"a fish, a barrel, and a smoking gun"
for 29 March 2001. Updated every WEEKDAY.

Hit & Run 03.29.01


Hit & Run XXVII
If you thought peddling Madonna's pap smear was wacked, get a load of Endangered Feces...
Five years ago today in Suck.

After much pushing and sweating and grunting and swearing, Apple managed to birth the long-gestating Mac OS X last week, dropping the yowling package, wet and sticky, into the laps of Mac users. The candy-coated OS with the gooey UNIX center may not be what "usability experts" or "people who know what they're doing" want, but it's good to see Apple re-writing their operating system once every seventeen years or so, whether it needs it or not. And while the unfamiliar new interface has the potential to alienate the whopping three percent of computer users who still give a crap about the Mac, the FreeBSD-based core of OS X gives Apple the chance to gather up the five or six UNIX users who are willing to trade their free Linux distributions for a $130 operating system that can't burn CD-ROMs yet. But at least the merger of UNIX and Mac OS gives users of both something to talk about other than their shared hatred of Microsoft: their shared hatred of each other.

Not that Microsoft is willing to abandon its lead in the target-of-hate department. As with any announcement out of Redmond, the people who get all worked up over these sorts of things are all worked up over HailStorm, Redmond's first offering from the .NET initiative. HailStorm is a bevy of inter-related network services — myProfile, myContacts, myCalendar, myDocuments, the ever-important myWallet, and mySubservianceToGates, among many, many others — and it allows you to migrate your data from your desktop computer to the network itself, where all of it will be accessible from any location and any device. What makes HailStorm (and .NET) different from previous Microsoft attempts to conquer the planet is the system's reliance on open standards, SOAP and XML, which allow anybody to build clients to request — and servers to respond with — .NET services. In theory, at least. If the vast majority of the population can't manage to change the default start page on their browsers, what chance do they have to configure their .NET applications? And with the market-dominating Office tightly integrated into .NET (and its defaults set to Microsoft's servers) the odds of anybody stemming Microsoft's leap from desktop monopoly to total network domination are rapidly approaching nil. Microsoft use of open standards is giving a whole new meaning to the term "leveling the playing field."

"The official home of Bozo The Clown and Laurel & Hardy," reads the forlorn message on the web site of Larry Harmon Pictures Corp. — a site that will probably never get past the "Coming Soon" stage now that Bozo is getting the ultimate hook. WGN-TV in Chicago has canceled its Bozo Super Sunday Show, the final vestige of that station's once-vast kids' TV lineup and the last of 183 locally-produced Bozo shows that once spanned the nation. For anybody except Windy City residents of a certain age, this particular brand hasn't been heard from since George Herbert Walker Bush dubbed Clinton and Gore "bozos," and the outpouring of grief for the Chicago show may seem like that particular spectacle of our age — nostalgia for something you don't actually remember. Moreover, the show's demise has a logical explanation in America's steadily increasing distaste for and horror of clowns. (At some elemental level, Bozo will always be remembered as John Wayne Gacy's thirty-fourth victim.)

But the demise of the clown show points to a broader and sadder trend — the withering of locally produced kids' TV. Reading about the relentless encroachment of cable on the under-8 market, it's easy to envision the US on a World At War-style strategy map, with the Bozo flag over Chicago being the last holdout against countless Nickelodeon and Disney Channel logos. Anybody who remembers the one-camera, quick-change entertainment culture from which countless Bozos and Romper Rooms grew — the world of the Lemon Joke Kid's groaners and Captain Noah's slurred reveries — knows that we're not losing much in the way of quality. But what of the loss to regional memory? Long before anybody discussed audience fragmentation, Americans grew up with locally specific TV educations. To see adults doing a misty-eyed "Where are the shows of yesteryear?" routine may be pathetic, but that is pathos in the true form of the word. Now, with only Krusty the Clown keeping alive the conceit of local children's programming as a viable genre (in the same way Jerry Springer would have us believe America is still a land rich in regional accents), it may be time to mourn all those Pixannes and Gene Londons who have vanished from the airwaves and are now disappearing even from memory. Like the Etruscan poets or Rodney Allen Rippey, they are points of reference grown so obscure you can't even use them as examples of obscurity.

Don't forget that Tuesday is Back the Net day — not to be confused with Leave Insane Messages for your Boyfriend day (which, like Children's Day, is every day). No doubt you have received a few copies of Michael Tchong's viral marketing plan to save the web as we know it. Tchong's scheme to have the battered remnants of netizenry spend April 3 buying stock in or products from staggering dotcoms has been met with a combination of skepticism and ridicule. But you know, way back when, even Suck made its page black to protest web censorship, so we know from pointless web-ins. Then again, web censorship died a court-ordered death soon after that black page campaign, so maybe there was something to it. The bottom line is that we're free to say "fart" any time we like. Fart.

But the macroeconomic issue here is obvious, and it has little to do with perking up the stock of Amazon. In short, any time a member of the Bush family is in the White House, the economy is in the toilet. It's at least as axiomatic as the link between hemlines and stock prices. Clearly, we won't rise above this slump until we do something about the Bushes — and not just George W but the whole family, from Barr and Poppy all the way down to Millie and Neil. You want to be a good citizen? Send an urgent message to your Senator or Representative:


I'm tired of business as usual in Washington! As a registered [YOUR STATE] voter, I insist that the entire Bush family be paraded naked through the streets of Baghdad in cages. This is a pocketbook issue for all Americans, and I'll remember how you vote on this issue come November!



If you're afraid you might run afoul of that "making terroristic threats against the President" rule, there are other ways to participate. You must have a few Novenas to St. Jude lying around that you've been meaning to send out to ten friends; what are you waiting for? And why not just send some money directly to Suck? We deserve to survive more than any of these pricks.

Whatever you do, get out there and shop. Your country's depending on you.

What are you doing to save the Web? Come up with some ideas in today's Plastic discussion

courtesy of the Sucksters

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