"a fish, a barrel, and a smoking gun"
for 20 April 2000. Updated every WEEKDAY.
Hit & Run CCXXIV



Bubble economy? What bubble

economy? As long as there's one

last brilliant idea out on the web,

somebody will come up with the

money. Speculative frenzy

reached a milestone last week

when the New York Post

discovered every possible

three-character domain had been

purchased — and so far the

only sure benefit to society is

a parlor game in which random

three-letter combinations are

typed into a browser. But

Tuesday, even as newsweeklies

hit grocery store check-out

lines clucking sobering lessons

from the market's historic drop,

the market perversely rebounded

to its earlier levels.

Unfortunately, there are signs

that what most Americans know

about finances revolves around

the creeps at H&R Block who

bungled their tax returns. USA

Today reports that the

Securities and Exchange

Commission's investor education

office received dozens of

emails last week fingering

bogeymen behind the drop —

including an intriguing

conspiracy between market movers

and a complicitous media. As

happens with high-profile news

stories, commentary quickly

devolved into a parade of the

usual suspects flogging pet

causes. Venture Capitalist Tim

Draper told the paper the

culprit was the way politicians

had undercut local school

systems — resulting in a

shortage of qualified technology

workers. Draper elaborated to

Salon, faulting the lack of

school vouchers, in part, for

the market's low numbers Friday.

(Adding, incorrectly as it turns

out, that "it won't pop up to

where it was.") The nation's

financial pundits parrot endless

variations on every high school

econ teacher's refrain, "The

market goes up, the market goes

down." But sentimental web

surfers can't help wondering if

the answer doesn't lie somewhere

in the web experience itself.

Ironically, the Newfoundland

site that billed itself as "The

End of the Internet" is now

simply another expired link.



Meanwhile, movie lovers have

come a long way from the dark

ages of 1990, when a complete

listing of every major thespian

was simply posted to Usenet with

a request that readers email

additions. Web browsers

developed a special place in

their hearts for the Internet

Movie Database, which not only

listed movie casts, but also

fueled the Kevin Bacon oracle.

More recently the site began

evolving, adding

commerce-friendly gewgaws like

movie trailers, local showtimes,

DVD rankings and daily polls and quotes.

The latest addition of a

"Celebrity News" section gave

troubling signs that the quality

of the geeky information trove

may ultimately suffer. Unlike

Lew Irwin's carefully edited Studio

Briefing, the culling of

celebrity items has been farmed

out to the World Entertainment

News Network, a meta-news

service apparently practicing

those notoriously British

journalistic standards. Citing

supermarket tipsheet The

National Examiner, WENN reports

that the stars of the big-screen

Charlie's Angels remake "fear

they may be suffering from a

curse which saw the original

Charlie's Angels stars' lives

left in tatters." Unfortunately,

WENN appears to be overstating

even the tabloid's claims about

Drew Barrymore, Cameron Diaz and

Lucy Liu. It warned only that

the film's stars should be

terrified — given the

personal and professional limbo

that hit the 70s TV show's five

stars. The only actual bad luck

the Examiner could uncover for

the modern-day action actresses

was a single skidding car —

and the fact that Drew Barrymore

is dating Tom Green (which was

bad luck in itself, even before

Green's recently reported bout

with nut cancer). In fact,

Barrymore is already suffering

an apparently unrelated curse

which has led her to act in

flaming sacks of celluloid like

The Amy Fisher Story and Wayne's

World II and appear opposite

Ed Asner in a Christmas special.

But most importantly, some

careful research reveals that

the overblown coverage of the

curse meant neglecting an even

more important story on the the

Examiner's next page. Citing a

shocking new book, the tabloid

reports that "The world as we

know it will come to an end May

5, when a rare alignment of the

sun and planets sends Earth into

a doomsday wobble that breaks

loose the polar ice caps..."



Obliviously, the web burbles

with excitement over the newest

web phenom, known only as the

"Hi Girls, Anyone Want to Chat"

guy. On a simple 150-word

GeoCities web page, the

enigmatic would-be Lothario

identifies himself as "a lonely

Asian male who would like to

have a girl friend," displaying

a single personal photo —

and one of a Mercedes. Decked

out in a polka-dot scarf, bad

Beatle haircut, and real tacky

gold necklaces — "not the

cheap ones you see many

Americans wearing" — the

aspiring chatter discoursed

briefly on his career. ("When I

was in my Indonesia, I was a

gigolo!") That's pretty much the

whole text of the page, except

for a helpful definition of the

word gigolo. Suck tried to

interview this rising web star,

but unsurprisingly, the phone

number listed on the page has

long since gone dead and

GeoCities' mail server warns us

that his inbox is, of course,

"temporarily over quota." So as

a public service, we're

declaring this meme officially

over. (Move along, folks,

nothing to see...) Within two

weeks of the page's April 1

discovery, its URL had already

appeared in over 161 Usenet

posts, sporting jaunty subject

lines like "Form an orderly

line, Ladies," and "Is this how

to get a chick" — these

witticisms being penned by

Usenetters apparently unaware

that many Western cultures

consider the first of April an

auspicious date for harmless

cozenage. Accompanied by garden

variety sarcasm urging

recipients to "pass this on to

any single ladies you know," the

page's boosters quickly dubbed

him "the new Mahir" in honor of

the Turkish accordion player

whose equally laughable web page

led to unprecedented fame. Not

to be outdone, Mahir Cagri has

now demonstrated why he's still

the web's alpha male by

installing an animated pop-up ad

on his original page that warns

"I want to kiss you again,"

promising a new page is coming

soon — and displaying an

even doofier picture.



It's a rare event when history

makes interesting news, and so

the New York Times'

resurrection of the 1953 coup in

Iran comes highly recommended.

The outlines of the plot —

in which US and UK spooks, along

with a Roosevelt and the father

of friendly fire aficionado

Norman Schwarzkopf, did the

dirty against a legitimate

government in order to beef up

the homicidal Shah — have

been known almost since the time

of the coup. In fact, one of the

story's most entertaining

passages concerns how the

1953-era Times repeated accurate

Soviet reports of the Yankee

plot without bothering to follow

them up — the Grey Lady's

version of damning the truth

with faint reporting. But the

new story arrives documented by

a "secret history" written by

Donald Wilber, one of those

Gentleman Spies who dashingly

spent half a century spreading

American-made misery to even the

most remote corners of the

earth. (One funny image has

Wilber decked out in the classic

Sand Wigger regalia —

kaffiyeh and robe — that

these T.E. Lawrence-style heroes

used to wear to show they were

down with the people whose lives

they were destroying). Among the

history's best scoops: Wilber's

knowing reference to "the

recognized incapacity of

Iranians to plan or act in a

thoroughly logical manner."

Edward Said has suggested that

Americans have absolved

themselves of the responsibility

of taking middle eastern

cultures seriously by defining

the cultures themselves as

mental illnesses. For anybody

old enough to remember how those

crazy Iranians had it in for us

in the eighties for no apparent

reason, the Wilber history may

prove enlightening. And since

we're always being accused of

not liking anything, there's a

recommendation for you: Go read

the story, and then exercise

your constitutional right to

burn the flag.

courtesy of theSucksters