"a fish, a barrel, and a smoking gun"
for 28 November 1996. Updated every WEEKDAY.

Hit & Run LXII

[What we're thankful for: Beer     
Nuts, lint guards, living so       
close to the Sierras, the          
suspiciously solicitous counter    
lady at Happy Donuts, stalkers,    
pianos in noise rock, the cute     
girl at the tea shop, Jon Katz,    
the little people, single malt     
of the month club, Amazon.com,     
the punching bag downstairs,       
loose shoes and good bowel         
movements, and, of course, that    
we only have to come up with       
these lists once a year.           

The Copy Boy says he's not         
thankful for anything - we         
suspect that this is his attempt   
to ape, if not inhabit, the        
elusive "Suck attitude." And       
though the "Suck attitude," much   
like love, tends to seem more      
genuine when it is faked, we       
feel that we have found a chink    
in his amour, if not his armor:    
He's thankful, as we all are,      
that we didn't have to come to     
work today.]                       



With the merciful passage of the

political season, we fully

expected the demise of Slate's

"Varnish Remover" column. But,

like any good bacterium,

"Varnish Remover" has mutated to

fit its new apolitical

environment - Robert Strum, "a

leading Democratic political

consultant," now deconstructs

ads for... pants. Levi's

post-slacks, Slates, as a totally

unexpected coincidence would

have it. And he does a fairly

bizarre job of it, expanding

visual attention-getters into

hammer-heavy metaphors - a

person "initially seen upside

down hints at a world turned on

its head" - and claiming that

the ad "suggests to Gen-Xers

that your pants can have the

same attitude as you," which we

take to mean bitter, tired, and

horny. Memo to Kinsley: This

isn't the kind of trouser

obsession that usually makes

money on the Web.



It may be that the rumors are

true, and Apple will be thwarted

in its plans to turn Be into the

next Taligent. But if Apple is

seriously considering licensing

an OS, may we recommend Windows

NT? Not only does it sport the

features you'd expect from a

modern operating system -

preemptive multitasking,

multithreading, address space

protection, and an object-based

kernel - Windows NT already runs

on the PowerPC, and, perhaps

most importantly, has broad

market acceptance. And since NT

offers the look and feel of

Windows 95, developing an

Apple-branded desktop

personality would be

superfluous, leaving Apple to

concentrate its OS efforts on

the true future of computing -

the Newton vs. Windows CE wars.


[Fan Gram]

Having inexorably degraded every

communications form it's touched

so far, the Web now turns to the

fan letter. What was once a rich

exchange between psychologically

volatile devotees and

validation-starved celebrities

now becomes an electronically

sanitized exercise in service

journalism. And while the L.A.

Times' new FanGrams will

undoubtedly help it achieve its

ambitious transformation from

credible news source to Cool

Site of the Day contender, we're

disappointed. Fan letters simply

don't live up to the name unless

they're either typed on beat-up

Olivettis with authentic

freak-style punctuation, or

painstakingly hand-written in

eerily uniform all-caps. In both

cases, single-spacing and

hostile disregard for margins is

mandatory. The FanGram, alas,

fails on both sides of the

tension-fraught fan/star

equation: It lacks the capacity

to show the full bloom of the

former's spiteful obsession, and

it's too easy to send to play

upon the latter's promiscuous

vanity. While even the wariest

celebrities are tempted into

opening hand-written letters and

packages from time to time, just

to see who's so crazy about

them, no Tinseltown Narcissus

worth his twenty years of

therapy bills is going to

respond to an insincere mash

note tossed off with the click

of a mouse.



Something nasty is apparently

leaking into the water supply

over at Lotus's marketing

department. How else to explain

the decision to name their Web

server "Domino", forever

associating it with bad pizza

and systematic collapse? And how

else to explain the decision to

hire Denis Leary - Denis freakin'

Leary - as their TV pitchman?

Leary, in a subdued version of

his trademark nic-fit style,

spends the spots pacing

maniacally around either uberhip

cybercafe denizens while

jabbering about "business," or

pacing maniacally around a

cadaverous, digitally reanimated

Jack Webb while jabbering about

"security." That Leary has

spent most of his

not-so-very-lucrative film

career playing criminals would

seem to leave Lotus on the wrong

side, image-wise, of both

"business" and "security." I

think y'hear me knockin', and I

think I'm taking my money




It's a chronicle of a remainder

foretold: Peddling books in the

era of late, really late,

there-goes-my-bus capitalism

continues to become harder and

harder - especially around the

holidays, when most families are

more interested in huddling

mutely around the cathode-ray

fireplace and stuffing their

pie-holes than in taking in Big

Ideas. So we're not surprised

that a list of newly released

and forthcoming scholarly books

looks less like the TOC of

Critical Inquiry than that of TV Guide.

The Chronicle of Higher

Education reported last

week that Westview Press is

publishing Enterprise Zones:

Critical Positions on Star Trek,

a volume of essays which "uses

the intersection between the

audience and the show as its

springboard." In addition,

Syracuse University Press is

currently flogging two new books

in its "Television Series":

Laughs, Luck... and Lucy: How I

Came to Create the Most Popular

Sitcom of All Time, a posthumous

memoir by I Love Lucy producer

and head writer Jess

Oppenheimer, and Deny All

Knowledge: Reading The X-Files,

which hints at a deconstructive

turgidity only your mother's

semiotician could love. At least

Oppenheimer's book is blessed

with a CD of Lucy's radio

performances; Deny All

Knowledge was supposed to have

included a foreword cowritten by

Chris Carter and erstwhile

doctoral student David Duchovny,

but it was apparently spirited

away to Area 51. Or perhaps

that's just one more thing to be

thankful for.

courtesy of the Sucksters