"a fish, a barrel, and a smoking gun"
for 1 March 2001. Updated every WEEKDAY.

Hit and Run 4.19.01

If only the companies lasted as long as the advertising.

While IBM's "Peace, Love and Linux" corporate-graffiti campaign is failing to disappear as promised, several Open Source companies are washing away like chalk in the rain. Selling a dollar for ninety cents might not have been a great strategy for the dot-coms, but hitching your business plan to something your customers can get for free (and elsewhere) is an even worse one. Stormix, gone. SourceXchange, closed. Linuxgruven, busted. TurboLinux, destaffed. SuSE, deported. Idrema, fragged. Red Hat, shriiiiinking. And while Open Source software doesn't die when companies do, programmers who can't afford to eat have an unfortunate tendency toward mortality.

But what of IBM? What of the big blue white knight? What of their billion dollar investment in Linus Torvalds's got-out-of-hand experiment? What of peace, love and Linux? OS/2, baby, OS/2. IBM's last insanely expensive OS push resulted in a rock solid, pug-ugly system that was crushed underneath Microsoft's looming future-of-computing juggernaut. Sound familiar?

Of course, not all Open Source projects have to suffer through lives that are nasty, brutish and short. Take Mozilla, for instance. At the rate they're going, it'll never be out.

Michael Chabon, whose multiple movie deals, decade-long tenure as a Literary It Boy, 2001 Pulitzer prize and goofily engaging, Robby Bensonesque good looks would all seem to make him a worthy target of scorn and hatred, unexpectedly earned our gratitude this week — and not just because his prizewinning The Amazing Adventures Of Kavalier & Clay is actually good. No, what won our respect was the way Chabon declined to give a funny interview to Fred "Metascene" Pyen. Metascene's series of self-consciously zany questions may or may not have made for an amusing interview (though it's only fair to note that the best query — "What literary or artistic figure (living or dead) would you most like to get into a fistfight with? Why?" — is a direct lift from Fight Club). But it was Chabon's manner of begging off, briefly pleading an un-BELIEVE-ably bloated inbox, that demonstrated the values of brevity and succinctness America's swelling pride of literary lions so desperately needs. A healthy willingness to get to the point has been sadly lacking for some time among our publishing scenesters. These days, when the model for youngish, hearth-throbby men of letters is a preening, long-winded Little Lord Fauntleroy given to publishing 10,000-word screeds against reporters who fail to kiss his ass enthusiastically enough — well, we just wonder what kind of message it's sending to the children. Kudos to Chabon for remembering when to keep 'er short. We look forward to writing a fawning Suck profile about what a "refreshingly down to earth" belletrist he is.

Lately the sense of Weltschmerz on the Web has been so overpowering that we welcome any indication somebody may be worse off than we are. And this week at least, the Online Journalism Review's reports from the National Association of Broadcasters convention in Las Vegas have been providing this much-needed spiritual laxative. It's hard to tell whether the greater part of the suffering is being done by the vastly depleted NAB or by dyspeptic columnist Ken Layne, whose combination of personal sob story and industry thanatopsis constitutes a sort of anti-gonzo journalism. To read this coverage is to relive all the unique horror of being a no-profile reporter covering a conference: The feigned conversational interest; the panicky, mutually unwelcome cornerings in hallways between working sessions; the busy-work attempts to cull sources among display booth schnooks; the pathetic hoarding of blueberry danishes; the overwhelming urge just to stay in the press room reading that copy of Hunger you crammed into your laptop case. Still, while NAB — a lobbying group with less political clout than the TV networks that used to be members — can still attract comedy geniuses like Lou Dobbs and Jack Valenti as headliners, it's the organization that's really suffering. Layne's depiction of the group's forced merriment and sense of dawning obsolescence, some memorable descriptions (high definition television makes news anchors look "like grotesque, makeup-crusted whores"), and a rogues' gallery of pious monopolists and phony baloney public servants make this the feel-good story of the year. Read about NAB and your own problems don't seem so bad anymore.

With the Sucksters' penchant for nonstop, overflowing, Joyce Maynard-like self-revelation, you might think that by now you've been subjected to every one of our many moods. But one side of Suck's multiple personality — the guitar-strumming, party-ruining side — may come as news to you. We were, um, proud as punch to learn that the author of Suck's popular Wednesday musings is also part of a musical combo (or "group," as the kids say) that has inflicted not one but two albums on an unsuspecting world. As T.S. Eliot's boss at Lloyds Bank said, "It's fine to have this hobby, so long as you keep your mind on your work!" What we're really worried about, though, is what our Senior Editor's next effort will be, now that she's established herself as a multimedia artiste. A one-woman show as Hannah Arendt at the Tamarind Theater? A sacrilegious video installation at the Brooklyn Museum of Art? An awe-shuckin', Affleckian flirtation with parliamentary politics? The possibilities, we're afraid, are limitless. Meanwhile, the de facto Filler soundtrack is available for free sampling or even purchase!

Show off your many moods in today's Plastic discussion

courtesy of The Sucksters

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