"a fish, a barrel, and a smoking gun"
for 29 March 1996. Updated every WEEKDAY.

You're Killing Me


[Roach Belly]

Mr. Samsa was no cockroach,

lectured the lepidopterist, with

mock pomposity, while the

assorted Janes and Joans of his

literature class looked on in

admiration. He was such a master

of tone that even the most naive

among his students could savor

the joke: a real professor

professing would speak exactly

this way (though more stupidly),

but when their professor did it,

he dressed the pedagogical pill

in a jacket of parody. Aren't we

all just so smart?



Serving up the unpalatable with a

wink and nod is the top selling

media strategy of today, and if

it isn't usually handled with

quite such aplomb, that's okay,

since the overall intelligence

of the viewing public has

probably decreased since Joan

and Jane went to Cornell.

Choke-A-Roach, the joke, is

selling briskly, or so we hope,

since the stunningly awful

background color (boric acid for

your eyes) and kiddingly

hyperbolic anti-roach propaganda

puts it squarely in the current

of the mainstream. But though

the good professor's objections

were etymological, a

psychological analysis would

have produced similar

conclusions. Samsa couldn't have

been a cockroach, because he was

too sad. Cockroaches live on

garbage and are happy.



The arachnid, too, has never

seemed perfect as a totem for

the vampires and bug-eaters of

the net, and perhaps it would be

better if the spider (along with

all those sad graphics that seem

to mix Batman, Spiderman, and

E.B. White) would bid

salutations to a more suitable

figure of insincere worship. The

geniuses who first understood

this created Bad Mojo. The first

time you pop in the CD-ROM, it

seems broken. Nothing works. You

can't click anywhere. Then you

press the arrow keys and you're

off. The essence of

interactivity: move forward,

move back, turn left or right -

like in Asteroids, except you're

an insect.


[Bad Mojo]

Bad Mojo is all forward motion,

sudden changes in perspective,

and love of garbage - much like

browsing the Web, but without

the cache clean-up. There is no

reason to stop, ever. A tiny

little drama unfolds - death in

childbirth is part of it, and

morbid memories, and more

garbage. Very little happens.

The little videos contained

within the game are dull and

pretentious and self-referential -

soon you learn to hit the

escape key to avoid them. Then

you can crawl across the floor

in peace. You stop thinking. You

have reached your goal.



But maybe the plot is not

entirely superfluous. The

cockroach is our great survivor,

our symbol of species

immortality. The Viennese quack

said the death instinct was

inherent in individuals, but as

a species we seek to copulate

and live. Nasty bugs die by the

thousands with every can of

Raid, and are reborn in

thousands of identical,

inexterminatable neighbors. You

know how people see the Web as a

Whitmanesque merge of all into

all? Well, in the end, you get a

bunch of cockroaches. That's

called progress, in the sense

that Freud meant when he wrote

that civilization had not yet

progressed to the advanced state

already achieved by insects and




The first thing that happens in

Bad Mojo is you crawl through a

stove and hear the sound of the

gas flame burning. The blue jets

shiver realistically. At this

point, how could one not move

toward the burner and wonder,

"Is it possible to die?"


It is.



There is a superficial sadness to

Bad Mojo, and a deep glee. In

the race to reduce ourselves to

cockroach status, why not take a

little pleasure along the way?

Love the flame. Others do. Want to


courtesy of Dr. McLoo