Hotsy Totsy members: Juliet Clark - Ray Davis - Anselm Dovetonsils - Christina La Sala
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The Hotsy Totsy Club

1999-08-22. . . Cholly Kokonino reporting

Critics rave:
You call this a club? I came in for a drink, and all I get is this?
-- Doug Asherman
Yes! Yes! Manuia (paka-paka)!

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To Err Is Human; To Give Up, Divine: Good riddance. I was a lot sorrier to see the Mosaic name go.

Ah, memories, in the coroner of my mind.... Throwing Internet development into the Dark Ages by deciding to dictate new "standards" by whim was antisocial enough. But then came the Doughboy's astonishing claim that his (or NCSA's, who's counting?) browser was going to become an honest-to-gosh operating system and wipe Microsoft out. Oh right, I spouted off at the time, a cross-platform operating system that's going to fit without any problems in application space on top of another operating system (which in turn was on top of a third operating system, in the case of MS Windows).... It's exactly the kind of plan you'd expect from an arrogant college goop dropped straight from campus to boardroom.

And it worked exactly as well as you'd expect, too. As a business move, it brought Microsoft down hard on the browser market. As an engineering move, it turned the Netscape application into a breakdown-prone resource-tapeworm. And as for Andreessen's grander ambitions -- surprise! -- Microsoft's engineers had an easier time integrating with an existing operating system than Netscape's engineers had creating and layering a new one.

It did, however, shift enormous piles of money to those responsible for the debacle, thus helping to reorient software engineers' definition of "success" to match their CEOs': the timely manipulation of market gullibility.

Too bad Gates & Co. decided to keep IE5 single-platform; thank goodness they were dumb enough to get into legal trouble by using high-pressure monopolistic tactics to push an application which would be quite capable of walking on its own. And my very best wishes go to Opera and iCab.

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Boston, 1994: A goateed guy in his twenties swipes a "Prosperity Ahead" CA/T public relations poster off the T ad strip. "McGruff Wants Me," he paraphrases to us from the poster underneath.

. . . 1999-08-23

Our Motto: snyder & individually twisted (courtesy of a box of pretzels)

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Paris as university town (courtesy of Librarians' Index):

Later the students moved to the colleges of "La montagne Saint-Genevieve". Afterwards, Place Maubert was given over to the gallows, and to torture by the wheel and at the stake, particularly under Francis I.

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Ich bin ein Danish: The heck with some preachy art-school video, and the heck with Cannibal Holocaust. What The Blair Witch people really ripped off was a horror hoax documentary about witchcraft made by the first (of many, I'm sure) great director from Denmark. And then they had the nerve to name their production company after it! Wudda they think we are -- stupid!?

. . . 1999-08-24

Doug Asherman is heartened by Amazon's fight against traditional gender roles:
When I looked up Once Upon A Time In China at the Amazon web site, auction recommendations included a cup and saucer and the hardcover edition of The Joy Luck Club. Man, did you ever feel like someone really has your number?

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Juliet Clark initiates Hotsy Totsy's Irony Watch with the following, overheard on Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley, California, August 18, 1999:

"Yeah, there have been an awful lot of yellowjackets around this summer. July and August are the big months for them. Ironically, all of the times I've been bitten by yellowjackets have been in July or August."

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Tom Parmenter noted that the mysterious "Billy Goat" song, now identified as "Hide and Go Seek" by Bunker Hill (nom de secularism for a Mighty Clouds of Joy vocalist), sounds like "a compendium of schoolyard rhymes.... 'Went down the road, the road was muddy,' that has the jump-rope rhythm." In turn, I noted that, like some other of my favorite blues, rock'n'roll, R&B, and hip-hop songs, it blends a bit of dirty dozens into its kids games. Tom again:

"Toasts" are another member of the family. I'm surprised no one has put together an album of Titanic-related toasts and tunes. Supposedly, Jack Johnson was denied passage and the wreck was retribution. I also have a song by the Johnny Otis Show (under the name of Snatch and the Poontangs) on the alleged presence on board of the legendary Shine, who *could* have saved them all, but concluded "there's better pussy on yonder shore".

Strange that Frogman's hits should both be so peppy and so gloomy. Here's a cat so talented he can sing like a girl *and* a frog and he ain't got no home in the one song and he's contemplating suicide in the other, so deep are his troubles.

.... I'm listening to this hip folk balladeer jazz rocker street singer guy Hirth Martinez and two of these songs are so *damn* entertaining, one of them called "Mothman Samba", about said mysterious creature.

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Tenuous Local Connection Made to Global Catastrophe!: The first earthquake I ever experienced was in Turkey, while my father was stationed in Karamursel. But I have clearer memories of the cute Turkish girl next door, the fights I got into in kindergarten, and the waterfront....

. . . 1999-08-25

In the Company of Mormon:
The titles below are particularly popular with customers from Brigham Young University.
1.  HTML 4 for the World Wide Web: Visual QuickStart Guide
2.  Tainted Truth; The Manipulation of Fact in America
3.  Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace (Darth Maul Cover)
4.  Asking the Right Questions : A Guide to Critical Thinking
5.  Film Scheduling : Or, How Long Will It Take to Shoot Your Movie?
6.  The Millionaire Next Door : The Surprising Secrets of America's Wealthy
7.  Mary Parker Follett : Prophet of Management
8.  Film Director's Team
9.  The Act of Marriage : The Beauty of Sexual Love
The titles below are particularly popular with customers from West Sacramento, CA.
1.  Songs From Ally McBeal Featuring Vonda Shepard
The titles below are particularly popular with customers from Charities & Nonprofit.
1.  Live Now Age Later : Proven Ways to Slow Down the Clock

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Speaking of which, here's Constance Kandle's Nonprofit Chronicles, featuring Bossy the Clown:

Bossy's Reputation Is at Stake

Recently there was a power outage at the nonprofit. Everyone felt their way out of the building (all the bulbs in the emergency lights were blown) and waited around outside for an hour or so before going home for the day.

A few hours later, Constance got a frantic call from Bossy. "Where are you? I just called the office and nobody was there. What if the Big Boss notices you're not there? It makes me look terrible if everybody from my department is gone. I mean, I couldn't possibly be there -- I had to go to my riding lesson, because even if I don't go to the stable I still have to pay for it, but you could have waited, just in case the power came back on..."

. . . 1999-08-26

Found in One Reel a Week by Fred J. Balshofer and Arthur C. Miller, a little late for the Centennial:
In 1921 in the middle of July we sailed for London to make Three Live Ghosts. Alfred Hitchcock was the art director. On one occasion I went along with him to a rather shabby residence where he spent some time bargaining with the woman of the house for all her old furniture to be replaced entirely by new. Among the furnishings Hitchcock thus acquired was a wind-up phonograph and a few records, one of which was a vocal by a girl about "the monkey chews tobacco and spit some in my eye." The crew was enchanted with it and played it so often that all of us knew the lyrics by heart.
I'm sorry to say that my Web searches haven't turned up the rest of those lyrics....

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While the rest of Webbed America focuses on Burning Man, we return to the thinking man's present participle:

I agree with Curt Salada; let's leave the bourgeois-bashing out of this. It took a lot of work for me to become bourgeois, and I have to say that it's even nicer than I imagined.

No, when I picture the Thinking Man, it's not with a particular type of residence or size of bank account. I picture Hugh Hefner on that TV show he had around 1960: knees pressed together, lips clenched around pipe, absolutely rigid with fear of embarrassment.

And when I picture the Thinking Man's much-prized possession, it seems always to be some "safe" instance of a Guilty Pleasure. E.g., "Westerns are a guilty pleasure," and then you get "the thinking man's Western." Or "pin-up," or "slasher novel"....

Now, I've never understood that phrase "guilty pleasure." Pleasure is good by definition, and how can anyone feel guilty about what's good? On close examination of particular instances, what's being talked about seems to be "inadequately analyzed pleasure," or even "unsatisfying pretense of pleasure," but mostly "potentially embarrassing pleasure."

For example, a Western is merely an example of a genre, and to place a work of art in a genre is to say absolutely nothing about the merit of that work: the qualities that make a movie good -- rhythm, grace, insight -- fit equally well inside any genre. But what a genre does say something about is marketing. And yeah, marketing can be kind of embarrassing. But rather than remembering that they're separable issues, "the thinking man's Western" attempts to deal with the marketing problem by pouring markers of high seriousness (many of which trip up all attempts at rhythm, grace, and insight) directly into the work of art itself. Like topping cheesecake with castor oil for the sake of digestion.

That seems to cover thinking man's Westerns and slasher novels, anyway; I don't know enough about pin-ups to be able to talk about 'em. (This parenthesis is dedicated to Frank Tashlin: It's true that a photo of Jane Russell hangs in my office, but that doesn't count because it's only a bust.)

. . . 1999-08-27

Gosh, I like the Internet: Someone sent me email this morning asking for the complete lyrics to "Sunshine, Lollipops, & Rainbows" for their science project.

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Postliteracy in Millennial Chicago:

Please - we no longer allow writing
(courtesy of Bench 6 in Pizzeria Due)

. . . 1999-08-29

Back-to-School Thesis Fodder: Juliet Clark informs us that a superbly self-aware description of film noir style was supplied by John McGuire in what's commonly cited as the first example of the genre, The Stranger on the Third Floor:
"What a gloomy dump! Why can't they put in a bigger lamp?"

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This past week, Tom Parmenter's far-too-sporadic emailzine Desperado issued an appropriate response to the "respect the US flag" constitutional amendment that's being cheered on through our do-nothing-and-proud-of-it Congress. One might think that our politicians' patriotism would be better expressed by eliminating tax shelters and offshore labor. But no, the greenback remains the most furiously guarded symbol of their country.

My reaction to flag-hagiographers is even more unmixed than Tom's, possibly because pretty much the only use I've seen the flag get put to is as a quick hiding place. I'm so glad I'm living in the USA because of the Bill of Rights, the unusually (if still insufficiently) permeable class system, and the achievements they've made possible. Forcing children to take daily oaths of allegiance to a piece of cloth doesn't seem so useful; it's also hard to see what benefits can be derived by the flag-hags' getting their red-white-and-blue panties in a twist over furriners' bonfires. The most pleasant association the flag has for me is as verifier of post office or embassy.

A couple of months ago, I read James Branch Cabell's These Restless Heads, which spends quite a few pages observing the USA flag at eye level from a high-placed summer cottage:

I note that those seven red stripes and those six white stripes are so alternated as to suggest the uniform of a convict.... That blue canton I know to contain some and forty stars; but for seven whole years I have tried without success to count them.... It may well reek with irreligion, in that it boldly attempts to improve upon the celestial plan by arranging its own stars in six parallel rows.... I recollect, in the nick of time, that those some and forty white pentangles were borrowed from the Washington coat-of-arms, in which they did not represent stars but the rowels of spurs.....

The patriot everywhere, it may be observed, remains always exceedingly careful lest his country's banner become besmirched by any touch of that bloody sponge which is his brain....

For any of antiquity's heroic standards a liquescent barber's pole seems a poor substitute.... Red-and-white-striped peppermint candy is a spectacle which, in itself, connotes rather less of high-mindedness than of an over-cloying and sticky saccharinity; and I imagine that in this aspect it may rhetorically mislead a great many patriotic orators. I wish, in fine, that both the flag and I were somewhat different looking.

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Fragments of Buster Keaton's vaudeville memories are buried under the talking-heads of a typically frustrating NPR program. The original tape -- of great scholarly and minimal commercial interest -- is a perfect example of the sort of thing that should be compressed and made available for downloading. (Courtesy of Looka!)

... an' anotha thing ...... then again ...

Copyright to contributed work and quoted correspondence remains with the original authors.
All other material: Copyright 1999 Ray Davis.