Web wars - Everyone knows that Californians delight in being happy, whereas New Yorkers take a more complex pleasure in being unhappy; instinctively mistrusting, for example, people who smile. By the same token, Californians generally expect to be rewarded for their work, whereas New Yorkers are disappointed if they do not have to threaten, shout and enlist the aid of men called Vito to get a quarter of the remuneration the Californian takes as his due. And that is why the news that Microsoft, the honourable, zillion-dollar, open-handed software giant from California's Silicon Valley, was looking to New York has caused a certain amount of consternation, not to say dread.

What would happen, everyone seemed to worry, to the seat-of-the pants online businesses, Webzines, and Internet services that people cobble together here with string and sealing wax in their loft apartments in Hell's Pantry, or their pork-smelling walkups in Chinatown? Would they not be wiped out in favour of sterile, Pacific Coast order, amiability, accountability and herbal tea on tap? Would normal working hours become necessary, interfering with the habitual 11-to-6 cafe-visiting schedule of New York's jittery cyber population? And what was the point of being creative if you were to be paid? What would be left to complain about?

The word "conspiracy" began to make the rounds. As proof, alarmists pointed at the eerie television campaign that went out early in the new year, lifted straight from Orwell or Zamyatin. "There are no genders," the voiceover whispered. "Not man to woman. There is no age. Not young to old. There are no infirmities. Not short to tall. Or handsome to homely. Just thought to thought. What is this place?" the voice intoned. "Utopia? No. No. The Internet. The Internet. The Internet." What was this, if not thought control, thought control, thought control? No self-respecting New Yorker wanted Utopia anyway; as anyone knew, dystopia was Manhattan's bailiwick. Aggressive defensive action was called for.

And so it has been that for some weeks, New Yorkers have been conducting a highly secret guerrilla war to discredit the Internet, and prevent the Left Coast's deep pockets from buying up this city's brains. The war has taken three parts; the first part has been the abduction of unsuspecting young women by designated cybersex fiends, known as Marauding E-males, who rope in correspondents via the Internet, invite them to a date, then tie them up and drip wax on them - causing tabloid headlines that do much to impeach the computers' heretofore clean image. The second part, an update on Lysistrata, has compelled dutiful female New Yorkers to undertake strategic cyber-cheating; arranging trysts and liaisons via computer, and using these binary-powered affairs as a pretext to abandon their husbands and end their marriages, which produces cyber- resentment in the younger generation, ensuring the continuation of the fight. As the third part, cyberwhizzes are proposing outlandish projects to Microsoft which, in an attempt to engender bi-coastal goodwill, then pays for them, allowing Manhattanite techies to walk off with sackfuls of cash for projects they undoubtedly proposed only as a lark. It is the fondest hope of the cyber generals that the Microsoft invaders will get on their bikes and head back West, leaving this town safe for sulking men, women and children.