"a fish, a barrel, and a smoking gun"
for 27 August 1998. Updated every WEEKDAY.
Hit & Run CXLVI



If you look around the Web and

you can't see who the real dummy

is, the dummy is you. This is

the principle most of us have

kept in mind during our vain

attempts to ride Matt Drudge's

coattails into our own

talking-head sinecures. But all

the tag-alongs who have tried to

get a Drudge-sized bounce out of

Drudge's greatest triumph have

done more than just get the

story wrong. They've failed to

understand that Drudge's success

isn't the story he's reporting.

It's that he understands how the

process of circle-jerk reporting

works in a way nobody else does.

Nobody, that is, except Mary

Schmich. You may recall Schmich

as the unwitting mastermind

behind last year's Vonnegut

commencement speech caper. Now,

the diabolical Chicago Tribune

columnist has pulled off another

triumph - spoofing the new King

of All Media with the character

Rat Sludge, in her daily comic

strip Brenda Starr. The Sludge

character instantly whipped up a

buzz (stories in TV Guide and

Time, and an invitation - declined -

to appear on Drudge's

TV show) for an ancient comic

strip most of us considered a

piece of pre-Colombian art.

You'd think a woman who has

pulled back-to-back triumphs out

of the chaotic ether would be

some kind of online heroine,

entitled to far more than the

few paltry shrines devoted to

her. But the devilishly clever

Schmich shows none of her cards.

Even the (surprisingly

convincing) Sludge portrait is

cloaked in a haze of flyweight

moralizing that ensures, when

the dust clears, Schmich can pop

up with her kindly and engaging

smile intact, her entire person

beaming with "Who me?"

innocence. "I'm the least

likely person in the world

to have this happen," Schmich

(pronounced "Shmick!") assured

us in a phone interview yesterday.

"Frankly, it never crossed

my mind that this would get

the kind of attention it's

gotten." But we've been

fooled by this Mr. Magoo

routine before. When Schmich pratfalls

into her next victory (and make

no mistake - there will be

another victory), we'll be




Slate's Scott Shuger has issued

a challenge to the editors of

all the newspapers he reads. The

estimable script doctor of

"Today's Papers" claims in true

Senator McCarthy fashion that he

has "the goods" on at least two

columnists who are "fiction

artists and plagiarists" to make

Barnicle and Glass proud.

Message to the press: Haul out

the garrote before Shuger does

it for you. Aside from the fact

that this is an unprecedented

case of a critic taking matters

into his own baby-soft hands,

it's gratifying that someone's

finally blowing the whistle on

all the chiselers and candy

stripers posing as professional

journalists today. He can start

with Lisa Napoli, who reported

the story of Shuger's

underwhelming gauntlet toss in

Monday's New York Times without

checking how to spell his name.

We'd forgive her on the

assumption that she's no more

likely to pay for a Slate

subscription than we are, and

thus unable to do her fact

checking online -- except that

"Today's Papers" is one of the

few freebies sweet old Mr.

Kinsley dispenses to the

impoverished neighborhood from

his front porch. After Shuger

hangs Napoli out to dry, perhaps

he'll start shoveling the shit

in the Fourth Estate's true

Stables of Augeas. A spoonful of

Shuger in the gas tank is just

what the doctor ordered for all

the layabout critics and

commentators who do nothing more

than read the papers and take

potshots from the peanut gallery

every day. Present company

excluded, of course.



When J&H Productions' taped

memorandum crossed our desks

back in the days before there

was a Web, we thought it sounded

a little too human to be human.

When the Badday video arrived in

our inboxes, Vinny Licciardi's

desktop tantrum was too

satisfying to be real. But when

we heard Steven Thrasher's

hissy-fit customer service call

about the missing hard drive on

his laptop, something about the

audio just seemed right. It

turns out our instincts were on

the money. A Canon spokeswoman

explains that Thrasher's

too-hot-for-TV phone call was

not, repeat not, to Canon or to

an authorized Canon

representative, but rather to a

third-party extended warranty

service provider whom she

declined to name. In a


denouement, it turns out

Thrasher, more nonplussed than

ever, called the company Monday

to complain that the .wav file of

his explosion (currently flying

around the globe, and available

for your listening pleasure)

has ruined his reputation.

Sorry to join in the pile-on,

Steve, but let this be a lesson

- people are more likely to call

you back when you include two

parts "Please" and "Thank you"

for every one part "I'm gonna

sue all of you fucking pieces of




Everyone needs a gimmick - and

you have to admire Calypso

Health's. They describe their

business as "a health and

medical education company

focusing on providing innovative

programming on health and

medical issues." Calypso

Productions' other ventures -


"nudewomen.com," and

"computersex.com" - show a

less-than-medical interest in

the human body. This time

around the only real question

is why they didn't register the

domain ourfirstsexchange.com.

Their site offers the promise of

yet another Internet first - if

not full coverage of

sex-reassignment surgery, then

at least the audacity to promise

it. (Their CEO concedes that the

exact date and time of the

surgery have not been set....)

It's questionable whether

audiences will actually turn up

for footage of the six-hour

surgical procedure ("The surgery

will be graphic in nature,"

their CEO teases) or even if

they're intended to. You can get

more mileage simply referring

porn seekers to other sites, so

when the news bounce of the

Internet's first non-chat-room

sex reassignment wears thin,

we'll still have plenty of

one-handed clickers being

steered to Freaky Fuck Pics

Galore!! - which is where they

really wanted to be all along.



Speaking of which,

the smart-alecky reference we made Tuesday to

Wishbone (our secret favorite

show) prompted an objection from

one "Anthony Sarmiento," who

offered a spirited defense of

the finicky cur and his literary

adventures: "I'll substitute a

talking dog (far smarter, you'll

note, than his human masters

actually stupid enough to bother

reading the books the canine

romps through) for the most

banal of canonical texts anyday.

If only for the absolutely

hilarious love scenes,"

Sarmiento concluded. More

unedited drivel, we surmised -

until we got a peek at a list of

Wishbone episode titles - most

of which seem to have less in

common with "The Prince and the

Pauper" or "Treasure Island"

than with "Forrest Hump" and

"Children of the Cornhole."



Granted, the crowded market for

wise-cracking dogs and expanding

definitions of what's acceptable

would have any studly Jack

Russell Terrier pondering a new

career move. Still, it's not

unfair to ask, "What's the

story, Wishbone?"

courtesy of the Sucksters