As the Worm Turns 

Apple-lovers appear to be in for more rotten times in Germantown.

It would appear that I have caused a great uproar with comments I made in this column a couple of weeks ago. People from around the world have mailed the Flyer to protest some of the factual matters I presented concerning Apple Computer's attempts to subvert the Germantown signage ordinance and locate an internally illuminated, rainbow-colored Apple logo on the façade of their new store in posh Saddle Creek.

And yet, I stand by my story. I was correct in every important assertion. I have checked with my sources and they have checked with their sources and we have determined that there are no errors in the column.

Here's the irony: I withheld information that I have gathered -- through careful reportage -- about the real ramifications of Apple Computer's showdown with the city of Germantown. This is a story that must be told and you'll read it only in this Flyer exclusive. Apple lovers, get ready. You ain't seen nothin' yet.

The core of this fallout lies in recent, secret meetings among Germantown officials, who are seeking ways to make the city's Internet experience more wholesome and more tasteful. To wit, they are seeking a way to route all Internet traffic through a central Germantown Server Farm (GSF) that would automatically police the Web to ensure that strict content specifications contained in the ordinance will be met. The GSF is being programmed to prevent any offending Web page from reaching client computers within the city limits. More on all of this in a moment.

Before disclosing the details of this new ordinance, though, I do want to make one clarification that bears on my last column, in which I detailed the genesis of the fierce battle between Germantown and Apple.

While I will not concede that there were errors in my previous column, there was one misleading assumption: I implied that Germantown's original city leaders, who authored the strict signage ordinance in the 1970s, were driven by a harrowing experience in which they viewed the Pappy and Jimmy's sign at Hollywood and Poplar while under the influence of psychotropic substances. The sight of the two neon-etched lobsters on the sign, each bearing a bespectacled human head, had so frightened the future leaders that one of their first moves upon seizing power was to outlaw internally lit signs, oversized signs, and signs that depict people, animals (especially lobsters), vegetables, or fruit. The fact is, my sources tell me, that it was far more likely that these leaders were under the influence of "transcendental meditation" and that no foreign chemical substances had been involved. I personally doubt this, but who am I to make things up?

As for other matters that seemed to rankle the scores who sent e-mails about the previous column, I have nothing to say other than go look it up, my friends, go look it up. You think I was wrong in identifying the Apple operating system as "OS AX"? Well, maybe I know a little something that only the deep-clearance software developers at Apple know. Like maybe OS AX (rhymes with "cossacks") is in fact a secret new operating system, one that's quickly being compiled with lots of new "DLLs" and "SDRAMs" to counter the slick perfection of the new Microsoft EXP "machine language" operating system.

I will admit that I fail to understand the vitriol that fuels this heated Apple versus Microsoft debate among computer users. It's like the Ford versus Chevy arguments that caused numerous rumbles between Jets and Sharks back in my youth or the Fender versus Gibson battles that raged back when I was in a garage band. Perhaps there's a failure to realize that the computer-makers and the software mavens are applying some intense marketing. Perhaps computers are, after all, nothing more than machines built by enormous corporations using very effective image advertising ("Think Different") to create an illusion that there is, in reality, a nickel's worth of difference between them. I don't know.

And frankly, I don't care. Because now there's more serious baggage to tote. The worm has turned and Germantown is about to make things very difficult for Apple owners.

You see, the aforementioned new ordinance -- tentatively named the Germantown Internet Tastefulness ordinance (GIT) -- would outlaw and prevent the following elements for anyone using a computer to log on and surf within the confines of the city of Germantown:

· No Web pages containing pop-up or banner advertising;

· No animated graphics, tasteless content, left-wing newsletters, urban legends, or private chat rooms;

· No pornography, gambling, or illegal drug and alcohol sales (including Viagra);

· No Web bugs, spy software, or tracking ads;

· No sites containing tacky housewares, profanity, non-equine animals, food, vegetables, or fruit;

· No streaming audio, streaming video, or streaming attachments that play through Apple's proprietary Quicktime software;

· No spam, advertisements for penis enlargement or reduction surgery, viruses, Trojan worms, serial jokes, or misleading subject lines.

The most important element of GIT, though, is the clause that will force anyone within the city limits who wants to log on via an Apple computer -- either through AppleTalk or DMHL or TC/PIP -- to register with the Mayor's Action Center and maintain a permit for Internet access. This permit will cost an estimated $450 a month, effectively pricing Apple out of the reach of even the wealthiest Germantown Web fiend.

GIT, in other words, will be a major blow to Apple's attempts to prosper here in the very city where they came in and tried to get smart over their proposed sign with the Design Review Commission. The reason? They came in and tried to get smart over their proposed sign with the Design Review Commission.

In an interview with an unnamed city official, I asked why the need for GIT, and why now? "In essence, we want our Web experience to be pure, quiet, and dignified, as befits the character of the city," he said. "So, just like the signage ordinance years ago, we are looking at taking preemptive action and bringing the Germantown Internet experience back to where it belongs."

Now you know. What began at Pappy and Jimmy's three decades ago has resulted in a fracas over a rainbow-colored Apple sign that will have far- reaching ramifications. And if Apple thought the DRC was tough, once they "GIT" into it with the new Internet Tastefulness Commission, Apple may well give up computers and go into the lobster business instead. ·

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  • Sign Of the Times

    A meditation on Apples, lobsters, and other mind-altering substances.
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