"a fish, a barrel, and a smoking gun"
for 22 April 1999. Updated every WEEKDAY.

Hit & Run CLXXV


Feeding the news beast from a

chaotic crime scene has always

been rough going. Tuesday, a

host of Columbine High stories

appeared - and were retracted -

literally before the bodies were

cold. But the real struggle was

in the effort to take an instant

talking-head position, and in

that melee, the body count was

significantly higher than 15 (or

16). "It became increasingly

clear going into Day Two of the

Columbine High massacre that

news consumers could fill in

their own blanks," Matt Drudge

noted, in an effort to cover up

his own blank, outing the Trench

Coat Mafia through an online

Usenet posting. But Drudge's

mop-up crew on the cable news

channels wasn't doing much

better. Reports that one of the

many lyrics sites for the band

Kein Mehrheit für die Mitleid

belonged to one of the two (or

three) shooters later

appeared to collapse (or not).

In all the confusion, one voice

rang out strong and clear - that

of speed-typing Denver Post

columnist Chuck Green, whose

"It's time to find out what's

wrong with our hateful society"

appeared with such suspicious

swiftness that honest people

might have thought the writer

was part of the Trench Coat

Mafia himself. "We can land

people on the moon and we can

peer inside the human cell, but

we can't raise our own children

with decent values," the

Centennial State Mencken opined,

coming close to urging all

involved to get counseling. But

neither rapid spot reporting nor

an automatic spew of talking

points could compete with the

market's ability to adjust for

or discount the news. By end of

day Wednesday, the cost of a Han

Solo action figure in

Moon-of-Endor trench coat

remained unchanged.



As National TV Turn-off week

draws to a close, TV-free

America is calling for voluntary

reductions in viewing to promote

"richer, healthier, and more

connected lives" with families

and communities. Meanwhile,

Yahoo has consecrated a whole

category for a related,

time-honored tradition:

cobbled-together pages

depicting various celebrities

fighting Mr. T.

Beavis and Butt-head,

the Spice Girls, Elmo, and,

of course, Hanson have all climbed

into the ring against

the mohawked '80s-era thug.

Complex sociological problems

are no match for Mr. T, who

stands up to Bill Gates and

redeems humanity's honor in "Mr.

T vs. Deep Blue." ("Kasparov,

why'd you go and lose that game

to that crazy gizmo, Sucka?

Ain't you remember anything I

taught ya?") The real Mr. T's

legacy is harder to gage. When

he wasn't filming D.C. Cab, he

lent his visibility to public

service efforts such as "Be

somebody or be somebody's fool,"

and gave a guiding hand to

America's children with

righteous raps like "Mr. T's

Commandments." Small wonder that

it was T - not A Team co-stars

Dirk Benedict or Dwight Schultz

- who got the kiss from Nancy

Reagan and the guest-ref spot at

WrestleMania II. Now approaching

his 47th birthday, though, he's

reportedly battling cancer.

Rumors of an A Team movie in

1999 will inevitably be

disappointing, since it's

popular culture itself that

forms the real enemy, and only

the Web's version of Mr. T kicks

the asses that need kicking.

Except for the censors at AOL.


We've never been very good at

predicting what will become a

meme, but it sure seemed like

the spam about the dead

sister-in-law and the sexy

lingerie (sometimes attributed

to the apparently fictitious Ann

Wells of the Los Angeles Times)

was destined to become an

Internet classic. If there's one

thing people like more than

forwarded jokes, it's daily

affirmations, especially the

ones whose fuzzy logic

approaches the wisdom in The

Grass Root's "Live for Today."

No such luck, though. Ms. Wells'

effort appears to lack the

crowd-pleasing staying power of

the time-is-money reminder or

the one about how the class of

2000 has never seen regular

roller skates. We're left to

find our daily uplift where we can.


Then there are memes that have

to be hunted down and killed.

The deadline was 19 April for

advising Dilbert's lawyers -

Baker & Hostetler, LLP - that an

unauthorized parody had been

removed from rotten dot com.

They're slow. More than three

years ago, Tristan Farnon's Cafe

22 site unveiled the same 17

"Dilbert Hole" strips, which

inserted deliberately offensive

banter into the dialog

balloons. Although Adams' own

parodies get celebrated as

delightful jests, the

short-lived doppelgänger

went unappreciated. Lawyers

worried about "tarnishment" of

the Dilbert images, and a fan's

plea to archive the comics on an

"appropriation art" page 20

months later fell on deaf ears.

Weeks afterward the strips

surfaced temporarily in the

"Comedy Crisis" episode of

Farnon's Leisuretown. "For a

while, I actually thought I had

developed an unspoken

'understanding' with my readers,




told one interviewer. But it was

not to be. Within two months,

Farnon had replaced the graphics

- but not the text. Early this

year, Farnon slipped the original

images back into Leisuretown,

but now Leisuretown, rotten dot

com - and an obscure mirror

site - have all removed them.

And copyright lawyers have moved on

to defending the rights

to Playboy's nude photos

of Katarina Witt.


Scientists recently discovered

that jokes about wacky Internet

auctions are as funny as

Ebola. But in the defiant spirit

of the Web, those jokes just

keep a-comin'! The latest to

join the cyber follies are those

irrepressible wags at Impression

mag. "[E]very day we hear about

some other Internet start-up

getting some ridiculous amount

of funding and 25-year-olds

turning into millionaires 10

times over," the staff of

(hopefully fictitious)

characters lamented in a crafty

sellout feature that posits a

plan to have its entire

publication auctioned off at

eBay. Is that daffy or what? And

it's funny because it's just so

true! Not disclosed in the

bidding process is how much it

would cost to get the journal to

stop publishing entirely.

Meanwhile, we're hoping somebody

might consider auctioning off a

clue real soon.

courtesy of the Sucksters


[Purchase the Suck Book here]