea-Monkeysfan fiction, and cybersex. Enjoy.

1. Cybersex 8/97
When America Online began offering a flat fee for unlimited use a year ago, it seemed like a win-win-win situation. Subscribers would pay less for unlimited service, advertisers would gain millions more online customers, and AOL would reap the profits. But there was one factor the company overlooked: Cybersex.

2. Cyber Thanksgiving 9/97
For most Americans, Thanksgiving means turkey, football, family, God and country and children acting out skits dressed as Pilgrims and Indians. I don’t mean to sneeze in anyone’s candied yams, but for Native Americans, Thanksgiving is kind of like Woodstock, i.e., the last time they experienced three days of peace and love with whitey.

3. The Beat Goes Online 11/97
Poet Allen Ginsberg and writer William S. Burroughs were seminal figures of the beat generation. Both died of heart attacks earlier this year. But their legacy lives online in the Web pages of beatnik aficionados.

4. Worst of the Web 12/97
It seems like everybody wants to tell you where to go on  the net. The “Harsh Site of the Day” links to websites “that have absolutely no business being on the Web and deserve no recognition at  all.”

5. Cyber Bar 12/97
Recently, a producer friend and I got a private tour of Billboard Live, a hot new nightclub on the  Sunset Strip in Los Angeles. At the former location of  Gazzarri’s, one of the Strip’s premier clubs, Billboard Live has enough high tech  gadgetry to give new meaning to “cyber bar.”

6. Cyber Hate 12/97
The ADL says more Ku Klux Klan, anti-government militias, Holocaust deniers and other “hate and extremist” groups are going online “to recruit and propagandize, especially targeting youth.” But they must be targeting youths who read Friedrich Nietzsche, because most hate sites are pretty lame.

7. Cyber Titanic 12/97
At least James Cameron’s movie “Titanic” hasn’t spawned an avalanche of merchandising — no McDonald’s boats that sink in your bathtub. But it has revived an interest in all things Titanic, and there are plenty of Titanic-related resources on computer.

8. Cyber James Bond 1/98
Watching a James Bond movie today is kind of like listening to one of those counterfeit rock and roll bands — there may not be many of the original members left, yet they still bring back memories.

9. Cyber Sonny Bono 1/98
When Sonny Bono died in a skiing accident outside Lake Tahoe Jan. 5, 1998, the 62-year-old celebrity turned politician was at the top of his game. Like the Gipper, he had weathered his career and personal ups and downs with a self-effacing sense of humor that had endeared him to millions.

10. Cyber Bingo 2/98
Aunt Alice always loved bingo. Now  that Aunt Alice is older, she doesn’t get out as much. But at a website called “Gamesville,” she could play bingo  online without ever leaving home.

11. Cyber Love 2/98
You can be looking for love in a lot of wrong places online. Especially, believe it or not, if you are a guy.

12. Infidelity Online 2/98
As Special Prosecutor Ken Starr’s probe into presidential peccadillos moves from a grand jury to the halls of Congress, Bill Clinton isn’t the only one feeling the heat. How to explain to the kids that the president is a sex addict? Thank goodness there are online resources, even for philandering presidents.

13. Monica Lewinsky Online 2/98
Monica Lewinsky’s life may be in shambles, but that hasn’t stopped the news media and everyone else in cyberspace from trying to make a buck off of her name. Like CNN and the Gulf War, like Court TV and the O.J. Simpson trial, the Internet, and especially America Online, came of age as a news conduit during the White House sex scandal.

14. College Online 2/98
Applying to college keeps getting easier, as higher education takes the competition for students into cyberspace.

15. Oscars Online 2/98
As Hollywood votes on the Oscars, the rest of us can only speculate on the winners. But there’s already a lot of speculation online.

16. Iraq Online 3/98
American sentiment toward the leader of Iraq harkens to something deep and dark in human nature — the primal need for a scapegoat. For if there weren’t a Saddam Hussein, we would have created one, as fear mongers do periodically. They know how much people enjoy the spectacle of a witch hunt, even in cyberspace.

17. Dead Comics Online 3/98
American sentiment toward the leader of Iraq harkens to something deep and dark in human nature — the primal need for a scapegoat. For if there weren’t a Saddam Hussein, we would have created one, as fear mongers do periodically. They know how much people enjoy the spectacle of a witch hunt, even in cyberspace.

18. Pamela Anderson Online 3/98
Whether or not Pamela Anderson Lee wins her $90 million lawsuit to keep the sex tapes she made with rockers Tommy Lee and Bret Michaels off the Internet, the former Baywatch beauty is already one of the most exploited babes in cyberspace.

19. Digital Cameras 4/98
Recently I went out to buy an inexpensive camera, but came home with an inexpensive digital camera instead. It seemed like a good idea at the time. Simple and convenient, digital cameras don’t use film so there’s no cost or wait for negatives and prints, and the images can go straight from the camera to a computer, or even a TV set, without using a scanner. Such a deal! But the trade-off for instant images is a fuzzy picture at premium prices.

20. Cyber South Park 4/98
Both the best and worst that can be said of “South Park,” the wildly irreverent hit animated series on Comedy Central, is that there have been too few episodes. Not so in cyberspace.

21. Interspecies Cyberchat 4/98
It was billed as the first ever interspecies computer chat. But the April 27 dialog between a gorilla and humans on America Online and the Web may have revealed more than its hosts bargained for. Apes, it seems, just wanna have fun.

22. Cyber Seinfeld 5/98
Question: If a TV show is about nothing, what are its websites about? If the TV show is “Seinfeld,” much cyber-ado is being made about nothing.