Before leaping into Cocktail Chatter, I need to, as my colleague Tim Noah puts it, clarify some stuff from previous pieces, in order to ensure that my e-mailbox is no longer flooded with letters from frustrated readers. MTV's Cool Crap, more than a few people pointed out, was a charity event. If this would have made you like Cool Crap more, I'm sorry I didn't mention it. As for The Phantom Menace, more than a few (OK, way more than a few) readers insisted that my ruminations on the economics of the film were a) abstruse and b) obtuse, since the Trade Federation's blockade of the planet Naboo was clearly motivated by the evil machinations of the Sith Lord and not by economic considerations. (Check out this column you really want to hear more about this.)
Believe it or not, having seen The Phantom Menace, I did understand that the Trade Federation was but the pawn of the Sith Lord. (More than a few readers, again, suggested that since their children got this plot point, I should have, too.) But what I was interested in was what the Trade Federation thought it was doing, because I was assuming--mistakenly, perhaps--that businesspeople always in some sense seek economically rational reasons for their behavior. Which doesn't mean that the column wasn't obtuse or abstruse. Just that it was willfully so. Or so I like to delude myself. In any case, I think I'll take on Star Trek next, so keep the letters coming. And now, on to the Chatter!
1. "Principal photography on The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas has begun. The movie is budgeted at about $68 million. Of course, the first Flintstones made better than $350 million, raising the important question: For God's sake, where is the live-action Jetsons film we deserve?"
2. "Wednesday, Internet stocks were crushed in the first 45 minutes of trading, and then rebounded sharply to finish the day with sizeable gains. How many times a year could I write a similar sentence, I wonder: 30? 70? 182 1/2?"
3. "Coke, which has been trying to buy Cadbury Schweppes, announced that it would not try to acquire Cadbury's German operations because of regulatory concerns. With the exception of Britain and Ireland, just about all of Cadbury's European operations have been declared off-limits. We should try that in the United States. 'You can sell soda in Nebraska and Iowa, but stay the hell out of Kansas!'"
4. "First Union's shares were crushed after the bank announced, for the second time this year, that its earnings were well below analysts' expectations and that business was much slower than it had previously suggested. Later, one disgusted analyst said, 'They shoot horses, don't they?'"
5. "The euro continued to slump after Italy announced that it would fail to meet its deficit-reduction targets. Of course, it didn't slump that much, since who really thought that the Italians would meet those targets anyway?"
6. "Technical-book retailer Fatbrain.com announced results that narrowly beat analysts' expectations, and also announced that it was considering changing its name. Possibilities include the simple 'Fathead' or the more esoteric 'Grand medulla oblongata.'"
6a. "Remember that this is attempted satire, no matter how feeble."
7. "The Backstreet Boys' new record, 'Millennium,' was on pace to sell more than a million copies in its first week of release. Any further comment on this horror would be obscene."