Another body blow to the First and Second Amendments took place last
week as Thursday’s copycat shooting in

decisively quenched my wistful hope that the post-Littleton, anti-gun
and anti-Hollywood hysteria might die down soon. As I write this, the
carnage in our schools is already being mirrored by the carnage being
wreaked upon the Second. With regard to the First, we may have better
luck for a time — the present Administration’s bread has been well
buttered by Hollywood, and the popular understanding of freedom of
expression, however murky, is crystalline compared to current public
comprehension of the gun question.

A step that may eventually be taken with regard to media violence is
the creation of stronger ratings systems to be applied to movies, video
games and perhaps CDs. For increasingly desperate parents feeling adrift
in a child-hostile culture, any even slightly informative labeling
system may be better than none at all. Recently, Slate’s Jacob Weisberg
made a quixotic attempt
to take some
preliminary steps toward a sensible method for assessing and labeling
violent movies. He’s right. It would be nice if, as he suggests, we
could arrive at a rational system that actually recognized the
differences among the types of violence found in slasher flicks,
Tarantino, Shakespeare, and Warner Brothers cartoons, as opposed to
simply slapping an NC-17 rating on anything with a body count. But I’m
not holding my breath. If violence does take its place along with sex as
a reason for handing out NC-17s, I’ve no doubt it’ll be according to the
same sort of boneheaded, arbitrary standards presently used to gauge
sexual content. Hysteria rarely, if ever, breeds rationality.

Fed-up teens, click here

A slightly more heartening approach to the whole teen alienation
problem can be found at High School
a new site launched by a
few intelligent, non-conforming, non-psychotic young people who believe
in tapping the positive potential of life on high school’s fringe. They
provide resources with which kids like themselves can develop their own
paper and electronic zines, channeling all that painfully intelligent
angst into creativity rather than destruction; they include a couple of
helpful links regarding student-oriented First Amendment issues. There’s
also a board for posting answers to questions like “Have you ever felt
like everyone in your high school is braindead?” and “Have you become
frustrated that all of the so-called successful students are actually
blind followers?” Some of the
to these and similar questions are vehement to a point that may — or,
conversely, may not — surprise you. It’s tough down there in those

The ultimate gift certificate

I should probably save this for a Father’s Day column or something of
that sort, but what the hey, I may as well serve it up while it’s nice
and fresh. Here’s a website with an unusual business model. It lets you
buy gift certificates for — seriously — gift certificates. What you do
is buy a gift
certificate for your hard-to-shop-for loved one, in the dollar amount of
your choice. Then the recipient gets to choose at what retailer he or
she wants to spend the money. has a lengthy list of
options: several major bookstores (Barnes & Noble, Borders, and others);
Eddie Bauer; various hotel and restaurant chains (Marriott, Olive
Garden) and major movie theaters; Marshall’s and TJ Maxx; Bath and Body
Works; leading online wine-seller Virtual Vineyards; Bed, Bath and
Beyond, Brookstone and the Sharper Image … suffice it to say that, if
your friend can’t find even one thing to like here, he or she may be too
contrary to live. A nice feature is that you can send the certificate
either through the post or by e-mail, attached to an electronic greeting
card. I think it’s a great idea — much more like cash in hand (and way
cooler) than an ordinary single-store gift certificate, but not half so
vulgar a gift as an actual wad of cash. Plus, you know they aren’t going
to use it for something really depressing, like paying the utility

Windows without Explorer?
Yes, it’s possible

Lite98 is a shareware
custom installer that allows you to install Windows 98 on your Windows
95 system without the bundled Internet Explorer browser and desktop
integration. Excluded from the installation process: Internet Explorer
4.0, Active Desktop Components, Internet Connection Wizard, Windows
Update, Welcome Introduction/Tour, and Online Service Providers.
Drawbacks: Lite98 won’t remove Internet Explorer from an existing
installation of Windows 98, and it isn’t completely dummies-friendly.
According to the description, you need to “have a single directory on
your hard disk containing the Windows 98 setup files and the Windows 95
files explorer.exe, shell32.dll, comdlg32.dll, wordpad.exe, and
notepad.exe” — not difficult, exactly, but enough to make a lot of
users breathe heavily. There’s a ReadMe file with step-by-step

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