"a fish, a barrel, and a smoking gun"
for 4 March 1999. Updated every WEEKDAY.



Everybody is taking a stab at

eBay's Achilles' heel. Ever

since an offer of lunch with

venture capitalist Steve

Jurvetson was publicized last

month under the headline "EBay

Sells Human for Charity,"

pranksters have been hitting the

site with a bogus skin trade all

their own. Some sardonic wags

have already begun cataloging

the offers for human souls,

grandmothers in fair condition,

and dozens of children. The

US$300-a-share auction house has

been fairly efficient in

tracking down and eliminating

these various Mandingo sales

pitches so far (though eBay

buyers apparently can still buy

a 16-year-old girl), but bigger

trouble is now looming as

federal officials investigate

real sales of "contraband" on

eBay. What could have the

federales' dander up isn't quite

clear. EBay decided last month

to stop allowing the sale of

guns, but the Bureau of Alcohol

Tobacco and Firearms remains in

hot pursuit of outlaw

collectibles. Whether the ATF

will settle the matter in its

usual manner - by shooting and

incinerating all of eBay's 2.1

million worldwide users - the

escalation of tensions promises

a contest far more intense than

just another bidding war over a

Welcome Back, Kotter lunch box.



Sometimes you lose even if you

win. For several weeks, Apple

Computer has been trying to get

control of the appleimac.com

domain name from Traya Net, a

Calgary-based, Web-hosting

company. But Apple, accustomed

to playing David to Microsoft's

Goliath (or maybe more

accurately, Grenada to

Microsoft's United States),

ended up looking like the ogre

when it turned out that Traya

Net's CEO is 16-year-old Abdul

Traya, a kid who dreams of

someday owning an iMac.

According to Traya Net's company

history, Abdul seems to have

started the company with his

brother Yusef and his other

brother Yusef. And according to

Abdul, the "iMac" site had only

gotten 200 visitors before

Apple's legal campaign brought

attention to it. We have some

suspicions about Abdul's

motives. When we asked him to

describe his dream of owning an

iMac, he was strangely fuzzy on

the details. "I think I was

coming home, and somebody bought

one for my family or something,"

was the best he could do. But

we're pretty convinced the kid

really wants an iMac. Would he

be happy if Apple offered him a

computer in exchange for the

domain? "Oh, that would be

really cool, but I don't know

... I don't want to be greedy or

something." Apple spokeswoman

Rhona Hamilton refused to

comment on Suck's

(publicity-friendly) proposal of

a computer-for-domain swap, and

the company's attorney did not

return our phone calls. And we

can see why Apple doesn't want

to encourage every boob on the

street who thinks registering

other people's trademarks as

domains is really cool. But

frankly, we believe there are

some things more important than

trademark protection, and

bringing a smile to a young

boy's face is one of them.



There's just no nice way to say

it. Tom Shales is too fat to

take the late Gene Siskel's

place in the balcony. We suspect

a stealth maneuver on Ebert's

part: He's hiring a much larger

man to deflect attention from

his own girth (or to make

obvious what only dedicated

Ebertologists have so far

noticed - that Ebert himself has

slimmed down to the point where

his "Fat One" title now seems

suspect). But The Washington

Post's Louie Anderson look-alike

(guesting on two

installments of the S&E

TV show) also distracts from the

crucial North Side


lumpenproletariat dichotomy that

made Siskel and Ebert's Windy

City antipathy seem convincing.

Siskel once told an audience

that Ebert couldn't make it

because he'd found a restaurant

with an all-you-can-eat special.

And even in his Chicago

Sun-Times tribute, Ebert

couldn't resist reporting how

Siskel, sleeping under a TV

station table, overheard a

conversation Ebert was having

with his editor - and stole the

story. Of course the bickering

only underscored the crucial gay

subtext of what all eulogists

insist on calling the two

critics' "relationship" (that

subtext was pushed to its

unfunny extreme when the two

made cartoon guest appearances

on The Critic). Now that all the

tributes are done, Jolly Roger

will have a hard time recreating

such a complex dynamic. This

being 1999, we're hoping he'll

pick a woman as the permanent

replacement. The New York

Times' Janet Maslin has a

persona of toffish disdain that

would seem to make her a kind of

female Siskel.



It's not that Art Spiegelman is

so smart; it's that everybody

else is so dumb. Determined not

to let his remaining career

become a dull second act to his

one great achievement, the Maus

creator has spent most of the

1990s trying to shock the

bourgeoisie with a series of

magazine covers that could only

be judged outré by people

who consider Nightline a searing

indictment of American culture.

Fortunately, there are plenty of

people just like that. Watching

Rudy Giuliani, George Pataki,

and Patrolmen's Benevolent

Association Chief Jim "Doc"

Savage go ballistic over

Spiegelman's current New Yorker

cover just serves as a reminder

of how reticent and reserved all

these parties have been in their

comments about the incident that

inspired the cartoon - a

cold-blooded murder by four of

New York's finest, who if there

were any justice in this

country, would be watching their

severed fingers move on the

auction block along with those

16-year-olds on eBay. The

hotheaded yelps of Giuliani -

who has spent most of his two

administrations hogging the

credit for a nationwide drop in

crime, a booming economy, and a

handful of programs that were

started by the hapless David

Dinkins - have been particularly

jarring. Next time he takes a

break from maneuvering for a

Senate seat and cheating on his

wife, Rudy might want to

consider how lucky he's been

that nobody has taken the

peaceful Diallo protests to

their next logical stage:

burning down Gracey Mansion.



But don't think that we're

categorically opposed to

America's police professionals.

We were intrigued a few weeks

ago by an email from K. C. Smith

("Your friend and best man in

the fight against spam"), which

promised, of all things, a

manual on how to stop spam.

Before sending $15 to Smith's

address at 10 E. Louisiana

Street in Evansville, Indiana,

however, we checked back through

our trash folders and found that

the same Mr. or Ms. Smith was

also offering state ID cards

("any age, gender, or race you

wish"), second-identity credit

cards, new social security

numbers, and the

none-too-hard-to-find Anarchist

Cookbook. Struck by a chord of

social responsibility, we made

several calls to the Evansville

Police Department. The Fraud and

Bunco unit's Detective Davis

(who, by the way, had a far more

courteous and helpful phone

manner than Apple's Ms.

Hamilton) assured us that the

local cops are getting ready to

make their move on the Louisiana

Street drop house. Of course,

K. C. Smith is innocent until

proven guilty in a court of law,

but after this quick action by

the men and women of Hoosier law

enforcement, the crooks better

beware that you can't outrun the

long arm of Suck.

courtesy of the Sucksters

[Purchase the Suck Book here]