"a fish, a barrel, and a smoking gun"
for 21 May 1996. Updated every WEEKDAY.

Pezzling Evidence



Now I'm not deriding the fine

makers of Pez candy dispensers

or their tasty candy. But the

Pez Paradox has confounded me

since I was a boy, searching out

innovative delivery systems for

my sugar cravings. But it wasn't

a sugar jones that attracted me

to Pez in the first place - it

was the cartoon characters on

Pez dispenser. That, and the

seductive blend of violence and

near-instant gratification.



Crowned with Superman's or Green

Lantern's head, the Pez

dispenser was ready to be loaded

with the tiny Pez pellets. Once

filled, snap the head back, and

the candy would appear. Not

shoot out, just show itself a

bit. Then I'd have to grab the

candy and give it a crunch. Yum.

It seemed like an awful lot of

work for such a teeny tiny payoff.

But I was hooked. Such is the

Pez Paradox.



The Pez Paradox is alive and

thriving on the Web. From the

lazy, blue, spent, nuclear-fuel-

rod glow of yet another link to

visit, to the bawdy, glaring

"Yes, of course I'm over 21,

let's see the babes" icons, it's

there, lurking like a ski-masked

stranger outside the front

window. Except this window sits

right on your desk or your lap.

You click, heart full of

anticipation, and... wait. Then,

load and behold, a fresh website

appears. A cursory glance

at the contents and then the

customary, "P.U., that's it?"

races through your brain, quicker

than a sniff from a

cloth-encased ammonia inhalant

swiped from the company's First

Aid box. All that anticipation

for what? It's the payoff on a

show bet with 2:1 odds. Not

exactly what you had expected.



And so Pez was good training for

the all-encompassing,

bittersweet, finite spiral of

joys and sorrows we call life.

Counterintuitive but

instructive nonetheless, as it

belied the idea that candy (even

mind candy) was supposed to be

fun, not work. All the

effort... the unwrapping... the

loading... the grabbing and

eating... had almost an

anti-candy, anti-enjoyment aura

about it. Still, the Pez head

glared at me like nothing was

amiss, like this was the way it

was supposed to be, like, "Hey,

if you're not getting it, then

something is very definitely

wrong with you."



Well, I'm grown up now and

nothing is wrong with me that a

generous script of Prozac won't

fix. But the Pez Paradox erupts

in numbing ubiquity. All that

anticipation, so little

return. Prom night, a college

diploma, wire wheel covers, the

Stations of the Cross, voting,

jigsaw puzzles, crossword

puzzles, cat's cradles, a

Vice-Presidency, and

simultaneous climaxes come to

mind. Still I sally forth.

Elaborate well-planned tattoos,

a honeymoon, the latest issue of

Spy magazine, the last episode

of any long-running TV series,

finalizing a divorce, watching

friends tiptoe out before being

outed, the 100th level of any

video game, the denouement of

any Sherlock Holmes tale, Super

Bowl Sunday, Super Tuesday, any

Sally Forth cartoon - all just

produce an emptiness that weighs

drearily on the soul. There has

to be more than this, I think,

but there's not. Such is the Pez




Perhaps I'm expecting too much

from life. But if this were the

case and I were a cynic, then my

heart wouldn't still flutter

with the soft lipstick memory of

my first kiss, would it? I

wouldn't recall with glee my

first driver's license, and the

corners of my mouth wouldn't

turn up at the sound of the

Simpson's theme. No, life is

filled with instances well worth

the expenditure of energy it

takes to perform them. And I'm

not talking passbook savings

percentages, I'm talking

high-risk Michael Milken-managed-

mutual-fund returns.



You may be drawn to the Web by

boosterism or by boredom,

beguiled by URLs flashed between

foul shots on TNT, or beaten

into submission by day-glo

hypsterism, but you will find

the Pez Paradox once you get

there. The Pez Paradox, the

entropy-driven rule of the

cyber-village, is waiting for

you like a single cancer cell

reorganizing your DNA spiral,

making ready its onslaught of

mutation, both successful and

fatal. It's waiting for you like

that final whiff of carbon

monoxide, as you blink one last

glance of Jack Kevorkian and go

gentle into that good night. And

if the Pez Paradox is true of

life, and there's only a great

big conscious-wide blackout when

your time is up - or worse, the

afterlife resembles the set of

the 700 Club - then perhaps our

moral prohibition against

suicide is itself wrong. All the

effort for what? Yet we carry

on. Just another facet of the

Pez Paradox.



Admittedly, every clown has a

painted smile, and the Pez

Paradox is not excluded. We've

been buying the sizzle instead

of the steak since Cain shot

Abel, and there's really no

reason to let up now. A pretty

girl is like a memory for the

simple reason that most memories

are so devoid of depth, and your

fantasy never grabs the clicker.

Beautiful women can be smart -

and it's nice when they are -

but they don't have to be.

Baywatch doesn't have to spend a

ton of dough paying a fact

checker to ensure the

life-saving techniques portrayed

are up to Red Cross snuff. Your

local broadcast "journalists"

can be dopes as long they look

pretty and can read the

Teleprompter. Billion-dollar

bombers don't have to be able to

operate under battle conditions.

They just have to look sleek and

perform cool screaming fly-overs

on Memorial Day.



Why? Because none of us gets a

hole in that secret pocket of

innocence that will gladly trade

the dirty old silver dollar for

the shiny copper penny. We all

still have a secret belief that

our next marriage will work, the

next group in Congress won't

take so much PAC money and do

the bidding of the folks who are

happily laying us all off, and

the next website we visit

will be more than just a RAM

cache full of poorly-juxtaposed

electronic dandruff and tired

old links. See, the Pez Paradox

is like Zeno's walk toward the

wall. At its simplest, motion is

impossible and we'll never reach

the wall - we'll never find

anything worthy of the hunt on

the Web. But we're bigger than

theories, and so we continue on,

like brow-beaten pioneers who've

been sold a plot of rocky

farmland without a source of

water. We unwrap the candy,

painstakingly load it, pull the

colorful head back, grab our

treat, and give it a crunch. Yum.

courtesy of Jacques Merde