Places I Used To Live: Old Town, 1994-97

Old TownAbout a year and a few months after moving out of my parents’ house and into my first apartment, I decided to find my own place, something that was a little more my style. There were good reasons and bad reasons at the time, which I won’t go into here, but where I wound up moving into was Apartment #2 above Old Town Grain & Feed, a nightclub just on the other end of the block from Pharis Broadcasting, which is where I was working at the time. I was now only a minute or so away from work on foot, which was both a big help considering that my car was in terrible shape and I could ill afford to get it fixed, let alone replace it, but that proximity to work was also one of the dumbest things I ever did to myself. Above is the exterior of the building. My apartment started at the third window from the left, and ended at the sixth. At below, you can see basically the view you would see when you walked in the door of my apartment. Prepare for a voyage into a very geeky early-twenty-something mind. Read More

Necrosoft Widows

PRESS RELEASE
MICROSOFT CREATES SISTER CORPORATION TO CREATE OPERATING SYSTEMS FOR “DEAD” PLATFORMS

REDMOND, WA — Microsoft chief Bill Gates today unveiled a new wing of Microsoft Corporation which will begin to bring outdated computer platforms up to speed with their own versions of Windows and Internet Explorer.

Microsoft’s new sister company Necrosoft, with its catchy motto “Where do you wish you could go today?”, has announced that significant development and programming has already been performed on Windows operating systems for the Apple II line, the Atari ST series, the Commodore 64 and 128 models, TRS-80 machines, and the TI 99/4A.

Called “Widows” – in keeping with Necrosoft’s commitment to “dead” systems – the new operating system will approximate Windows as fully as possible within the constraints of each system.

According to Gates, the Apple II version of Necrosoft’s Widows has progressed nicely, though the Apple version of Internet Explorer has met with less success, owing to the necessity to constantly turn over double-sided floppies in both drives for cache functions. A special version of both products will have to be created for the Apple II+ platform.

Necrosoft Widows and Internet Explorer have been developed for Commodore’s 64 and 128 models, and programmers are now working on a version of Widows and Internet Explorer for the VIC-20, though the problem of dumping the Explorer’s cache onto cassette drive has proven difficult. Frequent crashes have earned this version of the popular web browser the name “Internet Exploder.”

Work continues on the Atari ST, TRS-80 and TI 99 versions of Widows and Internet Explorer. If satisfactory progress can be made with these products, Gates has promised that Necrosoft will develop versions of Widows and Internet Explorer for such platforms at the Atari 400 and 800, the Atari 2600 and 5200, Commodore’s CBM series terminals, Intellivision, ColecoVision, the Vectrex game terminal, Odyssey 2 and the Osborne 1.

Gates asks that if any users of other “dead” systems are seeking a version of Necrosoft Widows for their platform, to contact Necrosoft with a request and, if possible, any existing manuals on how to program for those machines.

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Attention Bill Gates: before you sue me, please rest assured that the above was meant entire in jest.

Up In Smoke

So President Clinton is ready to take measures to limit tobacco advertising and to classify nicotine as an addictive drug, eh? Bravo, I say! It may be a politically convenient move for him, but whatever the ulterior motive, the results should such legislation be passed can only be positive.

There are already people railing against Clinton’s proposed anti-tobacco initiative, but these people don’t seem to realize that they are not the targets of Clinton’s proposition. The National Guard isn’t going to be barging into every home to pluck cigarettes out of the mouths of unsuspecting citizens. The beneficiaries of Clinton’s actions will be the future. The initiative would curb advertising for tobacco products, limit or prohibit tobacco sponsorship of sporting events, remove cigarette vending machines from some public places, and stiffen nationwide regulations against the sale of tobacco products to minors.

Is anyone missing this? This legislation is for the next generation, your children. It will make it more difficult and less desirable for your kids to go out and take up an unhealthy, unattractive, costly and destructive habit. Who in their right minds, in all good conscience as a parent, can say, “Yes, I want my child to go get a pack of cigarettes and start smoking”? Who, even if you’re smokers, can even suggest that they want their children to have that option?

It may indeed be a freedom curbed, but medical studies have shown for years that it’s simply a “freedom” to kill yourself gradually. The tobacco industry has tried time and again to manufacture studies to counter those findings, but the tobacco industry has too vested an interest in its own profits and cannot be relied upon to provide truthful results in such a study.

I have an easier time letting Jack Kervorkian off the hook than I do the tobacco industry. At least “Doctor Death” is under the impression that he’s helping someone. I doubt that anyone can sanely entertain that illusion with regards to cigarette manufacturers.

Among the opposition to Clinton’s tobacco regulations are the farmers who harvest the tobacco, some of whom are heirs of a long line of tobacco producers. If these people with all of their experience with their products are concerned about becoming unemployed, perhaps they should turn their talents and knowledge to helping research cures to the addiction from which so many suffer.

Saturday Overnight Movies

Background: This oddball little proposal is something I actually pitched at my last TV job. At the time, we were trying to figure out some way to distinguish our pathetically low-rated schedule of movies airing in the wee hours on the weekends, where they were practically un-sellable commercially speaking, or else the movies would be dropped in favor of Home Shopping or, that old standby favorite, color bars or static. In desperation, I wrote this proposal and actually pitched it, including a mock-up picture of Burchuss on the virtual set that I designed for the show.)

BurchussMany, or perhaps none, of you will recognize Burchuss as the star of Jump Cut City, and he also made some very brief cameo appearances in some of the commercials I made at KPBI and KFDF; in a promo for The Huddle, our sports talk show, Burchuss jumped up at the end with a bunch of his fiddygibber pals and yelled “HUDDLE!” (a la the Sega commercials running around that time). This project would have elevated Burchuss from cable access to real live broadcast material, unquestionably the first fiddygibber ever to do so.

Needless to say, this project was actually considered for production…for roughly two or three seconds until management’s synapses started to fire again. I’m sure it would have had a small but loyal audience among attorneys for Best Brains, Inc., though.

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The following is a pitch – yes, a real live serious pitch – for a concept that could give our Saturday overnight movies some real identity.

Admittedly, the concept is very similar to Mystery Science Theater 3000, a Comedy Central show in which a human host and two wisecracking “robot” puppets sit in the corner of the screen and make fun of an entire 2-hour movie. But I decided to simplify and pull back from that concept for a number of reasons.

One of the big reasons to get away from the “MST3K” concept would be to avoid having to pay clearances for satirizing a copyrighted film. “MST3K” takes old movies and turns them into a part of a TV show. My idea is to do some silly host segments, but to incorporate them into the existing structure of the local avails. Instead of framing the movie with host segments, the host segments fall naturally into the breaks. Ideally, host segments would take up no more than a quarter of the local avails in a single movie – we do still like this concept about making money, after all – and would be pre-taped and built onto the movie master prior to air.

Hosts In Space

The concept of the host segments is simple and stupid. An Earthling has been captured by an alien creature known only as Burchuss the Fiddygibber. Burchuss is a small, orange, furry and inoffensive-looking beast with a thundering, almost godlike voice. Burchuss intends to subvert major governments, instill anarchy into the public mindset, and thus take over the world. To this end, he has kidnapped our host in an effort to interrogate him about Earth’s defenses and weaknesses.

But our host is no dummy. He knows what his captor is up to, so he suggests that Burchuss should simply tune in to a nearby television station and monitor a late night movie or two, and assimilate the movies’ accurate portrayals of life on Earth. He figures that after a couple of movies, Burchuss will get it into his furry little skull that Earth is not a world that should be on anybody’s “A” list. But Burchuss gets hooked on Hollywood and expects his prisoner to explain movie after movie after movie to him.

Burchuss will gradually begin adopting various slang terms he hears in the movies and will clumsily – and usually quite incorrectly – try to incorporate them into his weekly conversations with our human host.

Here’s the funny twist that makes this concept radically different from “MST3K.” At no point would we ever interrupt the movie. At no point would we ever actively ridicule or satirize the movie. Never, ever will we come right out and say “Hey, this movie sucks,” because we don’t want to make the viewer feel like he’s just wasted two hours of his life just to see the host segments. This also keeps us clear of any violations of copyright – we’re simply doing a few funny things in between the movie segments. Our host is trying to feed Burchuss misinformation about life on Earth, and so he’ll try to convince his captor that everything in the movies is the honest-to-God truth. For instance, after seeing a musical, he’ll tell Burchuss that everyday people do indeed break into song at the drop of a hat, thus making the Earth a very annoying and noisy planet to conquer.

As time wears on, viewer feedback can even be incorporated into the program, either by setting up an e-mail address for the show or encouraging viewers to send letters to the show, care of the station’s PO box. Not only would this allow us to guage viewer response to the show, but could even provide fuel for more fun.

Logistics in Space

How much will this cost us? Almost nothing. Burchuss we already have – he’s made brief cameo appearances in a couple of promos already. Burchuss is the furry creature who used to pop up at the end of the Huddle promo with his fellow stuffed animals singing “Huddle! Huddle! Huddle!”

Well, okay, let’s talk about our host. What happens if he’s busy whenever we shoot our host segments? Well…we’ll just have to hope it doesn’t happen. But in the inevitable event that it does, Burchuss will have to carry the show, or perhaps kidnap another victim. In all likelihood, however, the best approach would be to mention our host and note that he has told Burchuss to watch out for this important lesson about earthlings in this movie. (This would also be a great time to fall back on viewer feedback.)

What kind of a set are we talking about? Well, when production’s chromakey abilities are back on track, we can just fake the whole set with a background graphic. It doesn’t get much cheaper than that. Of course, we wouldn’t be able to move the camera around, zoom in, or do anything of that nature, but when our heroes consist of a bewildered host and a stuffed animal, I doubt anyone will notice. We can sell the rest of the “laboratory” ambience with a tape loop of weird sound effects that I can assemble from my vast library of weirdness. One possibility: the background graphic could be the interior of Burchuss the Fiddygibber’s laboratory or spaceship, looking out high above Fort Smith at night.

How long will it take us to shoot all the segments for a movie? Probably not very long. Maybe one hour for both Saturday overnight movies (2:00am and 4:00am). It probably wouldn’t pay to give the Sunday overnight movies this treatment because they’ll be airing at a time when people are in bed resting up for work the next morning. Since the segments are going to be funny, a little additional time for crack-ups is to be expected. Once they’re on tape and time out correctly, all we have to do is build the segments onto the movie tape itself and the show is ready to hit the air.

The length and distribution of the host segments would depend on the length and distribution of the breaks. If we had time and had the formats for the movies well in advance, we could shoot host segments for more than one or two movies at a time.

One of the few drawbacks here will be the fact that doing these segments will be a year-round task (unless we get a movie package with several runs on each movie, which would occasionally allow us to go into “reruns”), which is why I bring up the possibility of shooting multiple host segments in one session whenever possible. This gives us breathing room so we can attack the next movie fresh without getting burned out from writing host segments week after week.

Another possible alternative to the tedium of shooting endless segments would be for the program to appear on alternating weekends, though the resulting schedule inconsistency of that approach would present its own problems.

And if we do wind up getting some sort of cult following? We might get some sponsors. And Burchuss the Fiddygibber would be happy to say something like “Using my human captive as a business front to raise funds for my conquest of the planet Earth, I have secured the financial backing of Billy Bob’s Car Wash for tonight’s movie. Thank you. Very much.” A very roundabout way of saying that Billy Bob’s Car Wash is tonight’s sponsor. Sponsorships should probably be fairly cheap!

Promos would scattered sparingly throughout other late-night/overnight fare, and could be very simple character pieces with our host or Burchuss explaining who they are and what they’re doing in the commercial breaks on Saturday night.

Perhaps one good way to do an annual promotion for the show would be to have three or four movies, starting earlier than 2:00am if the air schedule permitted, a “marathon” session to run on New Years’ Eve, or perhaps Halloween, two holidays that would best fit in with the sense of general insanity about the thing. In fact, a New Years’ Eve premiere wouldn’t be a bad kickoff for the program.

Life On Mars and Other Headlines

MarsWell, nobody has brought it up, amazingly, so I thought I’d ask around.

What does everyone here think of this alleged discovery of microscopic organic life on Mars?

There is still a ton of verification yet to be done, and some of the evidence has yet to be explained, such as how they’re so sure that this fossil- bearing meteor comes from Mars. I also worry that there may be some in the scientific community who will be lax on the normal rigorous checking and rechecking required to provide solid proof.

But if it is true – which is still an “if,” even in the mind of a space advocate like myself – this could well be the most important discovery in the history of mankind.

Most people, as well as the media, seem to be focusing on the most ridiculously pedestrian or unlikely implications of this discovery. CNN interviewed William Shatner on Wednesday night and asked him what he thought – “I knew it all along,” said the intrepid cap’n, who then proceeded to plug his latest TekWar book, which takes place on Mars…such sparking scientific insight from Mr. Shatner! – and one “man on the street” interviewed said he wouldn’t believe it until he saw “the little green men landing.”

Well, we’re not going to see the little green men landing, pal. This finding has wide-ranging implications, but they are not merely limited to space science or national security. The serious suggestion that there was once life on Mars spreads out to touch on nearly every science, including ecology, philosophy, theology, sociology…you name it.

Ecologically speaking, the key phrase in NASA’s claims is that there “may have been life” on Mars. Past tense. As in, “There’s no life there now.” This would mean that Mars once had a viable ecosystem, but no longer has such an environment, or at least no longer has what we might recognize as a viable ecosystem. It could be argued that Earth’s environment is on the same downhill slide. Not to suggest that any kind of huge civilization ignorantly obliterated the Martian ecosphere, but it would be worth studying any natural causes for that kind of event. It could provide keys to preventing the same fate for Earth.

Philosophically and religiously, the possibility of life on Mars will have effects from one extreme to the other, depending on the individual. Some will actively deny or avoid the subject – indeed, as you saw above, some already are – and others may have to change their entire worldview. If God created life on Earth, did He create life on Mars as well? On which day did He do this, and why? And there will doubtlessly be those who pop out of the woodwork – as has been happening for years on the subject of homosexuality – trying to interpret the Bible and other texts to include or exclude the views with which they agree/disagree.

The reaction of large bodies of people will also be interesting to observe. I doubt there’s any reason to fear an alien invasion, but the responses to the news will be revealing and possibly disturbing.

I think it’s time to re-evaluate the mostly-dormant, earth-based U.S. space program, not in hopes of making contact with anything, but basically as an archaeological fact-finding mission.

Do I think it’s possible that life existed on Mars? When there’s water deep-frozen in the polar caps, when there are canyons and surface features that look like the product of wind and water erosion and not just meteor craters… yes. It’s possible. And if the first fruits of the search for possible life, even extinct life, appear on one of our neighboring planets in our own solar system, the prospects for life elsewhere and throughout the universe are staggering.

It’s just possible that the universe has become a much more interesting place.

Now for some other interesting headlines.

Some kid is trying to sue Pepsi for fraudulent advertising because he accumulated X million Pepsi Points and sent them in to Pepsi and demanded a Harrier jump jet, just like the commercial says. If this fellow had called Pepsi’s bluff and just done this for the publicity, that would have been funny. But what does this civilian with no military or flight experience expect – that a soft drink manufacturer is going to provide him with a $70 million piece of military hardware? I guess satire is about to be declared illegal. Better put my face on the posters now, because I’ll still be indulging in that terrible, fraudulent deadpan humor. The evidence is on your screen as you read this!

And the most tactless lead line of the night award goes to KFSM, our local CBS station, for this winner: “The Dallas Cowboys football team may get a much- needed shot in the arm as Michael Irving returns after charges of drug abuse.” Uh, sorry. There’s no way in hell someone just pulled that one out of their hat – somebody had to be thinking of doing that one!

Tribute: Edward L. Harvey, (1903-1996)

I’m feeling really lousy right now. Really, really lousy. Let me explain.

Since my mother died in 1987, communication in my family hasn’t exactly been at an all-time high. One could easily reach the conclusion that one person had been the glue that held our family together. Some within our own family have reached that conclusion as well.

One person I was in touch with quite a bit after my mother’s death was her own father, who lived in New Jersey. For longer than I can remember, indeed, longer than I’ve even been around to remember, he has been one of the very few members of my family to make a living at any sort of creative endeavour, so ever since my teens when when I finally gained something of a clear idea of where my life, interests and career were headed, he was something of a kindred spirit.

My grandfather won several awards and was one of a very select few to be named official photographer for the Victorian Society of New England, which meant he got to visit numerous stately houses and structures in that part of the country, and his photos of those places were published on many occasions in the Victorian Society’s official journals and elsewhere.

If one were reaching real hard to draw similarities, one could say that I was inspired by his work, but it’s more a case of coincidental similarities. Due to a rift between my mother and her father that started sometime in my infancy and didn’t end until a year before she died, my grandfather was not a big part of my life. I didn’t know much about him until 1986 when I finally got to see him for the first time since my second birthday. By that time, I had taken up writing, drawing and desktop publishing, as well as more than passing interests in music, science, and the idea of making a movie or a TV show someday. He seemed thrilled at the prospect that someone in his family wasn’t headed for an office job or the “transportation industry.” I was happy to find someone who wouldn’t try to steer me in those directions because it would make it easy for me to get a job on name recognition alone. That summer, he carted me around to the New York Museum of Natural History, to Hayden Planetarium, and quite a few other places. He had some pictures he needed to shoot, and while he advised mom and dad that they could go do some shopping, he made it real clear that his grandson was coming with him.

Not that I got the chance to take any pictures myself – it was enough of a treat to see that not all of the men in my family get old, fat and bald, slow down, and come to a quiet end. He was in his early 80s at the time, and he could beat his chubby grandkid across the street on a New Jersey summer day.

When my mother died, he didn’t come to Arkansas for the funeral, preferring instead to leave things as they were – they had finally broken their silence after twelve or so years, and I don’t think he wanted to deal with the cruel reality that he had just barely gotten the one final opportunity he’d have to see her alive and well. In fact, she collapsed at home the very night we returned to Fort Smith from New Jersey, the first sign of the cancer that wound up claiming her life the following spring.

I flew up, alone, to see him again in 1988, and somehow it seemed like there was a distance between my grandfather and I. I had become much more of a bookworm in the wake of events, and less of a teenager who’d get out and go do things. I got the impression he was slightly disappointed.

We were in touch on and off through the years, but when I dropped out of college in 1992 for various reasons, not all of them necessarily good, he seemed especially displeased. Anytime I talked to him for the next couple of years, the first thing on the agenda, just barely lagging behind “hello,” was how soon I was going back to school. Not much else seemed to matter.

I hadn’t heard from him since around 1994. My brother called me about a week ago and told me that all was not well; he flew up to New Jersey to see our grandfather, stayed for a few days, and came back late last week with the news that the doctors had determined that the illness was prostate cancer, and that there wasn’t a lot of time left. My brother had told him about my preparations to go back to school, about some of the word I’ve been doing and some of the recognition I’ve received for it. I was urged to call, to say something. I tried to call my grandfather last night a little before 7:00, and got no answer. The call from my brother a few hours later confirmed my gut fear – I had just missed my chance. Edward Harvey died on August 6th at the age of 93.

Second-guessing life doesn’t do anybody much good, but it’s still eating away at me. Just as I didn’t spend a lot of time with my mother right before she died, I didn’t give myself the time to spend with her father. Here was the one person in the family who was the most like me, and you’d think I would have spent a lot of time in his company, but circumstances prevented that from happening. I wanted to show him some of what I had done, and to see and hear more about what he had done.

Such treatment for a kindred spirit. Some grandson, I.

Summer 1988

TWA Flight 800: Post-Crash Media Madness

I’m starting to wonder if the world has perhaps gone mad.

I’ve been following the TWA air crash story pretty close, since I saw the first “this just in” report and kinda got caught up in it. But some of the things I’ve heard emerge from the media have been extraordinary.

I’ve mainly been perusing CNN, ABC News, and CNBC in roughly equal measures. At this point I have to favor ABC News’ coverage of the event because they seem to be trying to stick to doing news more than the other two.

Within 24 hours, CNN has a big graphics package and soft piano music beds under what seems like every other report on the subject. One of their guest commentators mentioned something about Clinton turning the event into an election issue. This seems like the height of hypocrisy when the forum through which that view is aired is already concentrating so hard on ratings – a Nielsen election issue, if you will.

CNBC’s coverage has been fairly decent, though I was unlucky enough to happen across “Rivera: Live!” – Geraldo Rivera’s new excuse for a current issues show – and heard Geraldo himself say “We know this was not an accident. Why don’t they tell us what’s going on?” Granted, this is Geraldo, and 99% of the time if not more, he’s full of shit. But people do listen to the little bugger, and I seriously question CNBC’s editorial policy for letting him go off half-cocked like that.

The Governor and Mayor of New York both unleash verbal attacks on TWA, but you know full well that if TWA had released a premature passenger manifest and it turned out to be wrong in even one instance, they could be in serious trouble, and no one would let them off the hook for that either. I wouldn’t want to be in TWA’s shoes right now.

At a press conference held by the National Transporation Safety Board questions were put to the representatives of the investigative team: “Have you found the bomb?” “Is there any evidence of a ground-to-air missile?”

What…??!? A missile? Fired by whom? I wasn’t aware that the State of New York had declared war on commercial air travel, at least not until after the crash had already occurred (see above).

There are no answers at this point because it’s roughly twenty-one hours since this thing happened; search efforts have concentrated mainly on passengers. With no survivors and no realistic prospect of any survivors, the media and the public seem to be trying to find someone, anyone to blame now. Was it terrorism? No one knows yet. Has TWA been negligent before the crash, sloppy after the crash? It’s possible, but this is no easier for them than it is for anyone else. It’ll all have to come out in the wash, so to speak.

The reporters were carping last night about how these things also bring people together. Well, yeah, but I’ll also say what I said about that observation after the tornado and the fire here: it also brings the nuts out of the woodwork. A mere day after the crash of TWA 800 “brought everyone together,” people are now using it to tear each other apart.

Thank goodness I work on commercials and promotional items instead of news in the television industry. I think I’d have some serious ethical dilemmas and arguments in such a case.

Why Censoring The Internet Won’t Work

At the moment, it’s a moot issue. But I wrote – and then proceeded to lose – an earlier tract on the subject of the failed Communications Decency Act that was overturned this year, and thought I’d go back and remember as much of it as I could. Plus I’ll add some insights that have arrived on my mental doorstep since then. Be warned, this is intentionally one of my more incendiary pieces, deliberately written to evoke responses by shocking you. Shocking you into thinking about it real hard.

Simply put – who the hell thought of the CDA? And were they just nuts, or actually making some pretense at being serious?

The CDA started with, so its creators tell us, impressionable youth accessing such things as adult web sites, adult phone services and so on. (This is not actually where it all started. But you’ll have to read on to find the real reason.) Now, I’ve always felt that the finger of blame can often more accurately be pointed inward, to the home itself. Hormonal adolescents get into this trouble anyway, whether it’s a triple-X web site or stepdad’s stack of old Penthouse magazines. But, oh my! Little Billy’s been surfing the web with one hand on the keyboard and one hand below the keyboard, and he’s been going to very bad places. Very, very bad places! Poor little Billy! Our innocent little boy! Boo hoo!

I have this to say to these people. It also applies to the parents who try to blame their kids’ behavior on violent television. If you’d been doing your duty to your children and supervising them in the first place, not to mention opening the occasional frank dialogue on such subjects as sex, violence, dating and so forth, then maybe the kids wouldn’t have felt a need to look elsewhere for the answers. But I’m straying far and wide of the path. Before I leave this point, however, I want you to savor it for a moment and think. Teach your children well. It’s a line from one of the very few songs that really has something important to say. Values and morals should begin in the home. The frightening thing is that for the longest time, no one really worried about value lessons and moral teachings until the 1992 campaign.

And now little Billy’s folks want that terrible Internet fiercely regulated! And suddenly, so does Congress! (Little Billy’s folks are their constituents, you see.) And the next thing you know, that darn smut is under heavy fire. But so are a lot of other things. The groundwork is being laid, like little Billy wishes to be as he accesses all of these evil web sites. The groundwork will allow further subjects to be declared taboo on a legislative whim. At first, sex was the target of the embryonic CDA, but then certain articles of profanity and other subject matter were forbidden as well. Your local librarian could, in theory, be jailed under the Communications Decency Act for making available online any “questionable” passages of a book that is available on the library shelves.

Okay, time out. Let me get something out of the way. I really had to avail myself of the “laid” pun, it was too good to pass up. And I’m not advocating letting your children loose with a truckload of adult material. But as puberty sets in and increases young people’s awareness and curiosity about their emerging sexuality, it seems like more and more parents are afraid to have The Talk with their kids. I know my parents never had The Talk with me, and I just had to find these things out for myself. The aforementioned adult material usually does cater to the basest possible denominators, and really offers no information of any value whatsoever on the subject of sexuality, especially to those who have no experience with the topic in question. But American society pushes sex so far into the closet that it’s almost funny. Outmoded Puritanical views make it easier for us to depict brutal violence on television than to delve very far into sexual matters. Given the option of getting my groin kicked or kissed, I know which I would choose. I think the solution here is for we Americans to practice what we preach. That’s right! Make that repression of all sexual thoughts and deeds a day-to-day reality. If we can’t talk about sex, we shouldn’t have sex, for it’s obvious that such a hypocritical society is far too stupid to be allowed to reproduce. Parents shudder at the secrets in their children’s lives. Perhaps if those very parents hadn’t shuddered at their own secrets, their kids would’ve turned out more to their satisfaction. Just as abusive homes turn out abusive children, I’m convinced that parents embarassed about their own previous lack of education regarding sex tend to unleash dangerously uneducated young people onto the world. These days that could mean signing your child’s death sentence.

Sex education should also be treated much more seriously in schools. I’ve also read in the news about parents railing against the thought of public school sex ed. Well, what the hell would they suggest? They’re not doing the job, so somebody has to! It should be a required subject with written tests and the whole works. And it should be a prerequisite for graduation. No joke! Kids are graduating who can read and understand English, perform routine mathematical equations, and they comprehend basic science. And then they’re going and catching AIDS and getting themselves killed. Make the successful completion of sex education a requirement for getting that diploma, and you’ll be doing kids a favor. Drum some basic common sense into their heads – abstinence at best, if not that then monogamy, and always use a condom – and they’ll actually learn something that could literally contribute to their survival. The distribution of birth control in schools has also raised people’s eyebrows, though I don’t think distribution is the problem. I think the distribution of these items was actually a really keen idea. Again getting back to the repression of all matters sexual in our country, the fear of being seen taking the school up on its free birth control, and the subsequent fear of peer harrassment or ridicule, probably prevented a lot of teens from obtaining the necessary birth control. And I would charge that these byproducts of society’s sexual repression contributed significantly to the rising statistic of school-age mothers. What examples are we setting for our kids? That we’d rather risk teen pregnancy than risk being branded “slutty” or somesuch?

Anyway, we’re back to little Billy cruising a web just full of porn, as the parties responsible for drafting the CDA would have us believe. Soon, they tell us, the Internet will be policed more vigorously and this will end the problem.

BZZZZZZZT! Thank you for playing, Senator! Guess what? You’re full of it. That won’t take care of the problem, and you know it. A little earlier, I mentioned that even though I defend its protection under the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, I consider “adult” material to be of very little actual value. I still stand by this. Pornography is no substitute for comprehensive and honest sex education. My dismissal of adult material does not include books on sex technique or therapy, since those actually attempt to impart some kind of information. But one thing that you may have noticed about pornography of all kinds is that there’s just so much of it. And that alone makes the goals of the Communications Indecency Act ridiculously impossible. It’s like the old staple sci-fi storyline that one man is going to take over the world. How? He can only be in one place, and wherever he isn’t, things are pretty much left to their own devices.

Pornography shares something in common with alcohol and tobacco. Not only do all three fit some people’s definitions of vice, but they all began as cottage industries and quickly entered the world of mass production. And that is probably why we’ll never be rid of any of the three. People still roll their own cigarettes and brew their own beer, and in much the same way, there are still guys who take naughty pictures of their girlfriends. As long as people remember how to produce these items on their own, as long as the necessary information is there to learn how to produce them, it’s truly a pointless exercise to even conceive of completely eliminating such habits from society. I’ve got a brighter idea. Why don’t we just educate people on the dangers and/or benefits (if any) of the aforementioned vices, and hope that some will take the hint?

If every adult publisher, every adult moviemaker, and every adult web site were brought to a halt tomorrow, someone somewhere would still have the means to resurrect those activities the following day, and before long, they would be mass-produced once more. So what was the point in hunting them all down in the first place? Mass production doesn’t succeed without mass demand. They’re attempting to wipe out the symptoms and not the actual problem.

More disturbing is the possibility that other items could be added to the list. When judges in Philadelphia overturned the CDA, news reports appeared nationally that the Pentagon had been the target of numerous attempts to “hack into” classified information, and that the best solution anyone could think of would be to – hang on tight for the drum roll here – increase security on the Internet!

(Funny. I’d just increase security on the Pentagon computer systems. What in the hell is the Pentagon doing on the Internet anyway? Shouldn’t that kind of secure information be…well…secure?!?)

So now you’re asking me, “If Congress is trying so hard to abolish the Internet, what’s it all about? Are they trying to rob us of our First Amendment rights? Are we looking at the first generation of Thought Police?”

Nope. We’re seeing something we’ve seen time and again in the past, only the issue is clouded by the First Amendment angle. Not that the First Amendment rights that we stand to lose are unimportant – far from it. But the simple fact is, the pressure that is being exerted by Capitol Hill to cripple the Internet is more likely a result of lobbyists and corporate special interests than any attempts to control the public’s minds. It’s very simple. The Internet allows a user who’s already paid a flat rate for a subscription the ability to access real-time video, real-time audio, and a wealth of information (buried beneath a sea of useless crap). And now it’s been discovered that a live telephone conversation can be conducted via the net. Don’t think for a moment that the phone company wouldn’t like to quash that ability in favor of expensive international phone calls. Don’t think for a moment that television broadcast, cable and commercial video interests wouldn’t like to see Quicktime movies wiped from the face of the Earth. In some small ways, their fears are justified. Someone could be pirating movies or music or software via the Internet. But the majority are most likely not doing anything quite so underhanded. These large corporate entities lobby with their friends in Congress. And their friends in Congress have a go at the Internet.

It’s not some huge, dark conspiracy to silence the voice of the people. It’s a huge but obvious conspiracy to make sure money keeps flowing to the “proper” channels – the established industries want to keep getting richer off of their existing infrastructures. Naturally they’re opposed to innovative experimenters who are finding ways to do the same things cheaper and more efficiently. And along come the issues of impressionable kids accessing porn and irrepressible hackers accessing the Pengtagon. It’s love at first sight. Our self-centered lawmakers couldn’t have arranged for better smokescreens if they’d tried – they cloak their lobbying interests in the self-explanatory, surefire crusades of protecting innocent minds and preserving national security. Surely no one would argue with those aims?

Only a lot of intelligent people who know an encroachment on their rights when they see one. Big business and bloated legislators are trying to line their own pockets and avoid the perils of dealing with honest competition. And if they should happen to eliminate a few liberties along the way, who’ll notice?

I will. And, with any luck, you will too. Now go get little Billy away from that evil, terrible computer!