"a fish, a barrel, and a smoking gun"
for 23 July 1998. Updated every WEEKDAY.
Hit & Run CXLI


[enough to smile about: 
getting one's own phone line]

As usual in July, the only place

in the Northern Hemisphere where

it feels like Christmas is San

Francisco. But don't get

complacent, for while you're

sitting on your tochus reading

snide cultural lamentations,

Santa's slaving away on this

year's presents, and presumably

trying to track down that

blasted Rudolph. Lest we forget

the Red Man's services, 120

Fathers Christmas gathered in

Copenhagen, Denmark, this week for the

35th Santa Claus World Congress.

This year's hot controversy

centered on whether Christmas

Eve should be moved from 24

December to 6 January (bet

that'll fly with Macy's), and

that wasn't the only hint of a

Catholic/Orthodox schism: While

Ole Lundsgaard, head of the

Danish Santa Claus Guild,

claimed to be speaking for the

divine right of Claus, a man in

Finland claiming to be the real

Santa dismissed the gathering as

a den of "semi-official

assistants." As if the dispute

over succession weren't bruising

enough, the issue of female

Santas has reared its ugly head.

"The women can attend our

meetings as long as they shut

up," Lundsgaard said. "And the

elves must wear long skirts."

It's reminiscent of the debate

over whether women should be

allowed to become priests,

except of course, that the Pope

never gives anything away.


[free drinks]

Santa's unsolicited deliveries

aren't the only ones we have to

worry about. It's become

painfully clear that Ted

Kaczynski deserved a lot worse

than what he got - not so much

for the killings as for showing

us how a single, ill-placed

package can blow up the writing

career of a sententious hack.

While Yale computer scientist

David Gelernter has certainly

suffered enough to earn his

victim-windbag status, the turns

he's taken since being launched

on the Harold Russell path to

stardom have been pretty

puzzling. Granted, becoming the

West's most over-the-top

reactionary since Kaiser Wilhelm

makes a somewhat more

interesting career than churning

out boring treatises on the 1939

World's Fair and trying to pump

the dead-on-the-desktop

Lifestreams interface. But

frankly, Gelernter's belief that

"card-carrying intellectuals"

are behind all our society's

problems combines with

Kaczynski's fear of the

"technocrats" to give the whole

affair a spooky Holmes/Moriarty

symmetry. Those who can't decide

whose grasp on the bigger

picture is more accurate will be

delighted with the new Field

Manual CD by a Teutonic

Gesamtkunstler named Bomb 20,

which posits global war against

some all-consuming econostate.

Meanwhile, Kaczynski is the only

suspect definitely ruled out in

this week's cruise ship fire. But with

The New Yorker still planning to

send its hacks on a high seas

junket later this year, we're

betting this latest act of

terrorism was perpetrated by

that technocrat and

card-carrying intellectual,

Michael Kinsley.


[dog grooming and the bishop song]

Card-carrying enemies of the

econostate are fighting on other

fronts, too. We've now got a Newseum and a

schmoozeum, so why not a

jurispruseum? As reported in the

Austin American-Statesman, Ralph

Nader has announced that he

wants to establish an American

Museum of Tort Law, to celebrate

"the drive for justice in ...

society." Frankly, this smacks

of the cheap grandstanding for

which Nader is justly infamous -

he gets all hot and windy about

some context-specific Big Idea,

then goes home and promptly

forgets about it. But in a week

which saw the righteous, Chief

Broom-style suffocation of the

Senate's product-liability bill,

we've got to admit the idea does

have some appeal.


[relaxing, finally]

Then again, sometimes it's best

to keep grandstanding good

intentions to yourself. Just ask

Julio Cesar Granados Martinez.

Back in March, Granados, an

illegal immigrant from

Guadalajara, let himself be

profiled by Raleigh News &

Observer reporter Gigi Anders.

Anders' story, "Heart Without a

Home," was a textbook

heartrender detailing Granados'

70-hour-a-week grind at a local

bodega. It also detailed the

name and location of the bodega

and named Granados in the

article. Anders' catch was

enough to rouse even the usually

supine INS from its slumbers.

Last week Granados and four of

his co-workers were deported.

But while the story may have

ended unhappily for Granados,

there are several bright sides.

Between Granados' ever-expanding

tribulations and the inevitable

stories about ethical

hand-wringing in the newsroom

(what Steven Brill calls the

"Stop Us Before We Kill Again"

school of journalism), the

paper's news hole has been

easily filled for the past few

months. And since Anders has

proven beyond all doubt that

Granados does indeed exist,

she's still way ahead of this

year's journalism curve.


[firecracker's veggie potstickers]

Tony Danza debuted Tuesday as

Eddie Carbone in Arthur Miller's

A View from the Bridge. That

should be a punchline in and of

itself, but while we're second

to nobody in our reverence for

Arthur Miller, we're banking

that the ponderous Bridge may

actually be improved by The

Boss' laff impact. No, for real

violence to Western Culture, we

must look, as always, to Canuck

dropout Peter Jennings, who

tried this week on World News

Tonight to bring a Danza twinkle

to a work that actually is

pretty funny - James Joyce's

Ulysses. You could count on one

unabombed hand the number of

telepersonalities who actually

read the books they recommend,

and when confronted with a book

nobody reads anyway, Jennings

resorted to clips from Joseph

Strick's colossally

ill-conceived Bloomsday movie.

(Which reminds us - whatever

happened to Robert Zemeckis'

Finnegans Wake adaptation, with Madonna as

Anna and Everyman Tom Hanks as

Earwicker?) But Jennings left

the real task of explaining

Joyce's complexities to From

Hunger's inexplicably long-lived

Ulysses for Dummies Web site.

Site co-creator George Hunka

tells us the ABC news plug

helped the site's page views,

but Jennings seems not to have

realized that Ulysses for

Dummies is, you know, a joke on

the fact that Ulysses, like

most of the works on the "Modern

Library's" great books list, is

a book no amount of dumbing down

will render accessible to

ninnies. It's always funny when

book people talk about TV, but

even funnier when TV people talk

about books. Every other

feuilletonist sidestepped the

Great Books discussion by

detailing the controversies over

which overlooked classics didn't

make the list (We're pretty

steamed that those fancypants

littérateurs didn't give the nod

to Shogun.) So it's touching to

see the toffish Canadian

avoiding such easy outs as

lamenting how few women made the

cut. Then again, Evelyn Waugh

has two books on the list, and

we hear she's one of Peter's


courtesy of the Sucksters