"a fish, a barrel, and a smoking gun"
for 13 February 1996. Updated every WEEKDAY.

Fluff Love



Every year, clever 8th-graders

around the U.S. recognize that

Lennie's fur fetish, so integral

to Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men,

has far more value as a starting

point for a lewd wisecrack than

as a character-developing

idiosyncrasy. Tough love or

snuff love? By the time Lennie

graduates from murdering mice to

icing the farmer's flirty wife,

even the slow kids are ready for

a lesson in the concept of

"sexual sublimation."


[Cat House]

We've come a long way when the

kids are trading kicks from

Steinbeck for Justin's

Lascivious Links, but while it's

no surprise that sites which

cater to a young Webster's

thirst for T & A rack up the

net's most notorious VPLs

(Visible Profit Lines), it's

less obvious that a site that is

more literally a Cat House could

nuzzle its way into world wide



[Hello Kitty]

But with the Netcom bill chilling

the nipples of epicurians

everywhere (and with many

commercial porn sites already

dismantled), smart providers

will have to look above private

parts towards the middle ground -

and they'll be right to do so.

Mankind's basest instinct isn't

to fuck, it's to cuddle. Or

perhaps, in our darkest

fantasies, it's to do both -

hence the counter-intuitive but

entirely appropriate domain

names (and services) of

"persiankitty.com" and

"candyland.com." We'll just bet

that these are the groups in the

best position to recoup and

ultimately profit should the

direst predictions of the

Cassandras of the EFF come true.


[Push Toy]

After all, the instincts aren't

so far apart - warm, pliant, and

fuzzy just about covers all the

bases. It's no accident that

sometimes the line between

"plush toy" and "push toy" gets

a little blurry.



Ask the denizens of any

middle-sized Midwestern town and

they'll tell you - the outskirts

of town melt quickly from

massage parlors to

lawn-ornamented tract homes. We

predict that our Levittown of

home pages will follow suit.

After hardcore erotica comes

cuddle porn, as emotionally

bankrupt and as cynical as any

Al Goldstein proposition.

Digital pundits in search of

cyber-metaphor prefer to trope

upon the structure of their own

environs - they call the Web a

downtown or a trading floor. The

sad truth is, it's a strip mall.



If it were as simple or as sad as

Fluffy's home page, if it were

as strangely fascinating as the

queasy surrealism of the Sanrio

corporation, we could laugh

about it. But who can look at

the eerily womb-like

"Cuddle-In-A-Bubble" from Unique

Gifts for Special People and not

sense that something far more

sinister is at work?


[Keane Eyes]

Could William Gibson have

imagined that the iconography of

cyberspace would head not in the

direction of Tron slickness or

H. R. Giger ectomorphs, but instead

veer toward ponies and kittens,

Precious Moments figurines, and

Keane Eyes portraits? These

images of sad-eyed waifs with

encephalitic heads and glaucomatous

eyes are as haunting as any

cyborg born of Philip K. Dick, and

just as seductive.


[Why Cats Paint]

Don't let the target audience

fool you - these gingham-checked

grandmas are as lustful as any

trench-coated flasher. And don't

think that you're above the

coming onslaught, because for

every Family-Circle-reading,


bumpkin, there's a Martha

Stewart wanna-be who shamelessly

displays the coffee table

edition of "Why Cats Paint."



Face it, cute is impossible to

repel - it is a force whose

energy can only be transformed.

And if you think irony's the

answer - know that it's just a

symptom, not a solution. In the

perversion of cute to kitsch,

the only difference is the

degree to which we admit its

emptiness. Turn cute back on

itself and all you get is the

flatly uncompelling art of Frank

Kozik. Do we really need the

Campbell's Soup kid represented

as Shiva in order to get the


courtesy of Ann O'Tate