"a fish, a barrel, and a smoking gun"
for 19 October 2000. Updated every WEEKDAY.

Hit & Run 10.19.00


Don't believe these claims that investigators have made "progress" in uncovering the plot against the USS Cole. America's real truth seekers have already discovered the facts the government doesn't want you to hear: The bombing of the destroyer in Yemen is this year's October Surprise. Our sources differ, however, on just who is springing the surprise. While "Silverback" favors a fairly traditional interpretation Republicans working their (no doubt extensive) Yemeni ties to thwart the Carteresque Al Gore one Alex Constantine serves a headier brew of Persian and Levantine ingredients, with the Hunt family thrown in for flavor. Meanwhile, WebTV's "David" avers that this is an eleventh-hour bid by Bill Clinton to appear presidential and boost Gore's ratings. And Dr. Fuji Kamikase contends that it just has to be Clinton's fault somehow. The atmosphere hasn't been this volatile since MI-6 had Princess Diana assassinated (an event that had its own October Surprise connections). As always, our own policy is to believe everything we hear.

Our long national nap is still not over. If Presidential politics weren't enough of a snore for you this fall, the sporting world now presents us with an equally exciting I Can't Tell Them Apart, Can You? contest in the form of a Mets-Yankees World Series. Already dubbed "the E-Z Pass Series" (a funny for local NYC commuters and one of the many inside jokes that America will need an annotated program to figure out), the series will certainly have the Big Apple going wild for a week, while the rest of us get an early start raking leaves, carving punk'ns, and, if the series goes seven games, finally sitting down to figure out what The New York Times means by the "substantial" differences in those Gore-Bush prescription drug programs. Fox Sports, which made a monster money deal to get World Series games on its network, will now have the privilege of broadcasting a contest with all the national drama of a live local cable access city council vote. FOX expects the biggest small town in America to generate even less in the ratings department than synchronized swimming from the Australian Olympics. Using America's last local series the ill-fated 1989 Giants-A's Fall Classic as a model, FOX predicts "anemic" ratings. However, if the 1989 Bay Bridge bout is the model, Suck spies a possible ratings blockbuster. Should the E-Z Pass teams generate anything like the 1989 earthquake that rocked the Bay Area at series time, we may at least enjoy the spectacle of Tim McCarver's play-by-play as the House That Ruth Built crumbles around him. Now, that'd be Pay-Per-View material.

One forlorn footnote in the Mets' march toward the series was sounded by St. Louis Cardinals first baseman Will Clark. "I will definitely take a beer over a protein shake," Clark told reporters. "I'm old school." Though his cred was not enough to lift the hapless Cards to victory, Clark's .621 postseason average tends to justify his claim. Nor can we blame an aging power hitter for claiming it's the beer, rather than the inevitable ravages of time, that turns his face doughier with each passing season. But what's dismaying is the rapidly plummeting standard for what constitutes "old school" behavior. Increasingly, it's not just OGs who are kickin' it old school. Hopelessly lame radio stations, manufacturers of compact disks, even mutual fund managers everybody's a grey eminence these days. We can understand how fantasy baseball dorks, womens' softball coaches, even fans of original-recipe, Now look you, that guy's got the best kung fu in all Manchuria-style martial arts films, would all value the appeal to an earlier, more innocent time. But more recent entries in the Old School sweepstakes have tended toward the bizarre. Are you a more dead than alive band trying to stave off irrelevance? A black Republican trying to keep it street? A purveyor of "antique foods" (a term which doesn't sound old school so much as rancid)? Have no fear, one and all ... the doors of the old schoolhouse are wide open. But why is "old school" never used as a pejorative? We've always thought of Americans as broad-minded, forward-looking people, eager to dispense with the outmoded and the moribund, impatient with yesterday's news. This is the land of the hard-to-find old folks' home. Why this sudden, Lot's wife-like turning back to the past? More disturbingly, what are the implications for the solid C-minus achievers at the New School for Social Research?

Some months ago, Aaron Spelling invested in AsSeenIn.com, a website where you can buy all the crap you see in your favorite Aaron Spelling TV shows. A good idea, sure, but frankly we don't think Spelling is capitalizing on it to the degree that he could. For a while, you could blame this on legacy franchises when the site first launched, it offered merchandise from already-extant Spelling entities like 90210, Charmed, and 7th Heaven, so the opportunities for fine-tuning the shows for maximum merchandise-pushing were limited. Meaning, yes, the characters all wear new fashions and drive new cars, and you can sell those things, but is that the kind of sales business that works best on TV? Quick answer to anyone who has ever watched the Shop At Home Network: No! Spelling is a smart guy, though, so when we heard he was coming out with a new night-time soap, Titans, we figured he'd have it all figured out: Titans, the saga of a rich, scheming family of sports memorabilia collectors and cheap jewelry aficionados. Now that would move some product on AsSeenIn.com. But apparently Spelling is not quite as smart as we've always given him credit for, because based on the reviews we've read about Titans, there was nary a Mark McGwire rookie card in sight on the first episode...

Counted highly among the Web's killer apps are the twin joys news and nudity. But why spend five minutes a day on each when you can get them bundled together in one handy block of full-frontal information transfer? The Naked News features what every horny news junkie has long dreamed of: a quick summary of important stories, read by nude women. Offering better journalism than most local newscasts and better visual aids than Wolf Blitzer's furry mug, the Naked News serves up the whole deal headlines, weather, sports, and business all without tan lines. And though the death toll from the latest Middle East fighting can take on a surreal edge when it's presented by a woman removing her bra, the Naked News heralds a whole new method of repurposing content. What info-commodity out there stock quotes, weblogs, snotty daily essays couldn't be perked up with a little nudity? Coming soon: a whole new Suck. Volunteers wanted.

Ever since Knight-Ridder relocated its corporate headquarters from Miami to San Jose, its top execs have rested their hopes for the newspaper chain's Webified future on the San Jose Mercury News. Which is why we're surprised to hear that the Merc's long-running website, Mercury Center, is getting retired in favor of BayArea.com. (An earlier move to SiliconValley.com didn't take among other things, it clashed with the paper's ambitions to move its circulation base north to San Francisco, where Explorer-driving dot-commers strongly resist the notion that they've got anything to do with boring, dirty semiconductor plants.) This latest shift in Web plans smells more like a cost-cutting move: BayArea.com carries content from the Merc as well as the Contra Costa Times, a paper covering suburbs so far east of San Jose that they barely register on BayArea.com's DNS. Perhaps the money they save will let them pay for the wage hikes the newspaper's carriers are demanding. But what we'll miss most about Mercury Center is the charmingly ludicrous cover artwork that graced the homepage: a collage that reveals the small-town souls of the Merc's newshawks. One suspects that the hardbitten, mustachioed hack slinking around in a trenchcoat and fedora portrayed on Mercury Center's mural is just a bit too old media to survive on the newspaper's shiny new homepage.

courtesy of the Sucksters