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Goofy love

September 2, 2002

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Burrow into The Gay Blade’s enclave. The Spork Boards

What in the name of John Muir has become of The Gay Blade’s enormous, shaggy head? And is there a taxidermist in the house?

As one who generally wears his polymorphous perversity with grape-leaf clusters, The Gay Blade is reluctant to admit any limits to his voracious lust for life.

Nevertheless, he must grudgingly admit that his attempts to mix business with pleasure went seriously awry Friday night when he attempted to flit between a pair of labor-intensive social events: a guest appearance at the Berkley-to-Upper-Martinez Fursuit Users Group (BUMFUG) and the coming-out party for Apple’s Jaguar OS at the company’s Palo Alto store.

While he had been mildly concerned that the two gatherings would prove too geographically and socially disparate for comfort, rather the opposite situation arose: Arriving at the University Ave. Apple Store in a fabulous faux-feline ensemble (and after convincing skeptical security guards that he was not, in fact, Spencer Katt), the Blade was quickly mobbed by iChat-crazed Jag groupies.

True, Steve Jobs, Jon Rubinstein and much of the Apple brass’ upper crust (with the notable exception of elfin multimedia magister Frank Casanova) seemed strangely reticent about joining a celebratory conga line orchestrated and led by a portly, mincing, Day-Glo-spotted interloper. The crowd, however, proved more-than-susceptible to the Blade’s yowling siren song, dancing with abandon and ultimately piling into cars to follow him across the bay to the site of his second assignation of the evening: BUMFUG headquarters (by day, a nondescript stucco house in El Cerrito), where both mobs of furry, soft-bellied carnivore cultists quickly converged into a deliriously hirsute pile, where they remained for several days.

Sweet Drooper in a Jacuzzi! The Blade can’t wait for Panther.

Knock three times

And on the subject of Apple Stores and the people who love them: While it’s been widely reported that getting hired for a retail spot at one of the new boutiques is tricky indeed, the Blade’s trained team of anthropomorphic bloodhounds informs him that competition for Apple’s shiny new SoHo outlet has achieved new levels of quasi-Masonic complexity.

This keen-nosed pack asserts that during its glitzy, Jobs-haunted debut at July’s Macworld Expo/New York and in the weeks thereafter, most of the work at this key store was being handled by a Praetorian Guard of Apple Store veterans culled from across the country.

Now that the crunch is past, Apple is working to select permanent occupants for full- and part-time positions – and it reportedly has a list of about 8,000 Mac-o-philic applicants from which to choose. Between harsh tech-industry realities and Apple’s enduring star power, aspiring counter jockeys include a plethora of absurdly overqualified technology professionals, as well as Mac-oriented psychiatrists and lawyers looking to wile away their weekend hours with fellow fans (and garner staff discounts on future purchases).

A recent casting call reflected both the intensity of the contest and the sheer Frankenheimeresque wackiness of the mothership: After Apple had eliminated 99.75 percent of the competition, 20 semi-finalists were summoned to Prince Street after store hours, armed with a (no kidding!) top-secret password to get them past the security guard and (most intriguing of all) a promise that they would get to “meet Steve” once the evening’s interviews were concluded.

Wait for it: After a strenuous grilling aimed at gauging their platform pedigree, retail commitment and personal magnetism, the candidates were indeed brought one by one into a private office to “meet Steve” – not Jobs, mind you, but an executive of the same Christian name charged with overseeing Apple’s East Coast retail efforts.

Holy bait and switch! At least it wasn’t the “Steve” of Dell-commercial fame.

Quark of fate

Meanwhile, the Blade’s furry little moles in the hills of Colorado inform him that the always-steamy relationship between Apple and Quark Inc. is currently generating sufficient geothermal energy to power downtown Denver for approximately the next 3,000 years.

The crux of the issue, not surprisingly, is Quark’s lack of a Mac OS X-native version of XPress, the last, crucial application preventing most of Apple’s core of publishing pros from even considering a migration from the comfortable confines of Mac OS 9.

The always-mercurial Jobs is reportedly irate about Quark’s desultory pace (at least another six months will elapse before the Carbonized XPress 6 ships) and about what Apple sees as Quark’s insufferably chilly attitude toward its offers of development aid. For his part, the equally irascible Fred Ebrahimi (legendary generalissimo of Quark) is profoundly miffed that Mac users haven’t flocked to XPress 5 in greater numbers, despite Quark’s relentless efforts to entice them away from those copies of XPress 4.1 they upgraded to back in 1999.

The forced three-legged race between Apple and Quark goes back 15 years and shows no signs of ending, despite Apple’s bids to endorse Adobe’s InDesign “Quark killer” and Quark’s lengthy struggle to pitch its software to the Windows market. In addition to that dysfunctional relationship, Jobs and Ebrahimi apparently have their own history dating back to the Apple CEO’s exile at NeXT – and to the earliest origins of today’s Mac OS X.

According to long-time watchers of both companies, Jobs was fulsome in his efforts to woo Quark over to the nascent NeXTstep platform. Those efforts, they report, included shipping Quark a NeXTcube loaded with a multimedia presentation envisioning what XPress would look like running atop the oh-so-GUI Unix OS – and a personal video message of amity from NeXT’s CEO to Quark’s.

Despite the blandishments, Quark remained frosty toward the market potential of NeXT as a professional publishing platform – thus arguably failing to deliver a Mac OS X-native version of XPress a decade early instead of two years late.

The Blade’s dry cleaner has been monopolizing his princess phone of late, but email still works in a pinch. Drop a Mac tip to The NMR Report, and a blissfully hairless souvenir mole rat could be yours!

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