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The film ”

“Blade”
has been doing
superlatively
well at the box office for weeks now. Despite a few gaping lacunae in
the plot,
as an action movie it’s not so badly done — it’s got decent fighting,
quite an
interesting urban-vampire mise-en-scene, and actors who seem adequate to
their limited tasks.

What no one seems to be concerned over is a throwaway piece of
atmospheric
scenery, perhaps two thirds of the way through the movie, in which we
follow the camera’s eye along a very slow trek through an unbearably hip
underground nightclub (one of the chiccer-than-thou vampire hangouts).

Music for the scene is provided by a live band. And the members of
the band
are (or are dressed as) barely pubescent Japanese schoolgirls –
hypersoprano,
babified voices, microscopic miniskirts, knee socks, and flashing white
underpants. Their audience? Middle-aged, business-suited, mostly Asian
men,
who through the smoky darkness are all eyeing these “schoolgirls” on
stage
with concentrated, strip-club-raw, undisguised lust.

Let me be fair here. The band members might be over eighteen. Though
their
white cotton crotches can fairly be described as prominent, there are no
actual naked private body parts in evidence. And it’s reasonable to
point
out that the scene is, after all, intended to represent the decadence
and evil
of the vampires’ culture. But the use of this aesthetic (drawn from
anime, the
periodically hip and often hardcore-pornographic Japanese cartoon genre)
struck me and my escort as, shall we say, a bit daring in the context of
a
mainstream-audience movie.

In my opinion, the scene works artistically, but the filmmakers’
choice to
include it was misguided. This is a movie made from a comic book.
Teenagers
are its major target audience. Legitimizing the prominent use of this
kind
of content via a movie like “Blade” threatens to cast a patina of
acceptability
over child pornography.

“Blade” is a New Line Cinema production;
anyone
who would like to reach the company can write to New Line Cinema, 888
Seventh
Ave, New York, NY 10106.

All federal payments to go digital by 1999

The federal government is conducting an ongoing initiative to convert
most
of its nearly 1 billion annual payments from paper check to electronic
transfer (i.e., direct deposit, ATM-card-like devices, etc.). Working
under the
mandate of the Debt Collection Improvement Act signed by President
Clinton on April
26, 1996 (), federal departments
and agencies are on the fast track to ensure that all payments, except
tax
refunds, are made electronically by January 1999. Hardship waivers will
be
required to get out of using EFT, which will be required for social
security and all other benefits paid by the Defense and Treasury
departments, except
for tax refunds. Read all about it at The
Electronic Funds Transfer
(EFT) 99 site
.

Minneapolis’ misguided multiculturalism

Attorney Scott W. Johnson’s essay “The Multicultural Mistake,” which
originally appeared in the August 31, 1998 edition of the Minneapolis
Star-
Tribune, assesses the peculiar effects of multicultural ideology upon a
Minneapolis school system coping with an influx of immigrant black
students
from Somalia. One highlight (lowlight?) of the ensuing tragicomedy of
errors was this quotation from an unnamed assistant school principal:
“You Somali
kids need to understand that you are black. You African-American kids
need
to understand that you are African.” Read Johnson’s essay online now at
the
Claremont Institute Web site.

Law-R-Us

Law schools administer some of the most useful legal Web sites.
Cornell Law
School’s Legal Information Institute
provides a smorgasbord of
resources. Its online library includes a collection
of recent and historic Supreme Court decisions, hypertext versions of
the
full U.S. Code, U.S. Constitution, Code of Federal Regulations, Federal
Rules of
Evidence, and Civil Procedure, as well as recent opinions of the New
York
Court of Appeals. Also available: an email address directory of faculty
and
staff at U.S. law schools; contact information on other people and
organizations in the field of law; state, foreign, and international
materials; and an ethics law library. And, of course, you can find out
anything you might want to know about Cornell Law School and the Cornell

Law Review.

Boston College School of Law’s National Consumer Law Center
is a nonprofit corporation
that
focuses more on lay needs; the resources here deal with credit reports,
telemarketing scams, foreclosures, senior citizens’ problems with
utility
companies, and so forth.

The 21st-century dictator’s choice:
a virtual stenographer

Computer speech-recognition technology has improved out of all
recognition
(so to speak) in cost, ease, and accuracy over the last year or two, and
entrepreneurs and innovators are already well into the race to come up
with
practical, wide-appeal applications. Exhibit A: CyberTranscriber, an automated, Internet-based
dictation-
transcription service. You can dictate into a PC-attached microphone or
a
hand-held digital recorder, or simply by calling a toll-free number and
speaking into the phone — meaning you don’t have to be physically near
your
computer to use the service: you can dictate from your car phone, if you
like. The computer speech-recognition system generates a transcription,
corrects
it (the reviews regarding accuracy are excellent), encrypts it, and
returns it
to you by the next day via email as a Microsoft Word-based attachment.
In an
especially groovy feature, a synchronized playback of your original
dictation comes integrated into your new Word document.

Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar

At the unprepossessingly named SJI Tobacco site,
you can order cigars (pipes, accessories, etc.) online at what I am
reliably
assured are first-rate prices for high quality. Use a search engine to
find
just the cigar you’re looking for, or just go learn everything you ever
wanted to know about cigars via their FAQ. No Monica content, or at
least none that I managed to run across.

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