"a fish, a barrel, and a smoking gun"
for 8 May 1997. Updated every WEEKDAY.




When it comes to publicity,

nothing works better than an

explicit consumer bribe - er, a

big-prize contest. Trouble is,

even a truly generous giveaway

can get washed away in the media

tide. And competition often

comes from unexpected corners.

Take for example the James S.

McDonnell Foundation's bad luck

in soliciting applications for

its new US$10 million

biomedicine grants. They took

the news of their magnanimity to

the national press the same week

as the M&M folks launched a

multimillion dollar contest of

their own. Not for researching

gray cells but for finding gray

candy - "impostor" M&Ms.

You've probably heard about it.

And that's the point. The candy

got a ton of press, the

philanthropists almost none. No

good deed goes unpromoted. While

we're genuinely sorry for

McDonnell's ill timing, though,

it struck us as a bit naive that

the Foundation saw fit to

complain about the media's going

with the M&M story instead

of their own. McDonnell is

trying to help society, but as a

commentator notes, "That's not

what sells." Why not? This handy

chart lays out the comparison.

Gratify instantlyGratify only after
decades of arcane
Snappy Dennis Miller
as spokesperson
C.Everett Koop,
if you're lucky
Melt in mouth, not in
name, seeks
government handout
Green ones connote
racy sexual innuendo
Green ones suffer
from Iodine-131


[The Sam]

Can you trust a dealer who won't

take a hit off his own rock? Of

course not. An elegantly titled

survey of "The Expectations,

Aspirations, Satisfactions, and

Dissatisfactions of Newspaper

Journalists," taken at a

convention for inkstained types

back around April Fools' Day -

not that they were kidding,

sadly - makes it pretty clear

that all those poorly dressed

people running around barking

questions at celebrity sex

criminals don't care very much

for the work they produce.

"Newspaper people tend to

consider their own papers dull,"

reads a report on the survey,

"and believe they are losing

importance in American life."

Well, gosh. And we thought it

was just us. Newspapers keep

cutting themselves deeper and

deeper, but the bleeding just

won't stop.



How much would you pay for a film

production and distribution

company that had produced fewer

than a half-dozen films and

distributed only 18? If you're

Universal Pictures (and thus a

tentacle of Seagram Company),

the answer is, almost 40 million

dollars. That's the rumored

ballpark price being negotiated

for Universal's acquisition of

fledgling October Films, best

know for its distribution of

vampire flicks like Nadja and The

Addiction, as well as the

celebrated documentary about

President Clinton's 1992

campaign, The War Room. (Come to

think of it, that makes three

vampire flicks....) Though we're

not against anyone making money,

this does seem to be an

especially egregious case of a

corporate octopus looking to

salve a gaping authenticity

crisis. Or maybe it's just a way

around recent crackdowns on

liquor and cigarrette




The Seattle incarnation of

Sidewalk has arrived, and right

out of the Gates it's just as

good as any otiose ad-magnet

city guide you're likely to find

on your hotel room nightstand

when traveling to unfamiliar

burgs. A cluttered interface

consistently gives you too many

different ways to make the same

choice, but even all that

value-added navigation can't

obscure the generic nature of

Sidewalk's content. Which is to

say Sidewalk is

service-journalism at its

finest; at every turn,

qualitative experiences are

dumbed down into quantitative

ones. The restaurant reviews,

for example, are brief and

boring and superficial, stripped

of specificity or evocative

detail - but if you're looking

for a cheap, kind of lousy

Indian place where celebrities

like to hang out, then

Sidewalk's restaurant search

tool can quickly point you in

the right direction. From a

publisher's perspective, this is

a godsend; Boolean logic is much

cheaper to maintain than a

splenetic critic, and far more


courtesy of the Sucksters

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The Fish

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The Barrel
[Predictions by Suck]

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The Gun

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