Act II, Section Four of An American Book of the Dead - The Game Show. . .

Fun Facts: .

Act II, Sect. 3

(The three incarnations are ushered into Tonya’s booth, which once secured, begins to glow red.)

ANNOUNCER (in the darkness): Wow!

HOST (in the darkness): What’s happening, Don?

ANNOUNCER: This is very interesting, Blink.

(Lights rise on a bare stage.)

Tonya, Surge and John Carver have apparently just been reborn as US-based multi-national corporation.

HOST: What the--! How’s that possible?

ANNOUNCER: Well, Blink. Not many folks know this, and those that do don’t like to think about it much, but corporations live lives just like people do.

HOST: I don’t believe it!

ANNOUNCER: It’s true! Tonya is reborn in the early 20th Century when the Computer Tabulating Recording Company is formed from a merger of three smaller concerns.

(Enter a figure in an old-fashioned suit and straw boater. Where its head would be is a blank space. On its breast pocket is a label that reads “CTR”.)

It wasn’t until 1914, when high-powered manager Tom Watson was hired, that CTR really found its feet.

(Tom Watson enters, puts his arm around CTR’s shoulder and walks him downstage.)

TOM WATSON: Now listen here, fellah. There’s no reason you can’t be the greatest corporation in the world. You understand me? A real companies’ company. But things are gonna have to change. You follow? You’re gonna have to look right.

(Watson strips off CTR’s turn-of-the-century duds, revealing underneath a crisp blue suit with starched white shirt and tie.)

You’re gonna have act right.

(Watson jerks CTR up by the scruff.)

And most important, you’re gonna have to THINK!

CTR (parroting): Think!


CTR (processing): Think!


CTR (proclaiming): Think!

TOM WATSON: Now sing!

CTR (singing):

Mr. Watson is the man I’m working for,
He’s the Leader of the C-T-R,
He’s the fairest, squarest man I know;
Sincere and true.
He has shown me how to play the game.
And how to make the dough.
(Watson shakes CTR’s hand. Then he tears off CTR’s badge, replacing it with one that says “IBM”.)

TOM WATSON: That’s your new name.

(IBM looks down at the label.)

IBM: I... be... am?

TOM WATSON: Stands for “International Business Machines”. This way “business” is your middle name!

IBM: Hooray! IBM!

Perfect for all your data tabulating needs.

ANNOUNCER: From 1921 to 1929, IBM increases its profits seven hundred percent. In fact, it wasn’t until 1956 that IBM got its first taste of true sorrow. Tom Watson dies of a heart attack.

(Lights up on a tombstone that says “Think”. IBM falls to its knees in front of it, sobbing. Tom Watson’s voice is heard over the P.A.)


IBM: Mr. Watson? Is that you?

TOM WATSON’S GHOST: Just what do you think you’re you doing?

IBM: Well... I think... I’m grieving.

TOM WATSON’S GHOST: Nonsense. Corporations don’t grieve. Get up. You’ve got computers to build.

IBM: But--

TOM WATSON’S GHOST: No “buts”, Mister. You gotta pick yourself up. You gotta shake it off. You gotta live in the future.

ANNOUNCER: And so IBM does just that, dominating the market by excelling at what IBM always did best.

IBM: Customer Service and Salesmanship. No one ever got fired for buying IBM.

ANNOUNCER: Bigger, richer, ever more powerful. Every other company in the computer industry wanted to get to know IBM.

(A flock of blank-headed firms in tight dresses and mini-skirts swarm around IBM, vying for its attention.)

But who could predict that in 1980 IBM would meet a little upstart that would change his life forever.

(Enter Microsoft, blank-headed, wearing torn blue jeans, a tie-dye shirt and Birkenstocks.)


IBM: Hey.

MICROSOFT: Can I talk to you for a second?

IBM: Geez, I’m really kinda busy here.

MICROSOFT: I think I can help you.

IBM: You... “think”... you can help me?

MICROSOFT: Well, what are you doing to break into the new personal computer market?

IBM: “Personal computers”. Talk about a passing fad.

MICROSOFT: Unh-hunh.

IBM: But I still got some of my people working on it.

MICROSOFT: Who’s doing your operating system?

IBM: Uh... some of my people, I guess.

MICROSOFT: You guess? You don’t know?

IBM: I make my money from mainframes, sweetheart.

MICROSOFT: I’m working on something called DOS. I can sell it to you cheaper than you can make it yourself.

IBM: I’m not really into “buying” software. Where’s the value? Tell ya what. Cook me up something; you keep it, and I’ll pay ya a licensing fee.

MICROSOFT: Whatever.

ANNOUNCER: And so began one of the world’s oddest intimacies.

IBM: I gave this “Microsoft” some office space for its program-mers; they show up in blue jeans, t-shirts, pony-tails, barefoot.

MICROSOFT: This one throws programmers at me who can’t tell a goto line from a fresh gaping hole in their head. Oh, sure they look real snazzy in their blue suits but where’s the talent, the creativity, the inspiration?

IBM: It’s simple, I pay per line of code written.

MICROSOFT: I’m more about getting the job done. This one’s got guys writing lines just to pad their quotas.

IBM: You got guys smoking refer in the restrooms. Playing frisbee in the halls, ordering pizzas all hours of the night.

MICROSOFT: One of my guys boiled 33,000 lines of IBM code to 200.

IBM: Yeah, well that was just plain rude. My guys have feelings you know.... And where’s your documentation?

MICROSOFT (mocking): “Where’s your documentation?”

IBM: Where’s your testing?

MICROSOFT: Who needs testing? It works! Tell me the truth: does IBM stand for Incredible Bunch of Morons? Or Install Bigger Machines?

IBM: Oh yeah, well what does MS stand for?

MICROSOFT: Microsoft.

IBM: Yeah, well, I heard it stands for... um... “Mostly Smug”. No, wait! “Monkey Shit”.


IBM: Never mind. I’m paying you to do a job. I want it done.

MICROSOFT: It’s done.

IBM: I don’t want any excuses.

MICROSOFT: It’s done.

IBM: Just because you’re young and clever doesn’t mean-- what?

MICROSOFT: It’s done.

IBM: Really?


IBM: Well let’s just load it in the prototype and see about that.

MICROSOFT: You do that.

(IBM inserts the floppy into a prototype pc.)

IBM: It works.

MICROSOFT: What a concept.

IBM: These pc’s are selling like hotcakes.

MICROSOFT: Yeah. Some fad, huh?

IBM: Look at these sales figures. I’m making a killing.

(IBM hands Microsoft an envelope.)

MICROSOFT: What’s this?

IBM: You’ve earned it.

(Microsoft opens the envelope, pulling out a letter and a check.)

MICROSOFT (reading): “Dear Vendor: Thank you for a for a job well done. Sincerely IBM.” Gee, thanks.

IBM: Like I said, you earned it.

MICROSOFT: Yeah, whatever, pal. Look, as per our contract, I’m gonna license DOS to a couple other companies, okay?

IBM: (distracted): Yeah, sure. Knock yourself out.

MICROSOFT: Fine. By the way, this DOS is gonna be obsolete in a year or so. You wanna maybe work on something better?

IBM: Mmmm. Geez. I don’t know. I mean, it was fun and all, but I don’t really think we’re... you know... a match.

MICROSOFT: That’s cool. I’m just saying, I got this thing I’ve been kicking around in my head. It’s a GUI.

IBM: A gooey?

MICROSOFT: Graphical User Interface? I was thinking that it might be something we could do together.

IBM: Mmmm. Yeah. No. I got some of my people working on something like that already.

MICROSOFT: Your OS/2 project?

IBM: Yeah, um... that’s-- that’s it.

MICROSOFT: Yeah, that’s uh... that’s a pretty good project. Um... maybe we could merge them.

IBM: Uh, geez. I don’t know. Let me think about it.

ANNOUNCER: Having grown so large and complex over the last five decades, even the simplest decisions can take IBM years to make.

IBM (thoughtful): Think.

ANNOUNCER: Meanwhile other companies move in to snap up their share of a ballooning PC market.

(Apple, Compaq, and Dell enter, and each sock IBM progressively harder in the gut as they pass.)

IBM (befuddled): Think.

ANNOUNCER: As Microsoft gets richer and richer licensing DOS in direct competition with IBM.

(Companies hand Microsoft wads of cash in exchange for giant floppy disks labeled “DOS”.)

IBM (betrayed): Think.

ANNOUNCER: In just seven short years IBM’s stock falls to nearly a quarter of its original worth. While Microsoft’s stock soars to twenty-five times its initial public offering.

IBM (besieged): Think.

ANNOUNCER: Forced to downsize, IBM gives 140,000 people the boot. Even so, there’s no choice but to sell off the lucrative typewriter and printer divisions to investment bankers. Then in 1992, an upstart pc maker called Compaq starts a price war that pummels IBM to the ropes.

IBM (stunned): Think.

(Compaq enters and throws a flurry of punches to IBM’s gut. Catching its breath, and putting on a brave face, IBM sidles over Microsoft.)

IBM: Hey.


IBM: I’ve been thinking.


IBM: I think we should work together on this OS/2 thing.

MICROSOFT: Mmmm, geez. You know, I kind of have my own thing going now with something called Windows. I have pretty high hopes for it.

IBM: Oh. Okay.


IBM: Hey, don’t worry about it.

MICROSOFT: Still friends?

IBM: Yeah, sure, whatever.

(Microsoft goes. IBM falls to its knees.)

ANNOUNCER: With assets hemorrhaging worldwide and no executives of Mr. Watson caliber to staunch the bleeding, IBM reaches a state of operations that can only be described as comatose.

(A single light specifies on IBM as it collapses completely. Blink and the Spokesmodels enter. Blink bends and gently pokes IBM’s sprawled body.)

HOST: Hey... hey, buddy, snap out of it.

IBM: Who?... Where am I?

HOST: Well, pal. There are two equally true answers to that question. One: you’re in a coma. Two: you’re in An American Book of the Dead, The Gameshow.

SPOKESMODEL 1: Asterisk.


IBM: Oh... oh.

HOST: Don’t ya remember? You’re an incarnation of Tonya Rey.

SPOKESMODEL 2: And Kim Pettite.

SPOKESMODEL 1: Among others.

IBM: Oh. I-- what?

HOST: And you got a choice to make. Isn’t that right, Don.

ANNOUNCER: It sure is, Blink. Tonya/Kim, comatose states are a unique opportunity in the Game Show. You have a choice of continuing as IBM in the hopes that you’ll either pull out of your coma, or die and move on. Or, on the other hand, you could opt out of this life altogether by taking a spin on the bardo wheel.

IBM: But--

HOST: But what?

IBM: I’m so tired of all this.

HOST: Yeah, I know what you mean. But let me ask you something: while you were incarnated there as one of the most powerful entities in the American 20th Century, did you happen to tear people’s eyes open to the truth and expose the hypocrisy at the heart of the American system, and once exposed, destroy it.

IBM: I-- no. I don’t think so.

HOST: Okay. Did you find true love?

IBM: There was... that one... company, but--

HOST: Yeah?

IBM: No.

HOST: Then, pal-o-mine, you gotta keep playing.

IBM: This is absurd. None of this is actually happening.

HOST: Well, now you could have a point there. But that doesn’t change the rules.

IBM: Rules? What rules? This is all just some sick game you’re playing, isn’t it?

HOST: Uh... earth to IBM. It’s a game show.


HOST (aside to Spokesmodel 2): Sweetie, ixnay on the obeliskay.

Two choices, pal: go back to your coma, or spin the wheel.

IBM: I don’t want to play anymore.

HOST: That ain’t one of the options. Come on, play or stay. We don’t have all eternity.

SPOKESMODEL 1: Asterisk.

HOST: Fine! We do have all eternity. But give us a break already!

IBM: This is all just so absurd.

HOST: Yeah, I know: it’s more mixed up than a Mormon in a mosh-pit. Play or stay.

IBM: I... don’t wanna... be this thing I was... this IBM thing... dead or alive... or in between. I’ll spin your goddamned wheel.

HOST: Good call. Take it away, Don!

(The Bardo Wheel lights. Spokesmodel 1, sporting a WWII U.S. Army helmet, helps IBM into the arm straps of a portable flame-thrower, while Spokesmodel 2, in Japanese Army cap, ties the blindfold.)

ANNOUNCER: Blink, Kim/Tonya’s being outfitted with a U.S Army portable flame-thrower, circa 1945. Juiced with napalm, this little beauty proves quite handy in ferreting out stubborn Japs hiding in caves.

HOST: All set there, pal?

IBM: Yeah, I guess so.

HOST: Great. Spin that Wheel! . . .

ABOD-TGS Act II, Sect. 5