"a fish, a barrel, and a smoking gun"
for 3 March 1998. Updated every WEEKDAY.
Hanging Judge



               March 21 - April 19 

As if it's not already hard

enough to see pictures of naked

children, clothing-optional

family photographer Jock Sturges

is getting another full-court

press. After years of agitation

by Alabama decency hawks, a

grand jury has indicted Barnes &

Noble on the charge of bringing

child pornography - in the form

of books by Sturges and David

Hamilton - to the strip mall.

The First Amendment is pretty

broad (on the Web you're even

allowed to say "keester"), and

given B&N's great resources,

Sturges will retain the right to

offer his art (or as you're

obliged to say in this sort of

discussion, "art") to

photography buffs and one-handed

book lovers in the Heart of

Dixie. There's another case

pending against the chain in

Tennessee, however, and once

that one's cleared up, the

photographer is likely to face a

whole new inquisition from the

Justice Department, whose

"Innocent Images" undercover

unit recently received US$10

million from Congress. In the

endless sitzkrieg on Jock

Sturges (whose porn-starrish

proper name no doubt makes him

an appealing target for random

virtuepaths), this seems like an

escalation of hostilities. And

it's not hard to see a pattern.

From Cyber Patrol to the

apparent death by starvation of

Adrian Lyne's Lolita, the war on

child porn in all its forms is

more brutal than ever.


But if the idea is to keep kids

separated from sex, the adults

are clearly losing. For

contemporary adults, most of

whom endured childhoods where

the sexiest prospect was a

JCPenney ad for white cotton

bras, it's hard not to be

jealous of the media orgy kids

can enjoy these days. Unseemly

as Bill Clinton's alleged

June-October affair has been,

it's not as bad as the wailing



gnashing of teeth that's cropped

up in the meta-coverage. In a

characteristic chestnut, Time

for Kids editor Claudia Wallis

reported that her 11-year-old

had asked (in an undoubtedly

doe-eyed way), "Mom, what's oral

sex?" (While Wallis restrained

herself from using the

extra-cute "Mommy," you could

safely bet $1 million that no

child in the history of the

world has ever asked this

question of a parent.)


[ March 8. Write it down. Use red ink. On that day the
               planets will cease persecuting you and move on to
               harass the Taureans instead.]

Of course, the fastest way for a

kid to learn about adults and

sex is to have sex with an

adult. Mary Kay LeTourneau, now

doing seven-and-a-half years for

second-degree rape of a child

(her then 13-year-old student

and boyfriend, now proud father

of her child), proves that stone

walls do not a prison make. She

recently told Oprah both

families would like them to

bring their February-August

passion to the altar (with Law

and Order-like speed, the

producers of Dawson's Creek have

already lifted this storyline as

a theme in their own fugue of

frank teen sexuality).

Meanwhile, beloved white haired

men Jeff "Frugal Gourmet" Smith

and Arthur C. Clarke (famed for

exploring the hidden sex lives

of mainframes), are in hot water

over pederasty charges. Cops in

four states are claiming that

they were entrapped into online

sex with a 17-year-old

"cyberspider." Pity poor Gus Van

Sant, whose job of directing

Hanson's "Weird" video must have

been an Abelard-esque struggle

to resist the trio's elfin



While the adult-child

relationship's return to the

Socratic (though not Platonic)

ideal has been marked by some

watershed events (Woody and Soon

Yi's late-April-November

romance, Michael Jackson's

out-of-court settlement and

subsequent readmittance to

polite society, and the culture

of toddler peep shows revealed

by the JonBenet scandal), the

difference today is that the

kids seem to have all the power.

In all these cases, the adults

look more like bumbling Humberts

than birds of prey. LeTourneau

is in the clink; Clarke has had

his knighthood put off

indefinitely; the doofus cops

were caught in the cyberspider's



[You know those
               pathologically calm people who've been telling you all
               your problems will be solved if you just slow down
               and take it easy? ]

Books like Don Tapscott's

Growing Up Digital credit this

power shift to technology, as

cybernetic kids escape

infoserfdom or something like

that; but this is really about

the power of numbers -

specifically, of 78 million

Americans under the age of 20

(according the Census Bureau).

Those numbers translate into

real power, particularly buying

power - demonstrated most

recently by adolescent fans of

the rather long-in-the-tooth

Leonardo DiCaprio, who have

launched Titanic on its

record-breaking voyage. For

"folks of a certain age," the

youth culture touchstone is

Logan's Run, with its mandatory

execution of 30-year-olds. But

that 1976 movie was based on a

book, written several years

earlier, in which the cutoff age

is a sprightly 21. The goalpost

of old age, in other words, had

to be moved back as the me

generation edged into its own

post-20s senescence. This

is the sort of free-floating

indulgence baby boomers

understand as their birthright,

but in an odd twist on history,

Logan's Run fan rumor has it

that a remake is in the works,

with Carousel returned to its

original drinking-age setting.


A demographic group that wields

that much power inevitably sets

the visual tone for the era, and

the attractiveness benchmark for

our time belongs to precocious

saplings like Judith Vittet and

Natalie Portman, next to whom

Kate Moss or Christie Turlington

(frequently condemned for

projecting a false body image)

seem downright matronly. Is it

really an accident that every

paper in the country ran that

Kwan-Lipinsky kiss above the

front page fold? Or that daytime

TV features lingering,

fetishistic ads for Hanes Kids

and the legendary "Now I'm the

grandfather" commercial for

Wuerther's Original Butter

Candies? (This street runs both

ways, of course - that Gerber

commercial in which Jane Seymour

feeds her fluffy twins is the

ultimate in wish fulfillment for

the under-five set). Who can

blame Anthony Mason or the

Frugal Gourmet for responding to

the dominant body image of our



[They'll be jumping around like
               they've got bees in their boxer shorts. And you'll be
               laughing your head off. 

Or maybe they're just turned on

by the aphrodisiac of power.

Kids may be lazier and stupider

than ever, but they've got good

looks and clout, and adults want

in on the action. In their

smoked-out youths, baby boomers

never imagined themselves

playing Der Kapitain to a new

generation of Katzenjammers.

Rather than buck the trend,

they're going for one last

hurrah, to teach those young

whippersnappers about a time

when it seemed all of life's

problems could be worked out at

a love-in.

courtesy of BarTel d'Arcy