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New Year's Therapy

That whooshing sound is 2001 -- gone into the rotten annals of time. Now that it's over, let's talk about it.

Edited by Traci Vogel

Illustrations by Jackson Publick

Maybe we all should have known. The signs were there. When one of 2001's earliest stories was the baffling theft of two cute koalas from the San Francisco Zoo, what else was being foretold but one really sucky year to come?

Alongside missing koalas, 2001 will forever be known as the year that venture capital forgot--or rather, abandoned. Scores of things that should've worked went with it: Webvan, Kozmo.com; media stars like Suck.com, Inside, Mademoiselle (OK, maybe Mademoiselle wasn't such a tragedy). Ken Kesey died. George Harrison. John Lee Hooker. Buffy. Oakland's baby elephant. Mary Kay.

Al Gore grew a beard and proved that he was a weirdo to begin with. Geraldo made a comeback. Locally, Silicon Valley bore the brunt of the economic downturn, resulting in unemployment figures matched only by the lines outside the Emeryville Ikea; then, there was the outrage of another Los Angeles Times story berating our fair city for its continual failure to become "a real town." And then came not only the tragedy of Sept. 11, but the subsequent closure of many local places to go and drink off the effects of it all--the fabulous Fuel, foremost among them.

Like many, you may be experiencing some post-traumatic stress. If there's no place to drink, what's the next best cure for this general malaise? What else, but the modern miracle of psychoanalysis? For this good-riddance-2001 issue, Metro invites the valley to set itself down on the couch. We rehash our troubles, and offer up some amateur diagnoses.

That'll be $150, please.

June 2001:
Death of My Dotcom
Diagnosis: Ommetaphobia-fear of eyeballs; thaasophobia-Fear of being idle

That giant sucking sound you heard in 2001 was the sound of jobs being sucked south of the bottom line. Exodus, Metricom, At Home swallowed bitter bankruptcy medicine. Formerly unshakeable companies Intel, Cisco, Applied Materials and Hewlett-Packard mouthed the new L-word. As the tech ripple started taking other industries down with it, support suits slipped off the edge as well. Fat Palo Alto tech law firm Cooley Godward blew out 85 members of the world's favorite profession, and San Jose's Ernst & Young office farted out 10 percent of its bean counters. Magazines like Industry Standard set new velocity standards for freefall, and newspapers, from big chain-owned dailies to independent weeklies like this one took paper cutters to their page sizes and employee rosters.

The suckiest of all the bitter news, though, might have been the demise of that pioneering Internet site Suck.com. Condé Nast and Lycos-backed Automatic Media pulled the plug on its operations, which they once bragged were "the future of online publishing."

Giga Information Group pundit Amanda Kahlow ungraciously attributed Suck's loss of suction to "lack of focus on the user experience," but wasn't that the whole point--a site that was too cool to care about attracting "eyeballs"?

--Leonard Niles


January 2001:
No More Bush
Diagnosis: Post-traumatic Stress Disorder

One local woman's sudden impulse to shave her pubic hair last January could at first suggest a diagnosis of Intermittent Explosive Disorder, or loss of control leading to property destruction. Actually, psychological examination shows quite the opposite.

The patient, Emily Hofstetter, a co-founder of the Internet publication SiliconSalley.com, took rather than lost control. Hofstetter had been traumatized by our nation's dysfunctional presidential election. The Supreme Court symbolically killed 19,000 Floridian votes and allowed George W. Bush to claim the White House. In response to feeling what is clinically termed "intense fear, horror or helplessness" in the face of this traumatic election incident, Hofstetter cut what symbolic "Bush" she could (while chanting "No more Bush, No more Bush"). Her reaction was a classic example of self-preservation by stimulus avoidance. Findings for the cure are inconclusive so far. Further investigation into eradicating the source of the trauma is necessary.

--Allie Holly-Gottlieb

August 2001:
Sharks Bite Local Art Lovers
Diagnosis: Selachophobia-the fear of sharks

They swam local streets day and night, fiberglass indicators that the season of sharks was at high tide. While elsewhere in the country, real shark attacks gnawed at the headlines of what we can now recall as a blissfully slow-news summer, here in San Jose fiberglass replicas were decorated, deemed "art" and positioned to pose a real menace to teenagers and the disabled alike. Teenagers vandalized them, the sight-challenged ran into them--and eventually the Shark Byte committee had to redesign the displays so that they were less accessible to both.

The Merc and others fawned over the finny kitsch, which was the "pet" project of Joel Wyrick, owner of Post Street's Waves Smokehouse, and created by local artists. Wyrick claimed that the choice of sharks had nothing to do with San Jose's hockey team, but the coincidence smacked too much of commercialism, and the sharks themselves were mostly of such low quality that crediting the creatures as art was difficult.

Instead, the sharks could only be read as glaring Jungian symbols, a cry from San Jose for identity. According to psychotherapists, the city's choice of sharks--an animal at the top of the food chain--indicates either a desire for superiority, a hunger for power or--most disturbing of all--a deep and latent fondness for Roy Scheider from the movie Jaws.

--Traci Vogel

November 2001:
San Jose Symphony's Finale
Diagnosis: Multiple Personality Disorder

It wasn't a pretty sight, so many violinists camped out under the Pavilion escalators. So many cellists moonlighting as nail stylists in order to pay the rent. When the entire timpani section of the symphony was discovered several weeks ago attempting to sacrifice a cell phone at St. Joseph's in order to generate ticket sales, even the strongest supporters had to accept the fact that the end was near.

The string section brought bongo drums and tambourines to a recent rehearsal, while bassoonists wielded kazoos during a two-hour standoff. Unable to agree even upon a key signature for The Nutcracker Suite, scheduled to be played for umpteenth time this holiday season, the various fragmented sections of the San Jose Symphony fell into Sybil-like muttering, rocking back and forth in their seats. The ensuing catatonic state has close family members on a 24-hour alert. Specialists from Stanford Medical Clinic admit they've never seen such an advanced case of multiple personalities warring to the point of collective coma.

But don't pull the plug yet--is there a symphony doctor in the house?

--Christina Waters

January 2001:
Man Sues Over Foreskin Removal
Diagnosis: Mycrophobia, the fear of small things

The problems of a prematurely pilfered prepuce: just one aspect of this suffering valley's woes. So why are you smirking? Psychologist Linus Pettifogue, author of Humor of the Foreskin, notes "everything connected with the foreskin is funny." Example: What do you call the useless flap of skin connected to a penis? A man! Words such as "prepuce" and "smegma" will never replace "paprika" and "glide" as the prettiest in the English language.

In the days of Jehovah, the 'skins were more portable than heads, easy to count and made excellent wedding presents (1 Samuel 18:25). And as the fine old joke has it, when you sew them together, you have a wallet that turns into a suitcase when you rub it.

Some justify circumcision on a hygienic basis, anticipated by the ancient patriarchs eons before anyone had heard of bacteria. Hacking off your foreskin with a flint knife does sound most salubrious (Joshua 5:2). So those who obsess over foreskins untimely ripped are hard to credit, especially those whose "Satan's Divining Rods" were whittled before they were old enough to remember. There's a lonely number who would feel better off "intact," those who lament the feats of industry or art they could have achieved if equipped with the confidence builder of "a woody with a hoody."

The appeal of this particular "mourning our martyred foreskins" movement is akin to the perennial Northern California search for abandoned inner child, in this case wounded and mutilated. Like a good haircut, being tattooed or pierced, a remedial pickle-tuck makes the person feel cared for.

If I were going to get mine redone, I'd go high tech, in the true spirit of the valley. I'd get a computer chip implant with fertility-warning LED danger light and a stock market ticker. Maybe also a greeting-card-style chime to play a romantic classic: "Help Me Make It Through the Night," "Mambo #5" or "The Stars and Stripes Forever."

--Richard von Busack

May 2001:
If the Shoes Fit
Diagnosis: Delusional Disorder

Someone tell Kenneth Fitzhugh denial ain't the river in Egypt. Even after he was sentenced to 15 years to life in prison in early October for murdering his wife of 33 years, Kristine, the guy still claims an intruder busted into their tony Palo Alto home and killed Kristine. During the investigation following the discovery of Kristine's body May 5 at the bottom of the stairs, Kenneth played quiet, deranged husband, having "can't recall" moments that rivaled Reagan's quips during the Oliver North scandal.

Everything about him oozed delusional loony, as the evidence mounted against him and his testimony. Bloodstains were found around the house, suggesting that Fitzhugh might have moved the body and staged the scene. Cell-phone records placed him closer to the couple's home, rather than afar, as he claimed. Then there was the discovery that their eldest son Justin was the love child of Kristine and a former family friend, Robert Brown. Paternity tests proved it.

Brown claimed Kristine had planned to tell Justin the truth before graduating May 20, thus providing Ken's possible motive. But perhaps the greatest nugget of all lay in the testimony of the Fitzhugh's friend, Gaelyn Mason. While the two tried to administer CPR to Kristine, Mason says Ken already had a theory about the cause of her death: her black, Cole-Haan, "goddamn shoes." "She must have fallen in those shoes. I told her to throw them away a thousand times," Ken claimed. Riiiiiiiight.

--Genevieve Roja

Summer and Fall 2001:
Can I Have Some Remedy?
Diagnosis: Identity Crisis; or Porphyrophobia, the fear of the color purple

Rather than stretching out for a much-needed session on the good ol' psychiatrist's couch to figure out what's what, San Jose axed the couch altogether when sponsors shut down the SoFA Street Fair, a popular annual celebration of Silicon Valley music and culture.

The end of SoFA, which for 10 years served as San Jose's single badass attempt at a truly alternative, multicultural local showcase, is merely one symptom of a warped sense of self that runs much deeper. Club, cafe and restaurant owners have tried repeatedly to develop a hip, happening night life downtown, but some of the best of them (Fuel, Rush Cybercafe and Mongo's Mongolian Barbecue being the latest casualties) are squashed by rising rents and a city whose policies don't support independent businesses or lend themselves to "colorful" people or "bohemian" types on downtown streets. You'd think the powers that be had never seen purple hair, tattoos or piercings before.

The city seems--dare we say it--attached to the baggage of its past, as exemplified by the empty buildings that plague the SoFA district (how long ago was that earthquake, anyway?). Reviving celebrations like the SoFA Street Fair that invite the community to celebrate local artists on a grassroots level and discover that, yes, there actually is a downtown San Jose would be just what the doctor ordered.

--Sarah Quelland


February 2001:
Wag the Dog
Diagnosis: Narcissistic Personality Disorder

That smile! That perfectly cocked head! Leo the legendary bichon frise was so fluffy, so tiny, so young (he was 10), so ... suddenly airborne. It was undoubtedly the dog-hurling case heard round the world. On Feb. 10, former Pacific Bell repairman Andrew Burnett stopped his black SUV with Virginia plates to confront Sara McBurnett for accidentally bumping into his vehicle at San Jose International Airport. He sidled up to McBurnett's window, snatched Leo from McBurnett's lap, then swiftly flung him into traffic, where he was struck and killed.

Burnett, who then fled the scene, was convicted and later sentenced to three years in prison. Aside from being borderline psychotic--everyone knows animal killers become people killers sooner or later--Burnett exhibited signs of a Narcissistic Personality Disorder. He showed a lack of empathy during the trial but did offer a lame, if late, apology: "If there was anything I could say or do to bring back Leo, I would. Unfortunately, there is nothing I can do but say I'm really, really sorry." In classic narcissistic fashion, he displayed haughtiness, even contempt for Leo, claiming the dog bit him.

In the end, the patient felt a sense of entitlement, a need for excessive admiration. He and fiancée Jackie Figgins discussed which talk-show host would be granted the tell-all interview. Would it be Oprah? No, she wouldn't be sympathetic because she--oops--owns a bichon frise. Howard Stern would "rush over to interview" him, Burnett mused. What about Jerry Springer? "Hell no. ... They'll have a dog-tossin' contest right there on TV."

There is some solace in considering that, now that he's behind bars, poodle boy is probably somebody's bitch himself.


November 2001:
Harry Potter No. 1 Movie of the Year
Diagnosis: Overindulged Inner Child

I've just finished writing my latest novel, and it's a pippin. It's an all-ages tale of a poor orphan boy who accepts a scholarship at a remote children's boarding school. There he has his first encounters with the spirit world. He learns of plots by the forces of evil and is taught incantations and potions to use against the soulless creatures who threaten his world. Soon, he becomes the favorite pupil of the wise, kindly, bearded headmaster who runs the school.

Unfortunately, my book, Sharria Al-Pottir and the Magical Madrassah, was rejected by three separate publishers this September--some sort of political decision, said my agent. Now, I'm forced to solicit contributions from readers to defray the money I spent in anticipation of a large advance. Remember, without your generous financial support of me, the terrorists have already won.

The success of that other--and I think less well-rounded--charity-school kid is easily explained: Today's child enjoys dreaming of a school where the only gun on the school grounds is the gamekeeper's shotgun, and where the monster dog Fluffy--perhaps smaller than a Richmond pit bull--is easily outwitted. Parents enjoy the Potter series for those reasons and others. Ever had your ear bent about their struggles to get their child into a good school? You can see the appeal of an academy that deluges you with acceptance letters.

There's even more appeal in the Harry Potter series' reminder of the efficient way the upper-class English raise their kids: by tossing them into a boarding school. In parts of England, they know not just the pleasure of having a child but something infinitely more precious: the pleasure of having a child in small doses.


September 2001:
Autism is the New Punk
Diagnosis: Duh

On Sept. 12, Wired magazine published an article by Steve Silberman, titled, "The Geek Syndrome." The subtitle stated that "Autism--and its milder cousin Asperger's syndrome--is surging among the children of Silicon Valley. Are math-and-tech genes to blame?" Due to various events, I did not read the article until 2:28pm, Thursday, Dec. 20. I was wearing a sweater with five buttons that day. Silberman's premise is that because of selective breeding (all those dotcom breeders), and a quirk of cultural geography (Silicon Valley's concentration of left-brain employers), California's caseload of autism is spiraling up. Rates of autism, in fact, are going up all over the world, and no one knows why. There are gradations of autistic behavior, diagnosed along a scale from low-functioning to high-functioning. High-functioning autistics--those suffering from Asperger's--obsess over numbers. Numbers are good. There are seven letters in "numbers." Perhaps autism, at least at the higher levels, will become the norm for human behavior. It will be the next big thing after Geek Chic. Autism will be the new punk. This is my prediction for 2002, as of 7:15pm, Friday, Dec. 28. Today I have tied my shoes five times. That is all.


January 2001:
Pipe Bombs in the Boys' Room
Diagnosis: Anti-social Personality Disorder

Proving that Boy Scouts are not the only ones prepared, 18-year-old Kelly Bennett, a San Jose photo clerk who also happens to be the daughter of a policeman, handed over to authorities photos she had developed showing a prideful young man standing in front of a large cache of guns and pipe bombs. Police lay in wait for the photogenic freak, 19-year-old Al DeGuzman, and arrested him when he arrived to pick up his pictures.

Police then searched DeGuzman's parents' home and found 32 pipe bombs, 25 Molotov cocktails and a journal and an audio tape on which DeGuzman described a plan to murder students at De Anza College. The cold-blooded plan read like movie direction: "After blast, walk in, shoot. Shoot until cafeteria cleared. Toss Molotovs (fire bombs) after to burn building. ... If possible, die on roof in gunfight."

Friends, of course, expressed shock at this hidden side of their "quiet" fellow student, who pled guilty to 114 felony counts of possessing and planning to use explosives. Have these friends never read a Stephen King novel? Seen Carrie? Why do dangerous people always have such clueless friends?

Thank god for photo clerks.

(P.S.: The diagnosis here must apply not only to DeGuzman but to high school life in general.)


October 2001:
Lost Horizons
Diagnosis: Shared Brief Psychotic Disorder, marked by delusions, hallucinations, behavior that is markedly disorganized or catatonic

A missed exit or two on the crowded freeway. Some city names that sound alike. Streets that randomly change name in midblock. Getting lost in Silicon Valley is just that easy. This past October, it happened to two elderly immigrants from Moldova in the former Soviet Union. (Welcome to California. You're going to love the roads here.) The eightysomethings started by leaving a doctor's office in Mountain View on a weekday afternoon in their white 1992 Chevrolet Corsica. They ended up lost in a ravine in Portola Valley, 30 miles away.

The wife in this case, a symbol for The Rest of Us, could only watch from the passenger seat. Grumbling, certainly. Making tiny utterances of doubt while trying not to sound insulting. Perhaps even threatening to jump from the moving vehicle as the miles on Highway 35 went by.

And what else but Brief Psychotic Disorder can describe the phenomenon of a driver who, although clearly lost, cannot seem to pry a car's wheels from the road to ask for directions?

Worth noting: Mark and Dvora Cogan survived. First off, by climbing out of the minor wreckage of their vehicle and not sitting there feeling sorry for themselves. Second, by sliding down the hill on their rear ends. Why fight the forces of gravity? Third, by sticking together--none of this abandonment crap. After 61 years of marriage, they probably had some heartfelt discussions during those four chilly nights:

"I told you we should have brought a map"

"Well, why didn't you?"

"You said you knew where we were going."

"No, you said you knew the name of the street. I asked you the name of the street. You said, 'Take this exit.' And now we're in the forest."

"No, I said, 'Pull off the road,' and you wouldn't stop. You never stop. You just drive and drive and drive until we fall off the edge of the planet."

"And you never stop talking. Can't you stop talking? My ears, they're going to fall off. And then we'll die. The rescuers, they'll find me all dried up with no ears."

By the fourth day, they struck off in different directions. As luck would have it, three hang gliders in the area at that time were circling overhead like a trio of high-tech angels. They spied these lost souls of the valley who, in relentless pursuit of a seemingly simple goal, had managed to get themselves lost and half-dead. If not for their help, our couple's story might not have had a happy ending.

And where are the rescuing hang gliders for the rest of Silicon Valley? Those high-flying beacons of perspective and vision? Well, we can only stick together, have hope and try not to argue too much. Remember, it's possible to feel completely lost and near dead when you're only 300 yards from your car. Especially when you can't see the forest for the trees.

--Corinne Asturius

Doctor, Doctor

Freud vs. Jung

AND NOW for the professional opinions! In this beyond-the-grave Metro exclusive, Sigmund Freud and C.G. Jung, the world's two most famous psychoanalysts, offer opinions on key Silicon Valley news events from 2001.

Event: Los Gatos Hospital goes into alert over what turns out to be a forgotten fake training bomb stored in basement
("Long-forgotten Device," May 17)

Freud says: "The fake bomb represents our own fear of enacting our sexual desires."

Jung says: "Clearly, we all harbor such objects of paranoia in our collective basements. They are generally harmless, as long as bureaucrats aren't allowed to come in."

Event: Toxic black mold is found in valley-area apartments
("Oldie Moldies," July 12)

Freud says: "Mold is invariably a symbol of the moral decrepitude at the heart of our society--indeed, of our governing id--combined with a loss of parental structure in later life."

Jung says: "Actually, I believe mold is a symbol of leaky pipe work, combined with cellulose wallboard."

Event: Construction cranes decorated with lights for the holidays

Freud says: "Aha! An overt display of phallic egocentrism!"

Jung says: "No, no. Obviously, the pretty lights represent the collective unconscious need best expressed by Bob Dylan in the 1960s: i.e., 'Everybody must get stoned.'"

Event: Santa Cruz's 1,300-pound BraBall attracts attention
("Wonder Brawl," May 31)

Freud says: "The subject desires to suckle again at his mother's breast, as, indeed, we all do!"

Jung says: "There is [in man] an image not only of the mother but of the daughter, the sister, the beloved, the heavenly goddess and the chthonic Baubo."

Freud says: "Oh, whatever."

Event: Headless animals found dumped at Coyote Creek recreation trail
("Public Offering," Jan. 4)

Freud says: "Very disturbing. A symbol of childhood trauma, perhaps involving a stuffed bunny rabbit."

Jung says: "This is why I never go to these so-called recreation trails."

Event: The New Economy collapses
("Thank God, It's Over," July 19)

Freud says: "My diagnosis? A serious lack of content."

Jung says: "The constant flow of life again and again demands fresh adaptation. Adaptation is never achieved once and for all."

Event: "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?" is filmed in San Jose
("Final Answers" April 12)

Freud says: "Clearly, a symbol of America's collective fiscal delusion, combined with mass hysteria."

Jung says: "Don't you just love Regis? I do!"

Event: Los Altos doctor wants government's permission to make clones
("Clone Machine," Public Eye, April 5)

Freud says: "The subject is evidencing acute separation anxiety ... from himself."

Jung says: "The subject is evidencing acute narcissism ... much like another doctor we know."

Freud says: "Your mother!"

Jung says: "Exactly."

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From the January 3-9, 2002 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 2002 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

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