Geeky 'webzine' inspires a wicked, funny parody Internet: Microsoft's Slate has been an easy target since it first went online.

Magazines

August 18, 1996|By Michael Saunders | Michael Saunders,BOSTON GLOBE

Among the growing clan of "webzines" -- online magazines -- Slate is the geeky new kid, someone extremely easy to pick on. It has been savaged in print, television and, most effectively, on the Internet. Upright for barely 90 days, Slate (www.slate.com) seems to have a "kick-me" sign posted on its back.

The latest boot comes from a brilliant parody called, appropriately, Stale (www.stale.com). It's a direct hit, a devastating mimicry of Slate's been-there, litigated-that attitude.

As with all good parody, nothing is sacred. A mock Maya Angelou poem is both scathing and laugh-out-loud funny, as is a sendup of New York Times pop-culture critic (and genuinely nice person) Jon Pareles.

Of course, the fattest cow of all -- Microsoft -- is the biggest target. In Stale's hands, the Slate debut discussion "Is Microsoft Evil" becomes a policy debate among Satan, Hitler, an ineffectual moderator and a Microsoft veep who swears his products are perfect.

Some of the funniest material is crammed into the editor's column from "Michael Kindling," which parrots Michael Kinsley's Beltway-boho tone and fondness for verbiage. In this excerpt, "Kindling" makes this assessment of Microsoft's involvement in Slate:

"Most magazines like Stale depend on someone's generosity or vanity or misplaced optimism to pay the bills. Ours depends on a huge corporation's calculation that having a prestige project to enhance its image as a purveyor of serious journalism will allow it to deflect criticism when said corporation moves to join the media-communications oligopoly."

Pat report

Netizen (www.netizen.com), the socially conscious spawn of Hot Wired, levels its fire on an easy target: the political leviathan that was the Republican National Convention in San Diego. John Heilemann files a report from Pat Buchanan's preconvention goodbye (again) bash. He examines how Pat, now that the Republican Party gradually has co-opted his platform, is more of a player than he appears.

Academic, not emotional

Intellectual Capital (www.intellectualcapital.com) is a site bankrolled by political dabbler Pierre (Call Me Pete) du Pont, with contributing editors and writers culled from a seemingly endless variety of think tanks. Everyone on the masthead appears to be on the payroll of an institute, foundation, center or association.

Intellectual Capital has a center-to-right tilt that seems intent on making academic -- not emotional -- calls for conservative action. There are columns and brief policy papers across the thought spectrum, although few are as funny as a somewhat dated column by "The Barnburner," who calls Bob Dole's pledge of a 15 percent across-the-board tax cut "one of the most breathtaking acts of attempted vote buying since election day half-pints of whiskey went out of style."

Money talks just as well on the Internet as it does in real life; hence, all the spiffy new e-zines floated by corporate money.

Almost interesting

Stim, run by Prodigy, tries to cloak itself in a measure of cyber-cool. The current issue (www.stim.com) has an almost interesting piece on patent models, the working models once required by applicants to the U.S. Patent Office.

Those seeking a bit more street credibility can test the viability of Stim's suggested urban prank: annoying passers-by with flashes from hand-held laser pointers.

Omnibus with an attitude

Spiv, no relation to Stim, Slate, Stale, Spew or Salon, is an omnibus e-zine with a carefully manufactured New York attitude. There's little sign from the eclectic content that Spiv (www.spiv.com) gets its cash from Turner Entertainment Networks.

Spiv tries to include all things for all people: music, fashion, news, commentary and a variety of tidbits for tech-heads.

Pub Date: 8/18/96

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