The first signs of "the revolution" were visible on the morning of Feb. 29: around San Francisco big posters and small neon stickers advertised "IJustHadARectalExamOnline.com" and "ButIDon'tNeedMyToothpasteDelivered.com," and advised dot-com junkies and innocent bystanders alike to "BlowTheDotOutYourAss.com." It was Leap Day, known in some circles as the second coming of Y2K, and commander "Sam Lowry" and his attractive sidekick, curiously named "Sam Lowry" as well, had gathered together about 30 friends to paper the town the night before. The sticker campaign marked the onslaught of BlowTheDot's campaign against an increasingly humorless dot-com industry.
Some nights before, on the way to an Internet company's launch party to load up on free booze, the Sams had been dismayed to find hundreds of would-be partyers waiting to get into the drinking establishment. "They were lining up like it was a cool thing to do," says Sam. It was but one of the plentitude of daily dot-com affairs that count as nightlife for many young Net-company types. But not for the Sams; they turned on their heels and headed home to drink their own booze and to kick-start "the revolution."
"You certainly can't stand in the way of progress," says the original Sam, who took his nom de guerre from the main character of Terry Gilliam's film "Brazil," and who would meet me for lunch in South Park only if I agreed to be blindfolded. "But you can laugh at it," he giggled, as we sat with the other Sam beside a jungle gym swarming with young dot-commers who had just braved the 20-minute sandwich line at Caffe Centro. (I was sans blindfold -- but I had to swear on the life of my first-born child not to reveal the Sams' identities.)
Both the Sams work, of course, for dot-coms. But as leaders of the revolution they hold themselves apart from "the people who want to come here and be a part of this myth," lapping up the geek glory and insta-riches of the Net economy, says Sam.
The Sams are old-time San Franciscans, having lived in the city by the bay for a good six or seven years; they've seen what the dot-conomy has done to the city's housing prices, traffic and once laid back attitudes. The Sams aren't trying to stop the Internet from ruining San Francisco; they just want to remind people how absurd it is to work like a dog, in a city that is quickly forgetting leisure and humor, for a company that's revolutionizing something as inconsequential as how you purchase toothpaste.
"Some people are making a living off [dot-coms], and that's cool," says Sam. "But other people are really here for the dot-com job. They really want the ping-pong table and the slide." His face tightens in mock horror and then he guffaws: "Aren't there any woodworkers left? Doesn't anyone want to sew?"
Maybe not, but the faux revolution is striking a chord: The Sams are getting dozens of congratulatory e-mails each day from the "BlowTheDotOutYourAss.com" site they set up to show off their street art. "Every fourth message is 'Dude, Rock on,'" says Sam. "I'm just amazed at their enthusiasm." Some have offered to make T-shirts of the revolution's crazy collection of domain name ideas. "FuckYouAndTheStartupYouRodeInOn.Com" is the current favorite, but who wouldn't want "PenisEnlargementGiftCertificates.com," "SoiledCelebrityProphylactics.com" or "ShredsOfSomeone'sSoulForAuction.com"?
Sam did get one unhappy call too, from a landlord upset to find his building decorated with shocking pink stickers advertising such URLs as "AllThePornYouCanEat.com." So, Sam, who had originally registered the site using his real name, quickly transferred the domain name to "Sam Lowry" and went undercover. "I think the revolution better wise up," he laughs.
Now, "it's exploded beyond the local inside joke," muses Sam, who says that one day soon ("on a day you could probably figure out, we like dates that have some meaning"), people in New York, Chicago, London and elsewhere will join their San Francisco brethren in a global "BlowTheDot" stickering campaign. It won't be much of an organized affair; the Sams are just encouraging DIY revolutionaries to print their own stickers (they're hoping to soon set up Adobe Acrobat PDF files of their work for easy download) and head to the streets. "We want to pass along the means to the people," says Sam. "That's the fun of it."