"a fish, a barrel, and a smoking gun"
for 2 July 1998. Updated every WEEKDAY.


sleater kinney - good things]

For a few weeks there, we'd

heard enough otherwise

reasonable people classify The

Truman Show's premise as

something shockingly new; we'd

convinced ourselves we were

victims of a colossal practical

joke. But just when we got

through tearing up the office in

search of the hidden cameras,

the rest of America finally

decided to declare bullshit in

earnest on the movie's

moth-eaten, 11th-hand

inspiration. Mark Dunn, a New

York playwright universally

referred to as "little known,"

has charged up his own publicity

machine with accusations that

the movie's script contains 108

acts of theft from his 1992 play

Frank's Life. Earlier, the Los

Angeles Times speculated that

the movie may have been ripped

off from The Secret Cinema, a

1969 vintage film by Eating

Raoul auteur Paul Bartel. And

then there is the solipsistic

whimsy on display in every other

episode of The Twilight Zone

(including an episode called "A

World of Difference," which

deals specifically with life as

a TV set). Lately,

well-connected Truman

screenwriter Andrew Niccol has

been trying to pass himself off

as a kind of Drudge/savant of

the movies. So we're rooting for

the little-known Dunn, and not

just because in TV interviews he

reminds us of Hank Hill's son

Bobby. But a little perspective

is in order. The Truman Show's

concept had already been thought

of by every first-time pot

smoker with a C-grade

imagination. The only mistake

the rest of us made was in

failing to realize how lucrative

a stupid idea can be. Niccol's

arch-seriousness about the

Truman concept proves how

perfect his movie sensibility

is and demonstrates his

innocence; only great artists



[PEE - carmen's theme]

Millions of what Steven Brill

calls "media consumers" joined

this week in a collective

refusal to notice the firing of

US News & World Report editor

James Fallows by the megalomogul

Mort Zuckerman. For those of us

doomed to follow such things,

the sensation isn't so much

bittersweet as odorless and

colorless. Fallow's pre-Brill

dibs on the news-scold franchise

always tended to make us confuse

him with Washington Post media penseur

Howard Kurtz. But his

stewardship of the Thinking

Man's news magazine made him

look more like Colonel Kurtz.

Indeed, as US News followed one

boring exploration of the

military culture with another, and then

another, it became increasingly

clear that Fallows wasn't making

idle chatter when he defined the

mag's target reader as a

retired lieutenant colonel

living in the Southwest. There's

no doubt that, with its heavy

load of stories about smart

bombs, US News seemed to be

treating the Serious Issues

Fallows claimed to be concerned

with in his book Breaking the

News. The problem lay in his

assumption that the exploits of

a class of handsomely paid

welfare recipients whose only

purpose is to defend us from

Costa Rican aggression is any

more newsworthy than an in-depth

look at the Versace murder.

Readers decided this one by

staying away in droves, but for

Zuckerman, whose publishing

roster still includes such

legendary soporifics as The

Atlantic Monthly and the New York Daily

News, there may be a moral to

the story: If it's hopelessly

broke, don't bother to fix it.


[old 97's - niteclub]

Democrats got beat up by

Republicans again last week, and

we're not just talking about

that special election for a New

Mexico House seat. No, the far

more interesting thrashing was

that of the gentlewoman from New

Mexico's new fat-cat GOP

colleagues who also kicked a

little Democratic butt on a

Bowie, Maryland, baseball

diamond in Roll Call's 37th

annual congressional game.

Unlike the resounding


trampling the GOP has delivered

to its electoral rivals in

legislative races, however, the

yearly contests on the diamond

are usually nail-biters - this

year, as in the '97 bout, the

game came down to the last

inning: Bases loaded, two outs,

GOP up four runs to one, and GOP

pitcher Steve Largent, the

football star turned


conservative, struck out North

Carolina freshman Democrat Mike

McIntyre. What conceivable

lessons can be gleaned from the

game, if any?


1. In the second inning,

pinch runner Jesse Jackson Jr.

(D-Illinois), obeyed the cheers

from the Democrats in the third-

base stands, who cried,

oh-so-cleverly, "Run, Jesse,

Run! Run, Jesse, Run!" He did

and was quickly tagged out at



Lesson: You were elected to

lead, not just follow the whims

of the crowd. (Or, alternately,

Democratic staffers are idiots.)


2. Though the GOP team talked a

big game about the participation

of its two female members -

wacky Florida Rep. Ileana

Ros-Lehtinen and saintly widowed

Missouri Rep. Joanne Emerson -

they granted the two women only

about as much playing time as

previews for Dirty Work are getting

on NBC.


Lesson: the GOP fears women.


3. In the sixth inning,

skunk-haired Michigan Democrat

Bart Stupak proved an inept

batter, at one point swinging so

wildy and so loosely that the

bat flew near the pitcher's

mound, prompting nervous

laughter from the dugout.

Following that debacle, Stupak

swung and missed the third

pitch. Luckily, GOP catcher (and

fellow Michigander) John Shimkus

failed to catch the ball, so

Stupak took first.


Lesson: In baseball, as in

politics, the capricious winds

of fate - combined with obscure

and incomprehensible rules - can

sometimes mean that even the

most incompetent asshole can

advance forward. Play ball!

courtesy of the Sucksters