"a fish, a barrel, and a smoking gun"
for 5 October 2000. Updated every WEEKDAY.

Hit & Run 10.5.00


It's a sure sign that Red Hat Linux is maturing into a real competitor to Windows when the latest release is interrupted by an embarrassing crash. Anyone who ordered the shiny new Red Hat 7 last Monday and tried to check the status of their shipment on Wednesday or Thursday was told that the company's sales computers were down. The only way Red Hat could save face here would be to claim that they run NT.

This isn't Red Hat's first brush with Microsoft-grade humiliation. The most popular distribution of the great geek hope has been plagued with carelessly-configured, easily-exploitable security holes since the years-old version 6 appeared, giving it the reputation among script kiddies as the open source Outlook. Version 7 is supposed to patch those holes, of course, but that line sounds awfully familiar to anybody who has ever dealt with, well, Redmond.

In fact, given Red Hat's success - both financially and in putting an increasingly bloated and buggy operating system on every desktop they can get their hands on — maybe the much-rumored Microsoft Linux already exists.

We noted with sorrow the passing of Rev. Ellwood E. "Bud" Kieser during the month of September. While obituarists duly noted the "Hollywood Priest"'s most easily quantifiable achievements — establishing the Humanitas prize for good works in the entertainment industry, attracting A-list (or at least, B+-list) talent to his projects — it was left to the true Budniks to appreciate the many flavors of Father Bud's magnum opus, the long-running anthology/morality television show Insight. On the air from 1960 to 1983, and still occasionally available for spotting by early-Sunday-morning TV hawks (a demographic that consists almost entirely of pre-schoolers and remorseful Saturday night revelers — prime audiences for Jesus Christ's message of salvation), Insight was a far cry from the dumbed-down pieties of Davy and Goliath or any of the religious shows lapped up by Rod and Todd Flanders. It was Father Bud who recognized that the most prominent popular theologian of the modern age was not Thomas Merton or Pierre Tielhard de Chardin, but Rod Serling. That sense of vertigo that accompanied the best denouements in The Twilight Zone always came more from the spiritual void than from merely clever writing, and Father Bud knew just The Man to fill that void. As a result, Insight was almost always free of direct religious messaging, instead delivering its Eucharist in a coating of crazy-man-crazy setups (Last Man On Earth plots were always reliable) and direct lifts from Serling (one episode borrowed Zone's "Six Characters in Search of an Exit" plot, which was itself an unabashed theft from Pirandello). Of the many clones of the The Twilight Zone that have sprung up over the past four decades, Insight actually came closest to capturing the original's blend of minimalist production value, avant-garde theatrical writing, and finger-wagging irony. You never knew where Insight was heading. In one episode, a bored housewife would booze her life away amid suggestive flashbacks (a possible nod to the French nouvelle vague), in another an old man (Chico and the Man's Jack Albertson) and a little boy try to cope in a world populated entirely by computers. In early episodes, Father Bud himself would appear for an intro and outtro, his resemblance to The Family Circus's Bil Keane giving the ethereal show a comforting domestic grounding. Over the years, the variety of writing and acting talent attracted to the show's format permitted forays into comedy and straightforward domestic drama. Inevitably, Serling himself showed up to pen one episode — a paradoxical but heartfelt plea against anti-Semitism. "People liked to work for Bud because they did good stories," says Rev. Frank Desiderio, C.S.P., Father Bud's successor as head of Paulist Productions. "People thought of it as experimental theater, rather than commercial television. Especially the writers." It may be impossible to appreciate this show outside of its time. The Insight period was more than just the pre-cable age; it encompassed two of the most turbulent decades in American history, when it became clear that the nation could no longer be held together by coercion or fear of common enemies. With a country rapidly descending into a Hobbesian nightmare of Yippies against Guardsmen, children against parents, coked-up disco lizards against yahoos in Devils jerseys, few voices in the media still argued that the sensibilities of the longhair could still be brought into harmony with the principles of the crewcut (or the tonsure, as the case may be). Insight was one of them. For helping America keep it all together, we wish Father Bud peace and boffo ratings in the next world.

With memories of the Reform Party convention becoming mistier and more water-colored by the day, the gluttonous few who find their hunger for strange bedfellows unsated need only turn their gaze toward New England, where a few liberal types from the suit-wearing section of the reproductive rights debate are going to bat for a woman who denies the existence of the United States on religious grounds, believes the use of modern medicine during childbirth is a distortion of God's Plan and almost certainly hasn't read Our Bodies, Ourselves.

Rebecca Corneau, a member of a conservative Christian group that teaches women to honor their husbands as second only to God, became a sort of feminist heroine after a Massachusetts judge ordered her confined to a state hospital to ensure the safety of her unborn child. Prosecutors in the case contend that one of Corneau's other children and a second child from the group she belongs to died because their parents would not seek medical care (The unborn child's father was sprung from the clink last week, after doing three months for failing to cooperate with an investigation into the other child's death). Prosecutors argue further that the moral priority of protecting the unborn child trumps the "technical, legal, right-or-wrong" issues of locking up a woman with no drug addictions, no proven criminal history, and no medical condition that would prevent her from bearing a healthy child.

Possibly concerned that establishing refusal to seek prenatal care as a criterion for imprisonment would flood a prison system still waiting nervously for the day the Kennedy family loses its de facto immunity from conviction, Massachusetts District Court Judge Kenneth Nasif chose instead to base his decision on auditory hallucination. Nasif announced during the hearing that he could hear the voice of fetus speaking to him. "And it said, 'I want to live. I do not want to die. I do not want to die like my brother Jeremiah did."

With issues surrounding women's rights to bodily integrity at stake and a guaranteed shot at looking like the sane ones, lawyers for the American Civil Liberties Union and a Boston reproductive rights attorney have weighed in on Corneau's side, all the while tacitly acknowledging that she probably lumps them in with the rest of the hell-bound. Corneau, who is expected to deliver any day, has made a pointedly civil showing, refusing the services of an attorney, politely ignoring Nasif's demands that she visit a nurse, responding to prosecutors' questions in monosyllables and, given the tenor of this particular case, showing that crazy really might depend on where you pitch your tent.

Last month, Pseudo.com completed its transformation from "TV you won't see on TV" to "TV you won't see," laying off 180 employees. Ironically, the day their online show BizTalk2000 was cancelled, its scheduled guest was Pud from FuckedCompany.com, who reported that an announcement of his appearance remained trapped in limbo on Pseudo.com's front-page for the next two weeks. Meanwhile, the October issue of Yahoo! Internet Life hit newsstands with a gushy profile of the New York-based creativity workhouse. (We haven't given up hope that somebody might do a gushy profile of YIL itself, and inadvertently trigger that magazine's demise.) YIL did report presciently that "Pseudo could turn out to be a failed ego trip taken by a bunch of kids burning through other people's money" — but then followed up by noting how important first-mover advantages had been for eBay and Amazon. Fans can console themselves by taking a bittersweet stroll through web articles predicting success — a December Wired News article asking "Is Pseudo.com the real thing?" and CEO Bohrman's prediction in YIL that there was plenty of money out there and "we can begin to be picky about funding." Founder Joshua Harris also shared his vision in a June issue of Time magazine. ("Harris, of course, hopes eventually to get this on prime-time network television. Harris is out of his gourd.") Now there's little left except poignant reminscences about the glory days. YIL also describes 19-year-old Jess Zaino's accidental hiring after crashing a New York party ("Zaino recalls that she almost drank herself into a stupor before proclaiming she'd 'lick the floors to work here'...") and mentions a presumably-unrelated sexual harassment lawsuit in January. We feel a little guilty that we haven't actually tuned into the site since 1996, just a few years after they evolved from their earlier incarnation — moderating chat rooms on Prodigy. But we're not alone. The problem seems to be that the audience was limited to a few hundred thousand viewers, according to YIL, but with 16 million people predicted to be able to view their content ... in the year 2005. Alas, you can only extrapolate growth curves for so long, and though they'd formed an integral part of Pseudo's ongoing coverage of the burgeoning southeast Asian underground music scene, Veena and Neena, the identical twin boa constrictor belly dancers, will have to seek employment elsewhere.

courtesy of The Sucksters