“Problems with the computer, Scullery?”

“Big time, Mudder. I’m starting to think it has a brain of it’s own. It just won’t respond to my commands.”

“There’s a lot of that going around, Scullery. Computer support departments for Gateway, Dell and Compaq are being deluged with calls from users saying their machines won’t follow instructions. It’s nothing but coast-to-coast anarchy and chaos.”

“What do you think it is, Mudder? UFOs over the ? Scalper mutilations in Nebraska?”

“I wish it was that easy,” Scullery. At least we know where we stand with flying saucers and disemboweled ticket brokers. No, I’m afraid this is much more serious.”

“You mean…”

“That’s right, Scullery. It’s Napster. It looks like the file filters are finally working. They’ve managed to block the song-trading of major label acts like Eric Clapton and Depeche Mode. Sure, people can use non-centralized apps like Gnutella or BearShare, but those song-trading networks aren’t nearly as easy to use as Napster. Once again, the evil Concert Consortium has the upper hand.”

“Another conspiracy, Mudder? I thought the record companies were just protecting their intellectual property.”

“That’s what they would like you to believe, Scullery. The labels want everyone to think that they’re only looking out for the interests of their artists. However, I have it on good authority that Napster was, in itself, a massive conspiracy.”

“How’s that, Mudder?”

“Think of it, Scullery, millions of people glued to their monitors, day after day, week after week, downloading illicit copies of songs by James Taylor and 30 Odd Foot Of Grunts. But what they didn’t know is that each and every file carried a subliminal message.”

“Subliminal messages? Oh, come on, Mudder. Don’t you think that’s a bit of a stretch?”

“I don’t know, Scullery. Check out this email from the boys at the Lone Promoter. It claims that every Counting Crows MP3 contains the message, buy more concert tickets. And look what lies beneath every Jill Scott MP3.”

“Let me see that. Uh? The service charge is your friend! Gosh, Mudder, what does it all mean?”

“It means that for months the Consortium has been pumping messages into the brains of Napster users. Now that the trading of songs by Prodigy and Engelbert Humperdinck has ground to a halt, the Consortium hopes that the Napsterites will satisfy their addiction to music by buying tickets for concerts by artists such as The Crystal Method or Oasis.”

“Okay, Mudder. I can almost buy that. But what about all the computer problems? Dammit! It happened again! I just can’t get this computer to work.”

“Here, let me take a look at it. Hmmm. Just what I thought.”

“What is it, Mudder? Is it a virus? Has the Consortium taken over my computer?”

“No, Scullery. Nothing like that.”

“Then what is it?”

“You left out the silent ‘G’ in your search for ‘Gnutella.'”

“Uh? Oh, okay. I… I found it. Now I just have to download and install the client and… Wow! Look at the size of that list! There’s songs by Madonna, Poison, even Michael Jackson. Thanks, Mudder. Sometimes I don’t know what I’d do without you.”

“I know, Scullery, but come next season you’re going to find out.”