"a fish, a barrel, and a smoking gun"
for 25 January 2001. Updated every WEEKDAY.

Hit & Run 01.25.01


We'd like to congratulate Jandek on the release of his twenty-ninth album in twenty-three years, Put My Dream On This Planet — close to an hour of our hero apparently mumbling into a Dictaphone. For those unfamiliar with the Jandek phenomenon, he's a Texan... well, "musician" is one way of putting it... who moans a sort of DSM-IV vers libre, usually while picking at a thoroughly non-tuned guitar, in the same sense that one picks at one's food. His uniquely painful and strangely addictive oeuvre, all released by the otherwise nonexistent Corwood label, is marked by an indistinct snapshot on every album cover. (Leading Jandek scholar Seth Tisue's note on the new disc's artwork: "I see a bent, sleeved arm. If you can make out anything else, let me know.") Jandek has never performed in public or consented to an interview. He's occasionally accused of perpetrating a dilettantish art project, but if you do something on a regular basis for over two decades, are you really a dilettante? In any case, Jandek deserves praise for his total non-interest in fame and willingness to hide behind a pseudonym. Of course, where reclusiveness goes, a camera cult surely follows, and the tribute album can't be far behind. One stalker has even posted photos of Jandek's P.O. box, the post office that contains it, and the Yellow Pages listing for Corwood. And since a web presence for the man himself is out of the question, somebody else has set up a Corwood site, consisting of a scanned copy of the mail-order catalogue. We suspect it's the only case of beneficent cybersquatting on record.

So much for the fearsome efficiency of Canadian justice. Even after Suck informed the people in charge that the perpetrator of last year's huge denial of service attack on popular Web sites was both a teenager and a Canuck, it took the Mounties a full two months to bust "Mafiaboy." And now that they've finally managed to beat a confession out of him — the unnamed sixteen-year-old pleaded guilty to 55 of 65 counts — he must pay the price for his crimes. Or, roughly, $11.82 per.

Mafiaboy will be billed a thousand comical Canadian "dollars" (US$650) for shutting down some of the Web's biggest players for days at a time. Sure, he also faces the possibility of up to two years in prison — cushy, Canadian prison — but the laughably light punishment can only encourage other, smarter, less chatroom-mouthy kids to take a whack at the same low-hanging fruit.

Because if some bored, north-of-the-border teen can cause $1.7 billion in "damage" — as if shutting down Amazon could be considered damaging it — then somebody else will surely take a whack at even bigger fish: the root nameservers, maybe, or major backbone routers; something to really cause a ruckus.

Here's some advice, kid: Be sure you're in Canada when you give it a try. They're softies up there.

The best example of making Now money with Old ideas since the razor wheelie scooter craze has come along in the form of a hep new line of Aladdin thermoses. No doubt aimed at those aging Gen Xr's love of blue collar accouterment like gas station jackets, gabardine pants, and work boots in which to read Gear, this is exactly what we'd bring to work with us if we didn't have a coffee machine down the hall. Extreme beverages for an extreme nation, we guess, but these babies are attitude packed with black tops, stainless steel hulls shaped for SUV drink holders, and metal-worked cut designs from swirled and diamondback patterns to just plain steel. Looking back to the clunky red and black plaid plastic model T(hermos) of our youth with the big plastic red cup for a cap, the new line suggests that Joe Aladdin or whoever founded the company dropped his Ray Ban sportin' frat-age nephew into the marketing dept. and chilled the place out. They don't have "This Ain't Your Daddy's Thermos!" stamped on them (yet), but they have been dubbed the "retro" series, even though drinking joe from a stoic cup like this looks like a retrofit back to the spare-and-no-flair first five-year-plan of Joe Stalin. Perhaps anticipating America's economic hard times to come, Aladdin's hot/cold new line means business. Hopefully this will encourage other standard rust belt type companies to go for that Gen Xr keepin' it real dollar. We look forward to seeing Lawnboy's new Classic 60s Muscle Car mower or Black & Decker's only to be dreamed of Strate Edge Punk Power Tool series, complete with body pierce features.

We hope we're not crowding William Safire this week, but it's a question of language. Immediately after the headline "Jesse Jackson's Love Child" appeared on the cover of the National Enquirer, the phrase was picked up by Matt Drudge, Chris Matthews, and more than 125 newspapers by our most recent count. Somehow, it's hard to imagine an Orrin Hatch or Antonin Scalia baby referred to as anything but a somber "child born out of wedlock," but when the resilient Reverend is involved, it's always time for a Supremes reference. (By comparison, German tennis legend Boris Becker rates a measly five "love child" mentions in coverage of his ongoing paternity suit.) Whether it's a typically lazy use of American English or a covert racial slur, the term is inexact. Jackson's baby is now two years old, and if we're going to throw out our Chicago Manual of Style for a moldy old 1937 copy of the Hearst Guide, then we must point out that at two, she is no longer a "love child," but more properly, a "pickaninny" (which Webster also allows as "picaninny"). African-Americans — who are once again disenfranchised voters living under Confederate flags, whose Civil Rights protection will soon depend on an Attorney General fond of giving interviews to Southern Partisan, character-assassinating black judges, and speaking his mind at colleges that ban interracial dating — are experiencing a retro-push even Aladdin thermoses can't match. If journalists are going to employ such adventurous language as "shufflin'," "mammy," "sambo," and "feets do yo stuff," we hope they'll do so with the care and diligence that our citizens expect and deserve.

In the interest of keeping consumers aware of the system but powerless to change it, it will soon be possible to check your FICO credit rating online. The rating, namesake of Fair, Isaac & Co., is used by everyone from banks to slumlords when determining what a customer will pay for a loan. The scores grew in prominence during the 90s, as giant lending institutions like Fannie Mae sought to make the process for applying for a loan even more faceless and cruel. The big question: How many people will learn that they didn't get that home loan because they failed to fulfill their membership agreement with Columbia House? As if anything could make that unopened Paula Cole CD in the corner any more humiliating.

"Clumsy and dispirited, sly, without intellectual, aesthetic, or spiritual interest." That was Auberon Waugh's father Evelyn, on the subject of his 7-year-old son. The English journalist Auberon Waugh, who died last week at 61, did his best to live up to this early judgment. He grew into a mediocre novelist, regarded as second rate to the renowned Evelyn. Thus, Auberon Waugh was the Frank Sinatra, Jr. of modern English letters. Yet he was a chip off the old man's stony heart. Like Evelyn Waugh, son Auberon was prudish, elitist, racist, sexist and suffused with brandy-fueled indignation. Both shared an Ignatius J. Reilly-style reverence for the glories of the medieval catholic church — a longing evinced in fondness for the royal blue of stained glass windows at Chartres and nostalgia for a time when the peasants knew enough to bow when the gentry rode by. Consider Auberon Waugh's most famous misdeed: causing a stink on British television by claiming that Americans "are fat, they wear disgusting clothing, and they eat too many hamburgers." Here, Auberon was putting into words what's in the hearts of all true Britons and all too many coastal Americans visiting the midwest.

But Waugh's orneriness was redeemed, when, as book critic, he championed England's hilarious and lowbrow Viz Comics. Viz, though scatalogically offensive and considered vile crap by the elite, was often the most popular, consistent and dangerous expression of British satire during the 90s. And Waugh was brave enough to make light of such matters as accidentally shooting himself five times with a machine gun, the kind of incident most stateside humorists would weave into the lead of their "but, seriously folks" autobiographies. That army accident took out Bron Waugh's spleen, but you'd never know it from his writings. His nasty habit of kicking those who were down is mitigated, maybe, by his career-long habit of hurling libelous mud at those who were up. His hatred of practically everybody was a form of honesty. So many writers, of whom Waugh the Younger would certainly have disapproved, might feel kinship to him. The Unabomber penning his manifesto; the Pope-hating, Internet-ranting 15 year old disgusted with the modern world; the few utopians tapping out their bloodless essays for the Utne Reader. Everyone who winces at a too-loud stereo, who growls at some half-dressed harlot on an awards show, or who bleats when some carnivore bites into a hamburger, has unholy communion with this great, and now dead, crank.

Growl at half-dressed harlots in today's Plastic discussion.

courtesy of the Sucksters