"a fish, a barrel, and a smoking gun"
for 12 March 1998. Updated every WEEKDAY.
Hit & Run CXXII


[I'm not dinky]

Hate is back. And this time it

has a 49 cent value menu.

Continuing the brave march

toward a perpetually offended

society - which, needless to

say, offends us deeply - a civil

rights group, calling itself the

League of United Latin American

Citizens (LULAC), was supposedly

ready, a few days back, to go

into battle against a spooky-ass

little dog. This, at least, is how

the story went. The Associated Press

reported over the weekend that

the group was urging consumers to

boycott Taco Bell over the

fast-food chain's current

television advertising, which

features a Chihuahua that -

prepare to be outraged - speaks

Spanish. (Those bastards! Hold

us back! A dog that speaks ...

hey, let's see what it says when

it's stoned!) The use of the

pop-eyed pup, said purported LULAC

spokesman Gabriel Cazares, is

"definitely a hate crime." Ad

director Leni Riefenstahl

couldn't be reached for comment.

The Bonfire of the Vanities

punchline: Gabriel Cazares turned out

to be a spokesman for an

organization called "Gabriel Cazares."

After the AP's report, LULAC's

Washington, DC, headquarters faxed

a no-not-really statement

around to newsrooms - which read,

in part, "This is a non-issue for

LULAC." Looks like somebody's headed

for the woodshed, possibly by

way of the drive-through window.

Suggested punishment:

Actually having to consume

Taco Bell products.



Prepubescent fans of Pepper Ann

Presents The Turn of the Screw

and Nickelodeon's An Afternoon

with Gustav Mahler may have been

behind this week's accusations that the

Teletubbies are "dumbing down"

children's television. With only

a month left before the Day-Glo

pinheads arrive to boost US

microdot sales, we'd been

expecting an 11th-hour

anti-immigration push. The

argument that young minds must

be protected from the Tubbies'

brain-frying chemistry is a

logical case built on the

sinister Children's Television

Act of 1996. (When the show does

appear on PBS, look for

hinterland protests that the

gay-positive Tinky Winky is

turning America's kids into

purse-swinging fruit loops.) But

even we're not sophistic enough

to pretend dumbness is limited

to TV. Just look at the Loeb

Classical Library: "The dumbing

down of the classics is under

way," argues classics scholar

John Heath in his new book Who

Killed Homer. We don't want to

give away the ending, but we're

betting Homer was killed by

tenure-track hounds,

self-promoting campus stars, and

crackpot matriarchs out to prove

their insane Goddess theories.

(The fact that Sanskrit majors

aren't exactly bursting with

endowment-ready bucks may have

something to do with it too.)

How can American colleges get

students interested in antiquity

again, now that dirty poems by

Catullus no longer seem to do

the trick? Well, when we were

Teletubbies-watching age, our

headmasters used to flog us for

making errors in our Greek

verses. We were actually hoping

a few days of watching the

cuddly aliens would help us get

over that painful memory. It's

time to ask ourselves: Is

dumbing down such a bad thing?


[Words to live by]

Last week, we fired off one of

our occasional (very occasional)

collegial emails, in which we

try to wheedle valuable trade

information from our

competitors. In other words, we

chat up our webzine buddies,

fishing for weak areas -

particularly and almost

exclusively areas where we can

credibly claim success - and try

to rub it in as subtly as

possible, generally by way of

benevolent yet invariably

inscrutable advice. We're happy

to report that Slate's deputy

editor, Jack Shafer, is snug as

a bug in a subroutine,

expressing no worries over Mr.

Kinsley's decision to crack down

on the freeloading without

further delay. Meanwhile, our

friends in Silicon Alley may be

headed for Bleaker Street. We

got no response from Dan

Koeppel, the normally effusive

head bottle-washer at Charged.

Word editor Marisa Bowe barely

had time to write her apologies,

saying "I no longer respond to

anything that's not an

emergency." As it turns out, she

and Koeppel were apparently in

the midst of one: Word and

Charged were both mothballed

Monday afternoon, the result of

new "strategic directions"

undertaken by their corporate

overlords. Finally, our little

electronic missive landed on the

desktop of Noah Robischon just

as the editor and founder of

Netly News was packing up the

last of his things. He's on his

way to an assignment at Steve

Brill's new magazine, and Netly

is on life support. Of course,

we know a thing or two about

near-death experiences. Our

inscrutable words of advice?

"Walk toward the light" and

"Content is king."


[Prozac for your soul]

There's help on the way for that

irritating "personality" thing.

Having already packaged their

wares in child-friendly,

fruit-flavored syrups, the

manufacturers of

depression-inhibiting SSRIs

(selective serotonin reuptake

inhibitors, of course) are on to

a whole new untapped market:

people who are just fine.

Researchers at the University of

California announced, early last

week, that a group of "normal,

nondepressed people" who took

SSRIs during the course of a

study became "more easygoing and

cooperative." The director of

the project told reporters that

he wished to refrain from making

any kind of moral judgment on

the creation of human beings who

were "less likely to be

assertive." While Suck editors

were unsure whether the study

results were more Ionesco than

Huxley or more Huxley than

Ionesco, they didn't seem to

care, and smiled broadly when

questioned about their feelings.

Look for this column next week

at our new Web site,


courtesy of the Sucksters