"a fish, a barrel, and a smoking gun"
for 20 January 2000. Updated every WEEKDAY.


Hit & Run CCXI



Tuesday, 18 January, was a good

day to be an artificial life

form. In Tokyo, Sega Toys Ltd.

unveiled its robot dog Poo-Chi.

Sega plans to launch its fake

canine on 1 April — which is

probably only a coincidence

— with "women in their

20s" as its intended human

companions. Poo-Chi is more

robot puppy than dog, measuring

just under 7 inches from head to

tail. Young ladies clutching its

cold, tiny frame to their lonely

chests will see their new

almost-pets move their ears and

legs when talked to, wink on

occasion, and display up to six

moods through yelping and

heart-shaped eye lights —

four more emotions than are

displayed by many

flesh-and-blood dogs. Sega

acknowledges that its

electronic canine has limited

functions compared to Aibo,

Sony's expensive purebred and

1999 media star: As Scott Wolf

is to Tom Cruise, as Vince

Carter is to Michael Jordan,

Poo-Chi is to Aibo. But Poo-Chi

has one thing going for it

that no Sharper Image–ready

doggie ever will: People like to

throw their cheap toys away.

Poo-Chi, at US$30, may enjoy

success less as a robotic dog

than as an artificial hamster.

As a cold shiver passed through

denizens of dog shelters

throughout Tokyo, the British

turned their attention to

another form of penned animal,

the television broadcaster.

The UK's Press Association (PA)

announced the unveiling of a

virtual broadcaster, named

Ananova, to read the news on the

group's Web site. Through the

power of desperate press copy,

PA New Media has granted its

talking head the kind of nuanced

personality Dr. Frankenstein

could have only dreamed of.

Ananova is "quietly intelligent

... enjoys sport statistics, The

Simpsons, Mozart and ... Oasis."

All of which makes her sound

like a lonely teenage boy's

fantasy girl, except for the

fact that she's a head without a

body, making her pretty much the

opposite of a teenage boy's

fantasy girl. (If the body

existed, however, we're told it

would be an impressive 5 feet 8

inches tall.) The 28-year-old

Ananova had little to say on her

own behalf, and some doubts

surrounding her ability to

convey mood and inflection

appropriate to each news story

have us holding out hope for

bizarre, Dan Rather–style

line readings and the occasional

temper tantrum. If it sounds

like we're dismissing Ananova

outright, well, we are. As PA

New Media implies in its

publicity material, what the

launch of Ananova's broadcast

career really means is that the

individual news watcher will

soon be able to customize

"anchormen" and "anchorwomen" to

aid in news consumption. The

problem is that most people

don't come to the news brimming

with imagination; in fact, after

a run of oddities (a talking

raccoon!) and celebrities

(Angelina Jolie!), we suspect

most people will settle back

into a steady diet of blandly

handsome, soothing-voiced,

ancient white males. In fact,

someone smarter than we are is

probably, at this very moment,

securing rights to Walter

Cronkite's image in perpetuity.



Speaking of artificial life

forms, is it too much to hope

that Mr. David Bowie might

"reinvent" himself next as a

harmless, stroke-hobbled codger

in some old folks' home? Even for

those of us inclined to favor

the protean musician's many

harebrained schemes, Bowie's

identity switches — from

Aladdin Sane to Halloween Jack

to Screaming Lord Byron to Dave

"Built by Bonds" Lebenthal to

Old Man Potter — have always

entertained the entertainer more

than the audience. But now we

have to suffer through David

Bowie the Internet Visionary,

and even the noncelebrity

versions of those are intolerable.

Bowie's latest no-risk venture

involves lending his name to

BowieBanc.com, an online bank

venture completely funded by

USABancShares.com. In other

words, you're not borrowing

money or getting mortgages from

the Thin White Duke himself

— even though he can afford

it. Rather, you're doing the

online equivalent of carrying

money from the ATM back to your

apartment pressed into a CD case

of The Rise & Fall of Ziggy Stardust.

The most appropriate offerings of

BowieBanc.com are the ATM cards

and checks bearing the singer's

image. Despite the questionable

wisdom of wanting to go around

with anyone else's face on your

check card (and a healthy

nose dive in new credit card

applications that can't bode

well for these sorts of novelty

acts — remember the Ringo

Starr painting cards?), Bowie

has always been more a visual

phenomenon than an aural one.

There's no escaping the music

— BowieBanc.com customers

receive a year's free connection

through Bowie's Internet

provider, a major attraction of

which is downloadable music from

the former Tin Machine front

man. But we hope whatever Bowie

music is available in MP3 is

tuneful enough that we can black

out the unsettling thought that

an entertainer as successful as

The Man Who Fell to Earth has

really only been groundbreaking

when digging his red shoes into

debt service.



"Why do you suck, Garth Brooks?"

is the question he probably

wanted to ask, but God bless the

brave reporter who confronted

the pudgy singer at the recent

American Music Awards. The

question, which led to an angry

denouncement by Brooks, was

whether Mr. Billy

Joel in a Cowboy Hat

considered his wins in the

popularly voted awards a sign of

confidence after the Chris

Gaines "fiasco." The Chris

Gaines fiasco, as you may

recall, was Brooks' attempt to

prove to the world that he could make

a really crappy regular pop

album as opposed to just crappy

country ones, and that anybody

with the right cheekbones and an

army of makeup artists could

look somewhat like former

Soundgardener Chris Cornell.

None of the singles from Garth

Brooks in ... the Life of Chris

Gaines charted well. The album

sold 1 million of 3 million

copies after deep discounts were

made by the record label, and

the critics would have been

meaner if the whole damn thing

weren't so weird. At the press

conference, Brooks declared

himself "a little offended" by

the word "fiasco," and to the

applause of objective music

conglomerate press corps

suck-ups in the room said,

"People that think that's a

fiasco are short-minded,

unintelligent in music, (and

don't) know anything about

taking risks." Brooks also

promised that all would be

explained when the Chris Gaines

movie (The Lamb) opens at

Christmas, further declaring

that all movies will someday be

done the Chris Gaines way.

"Trust me," he said, "anybody

that has a movie in the future

that has a musical entertainer

in it will do it this way.

They'll introduce the artist a

year before." All of which

sounds very alarming, until one

thankfully realizes that no

movie studio on Earth would let

anyone who hasn't sold 100

million albums do something this

goofy. Chris Gaines is dead ...

long live the Chris Gaines spin.



Batman and Robin have been

safely out of the closet since

the 1950s. The gay community has

always known it; Dr. Frederic

Wertham in his anticomics tract

The Seduction of the Innocent

certainly knew it; and every

single unfortunate soul who has

sat through one of Joel

Schumacher's movies knows it for

sure. The only people still in

denial may be Batman and Robin's

owners at Time Warner. In

December, they blocked the

reprinting of Kelly McQuain's

short story "Je T'aime, Batman,

Je T'adore" in the second

edition of Best American Erotica

1999. McQuain's tale tells the

love story from young ward Dick

(Robin) Grayson's point of view.

What's decidedly weird is

why Time Warner would bother at

this point. Beyond the movies,

with their codpieces and rubber

butts, sexualized versions of

superhero characters have been

around satirical literature for

years, most barely disguised

versions of Time Warner

properties like Superman and

Wonder Woman. Time Warner's

comic book division has even

dealt head-on with the

Batman-Robin rumors in panel

discussions and in books about

the characters. Weirdly,

McQuain's story isn't even new

and can currently be found in

another anthology titled Wilma

Loves Betty. What may be going

on here is an example-setting

trademark dispute over the

Batman name in the title of

McQuain's story rather than a

battle over the content of the

story itself. But just in case

Time Warner had any doubts:

Guys, Batman and Robin are stone

homos. All superheroes are.

That's the point. Where the hell

have you been?



An Irish woman who passed

out on the toilet near

closing time and was locked

overnight in a Dublin pub has received more than

$5,000 in damages. When she woke

up after 2 a.m., the Searsons

Pub was closed and the bar's

owner, Guinness Ireland Group

Ltd., handled her pain,

suffering, and bar tab. We see

the largest class-action suit in

history and a 45 share on Court

TV, don't you?

courtesy of theSucksters