"a fish, a barrel, and a smoking gun"
for 29 April 1999. Updated every WEEKDAY.

Hit & Run CLXXVI


Maybe Netizens have some

political muscle after all.

Drunk with victory after

rescuing the NEA and bringing Barnes

& Noble to its knees,

forward-key soreheads have

turned their attention to Exxon

and 76. In California's Gas Out

day, set to explode tomorrow,

protestors will put the brakes

on gas purchases for a 24-hour

period. We can understand the

motivation. California's pump

prices have soared to levels not

seen - in real terms - since

1985. Regular unleaded is more

than US$1.50 almost everywhere,

and premium is as high as $2 in

some cities. There are various

possible reasons: oil refinery

fires, oxygenated gas

regulations that make it

impossible to ship in gas from

out of state, the governor's

order to eliminate the gas

additive MTBE, and maybe a bit

of profit taking in an industry

that saw yearly net income fall

around 38 percent between 1980

and 1994. Still, since 1980, the

overall consumer price index has

risen about 100 percent, while

the fuel oil price index has

dropped almost 9 percent. But

this doesn't stop grumpy

consumers and politicians with

short memories such as LA city

councilman Joel Wachs from

getting spitting mad. After all,

since the pumps haven't actually

run dry, there's no reason for

prices to rise - that's, like,

economics and stuff. But while

the author of the original

anonymous email seemed

convinced that shifting gas

purchases from one day to the

next would bring the gas barons

to heel, the Gas Out movement's

current leader admits the

protest is merely meant as a

show of consumer petulance,

demonstrating that we can, too,

go a day without gas, as long as

we fill up our tanks the day

before. Without fuel, we can

expect the online protesters to

spend the day sitting at home,

mass-forwarding protest

announcements. And in that

they'll be powered by another

form of gas altogether.



Judging by the mail we've been

receiving, we seriously

misjudged the amount of demand

out there for enthroned

commentary on the Littleton

massacre. "Steve Beach"

requested that we do a drive-by

on Jon Katz's

stream-of-consciousness posts at

Slashdot. "Rick Gold" shared a

free verse effort that, like The

Star Spangled Banner, is framed

as a set of questions. ("Come

on, America, who will voice

their conscience?") "The

ridicule I received in high

school burned when it was fresh,

and some of those scars still

aren't healed," warned "Andrew

Huff." Even the "Belgrade

Academic Association for Equal

Rights in the World" sent us its

condolences, along with an

opinion that America has "deeply

embraced the militaristic

doctrine of violence." Frankly,

though, we made the

commentator's error of thinking

that when you don't have

anything to add to a topic, you

should stay out of the fray.

We're not Littleton alumni

looking for a chance to drag out

our adolescent grievances. We

have a hard time saying that any

kid who can score a

bottle-blonde date to the prom

is an "unpopular outcast" (and

since these filthy-rich,

Hitlerite goons fit the

"sociopathic jerk-off" pattern

more than the "misunderstood

youth" pattern, that would seem

to obviate any important lessons

we can draw about troubled

teens). Really, we have nothing

to add to this discussion,

except to note one thing: In the

furor over the NRA's World Class

Guns and Gear Expo - to be held

this weekend at the

Colorado Convention Center -

we've been struck by the Outdoor

Systems billboard advertising

the event (the one with a

portrait of Chuck Heston

demanding "Join Me"). It's not

the billboard's Langean irony

that sticks out so much as the

fact that, at press time, nobody

had defaced the Heston picture:

no Fu Manchu, no Tom of Finland

moustache, no Professor Brainerd

glasses, nothing. And we must

point out that this failure of

will indicates a chilling lack

of community spirit.



Industry? Or popular art?

That's the dilemma haunting Pez

collectors, now that Pez.com has

joined the ranks of official

sites. Will copyright

infringement letters be soon to

follow? Collectors aren't

reassured by the fact that a

major portion of Pez.com is

devoted to "a few words from the

copyright police." (On the plus

side, the icon for that section

is a policeman's head mounted on

a Pez dispenser.) A recent Salon

article focused on the

inspirational role Pez

collectors played in the

creation of eBay - and eBay's

reciprocating sponsorship of

this year's Pez-a-thon in Los

Angeles, which pulled in a

$6,000 gate in a single day. But

lost in the business coverage is

the freak factor, the bizarre

collecting of Americana made

tangible. Star Wars Pez! KISS

Pez! Model firearms Pez! (But

disappointingly, no Heston

Pez.) Even Pez bride-and-groom

figurines (eerie plastic

analogs of the real-life

couple Salon found,

with Pez dispensers proudly

tattooed on their legs). And as

if Pez moonshiners weren't

enough, extreme collectors are

clamoring for this fad's version

of crack - unofficial homemade

"fantasy" Pez dispensers. Pez

purists think they're lame. One

such person says, "... a lot of

them are just heads ripped off

of other licensed items stuck on

Pez stems." There's no word yet

on Goth Pez dispensers and

whether we should be concerned

about the teens who collect




"After all Bond has done for

Britain, it was the least we

could do for Bond," some budding

Churchill in the Foreign Office

announced last week, after

British intelligence officials

were pressured into allowing

producers of whatever the next

James Bond movie is called to

film a national-security-compromising

boat chase in front of M16

headquarters. Of course, the

decision to cooperate with the

filmmakers may be an admission

that the playboy agent and his

monotonous adventures actually

did more for democracy than any

of the spy-addled incompetents

at her majesty's (or for that

matter the president's) Secret

Service. If liberty hinged on

the success of our spies, you

would be reading a

Soviet-approved version of

Cuk.kom in the rec room of your

collective farm. And amazingly,

it would be indistinguishable

from what you're reading now.



One sticky interactive content

and e-commerce portal rises,

another one passes away. We

share none of the barely

concealed delight that other Web

commentators have demonstrated

in watching Time Warner's

Pathfinder sink below the waves.

We've never had such an ample

supply of Schadenfreude for Big

Media's blunders, and

Pathfinder's death throes have

gone on long enough to exhaust

the patience of Edward Gibbon.

We classify the end of this

behemoth as a matter of enhanced

convenience rather than life

lessons and turn instead to the

sad news that the Journal of

Commerce is struggling to

survive. "Founded in 1827 by

Samuel F. B. Morse," the

Journal (aka the JOC, aka the

Joke) has always been tops in

our pantheon of fondly read

trade papers, a place where

daring headlines like "CSX Faces

Challenges, Opportunities" share

space with superhumanly detailed

minutiae on the banana war. Most

of all, the JOC is our direct

line to the age of wooden ships,

iron men, and syphilitic

stevedores. That a daily

newspaper (albeit a really

skinny one) could be made out of

transportation issues has always

filled us with quiet wonderment.

Of course, there's more stuff

moving in more ships, planes,

and trains now than there ever

was in the JOC's heyday, but

who, other than a few

transportation geeks and

baseball team owners, really

cares? Now planning to transfer

most of its material to its Web

site (where Web-addicted bo's'ns

will no doubt be reading it on

the way to the nautical porn

sites), the Journal may yet stay

afloat. And we're hoping it

does, though we won't be able to

pick up any survivors from the


courtesy of the Sucksters


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