CULTURE TO GO

          McLibel and McMunchies are just a couple burger wrappers in the dumpster-full of dirty McDeeds relentlessly scrutinized and documented under McSpotlight. This site has so much dope on its target that it warrants its own search function; moreover, thanks to its innovative (and apparently much imitated) Webmasters, it also offers two kinds of "guided tours." One hooks you up to McDonald's own website, with commentary from McSpotlight running right alongside Mickey D.'s propaganda. Through a complex system of links, you can get McDonald's take on, say, "career opportunities," then jump to workers bemoaning their McJobs back in McSpotlight--a technique that throws into high relief the differences between corporate PR and corporate exploitation.

          The guides for the tour of McSpotlight itself are none other than David Morris and Helen Steel, the defendants in the McLibel trial. In fact, it's the numerous facets of this case, from witnesses' testimony to reams of court documents to media coverage, that anchor McSpotlight; now that closing speeches are scheduled to begin October 21, it'll be worth checking in as this monstrous case begins winding down. This labyrinthine site has far too many other nooks and crannies to name here, though it's not all grim political/legal documentation--check out the RealAudio poem written by Ronald McDonald, a 61-year-old retired Scotsman, about the multinational that shares his name. McSpotlight seems to be a chiefly U.K.-produced affair due to the McLibel trial, but info and articles from around the globe offer crucial, international perspective on the junk food monger that's become one of the planet's most potent cultural and economic forces. (Julie Caniglia)

E! Online

www.eonline.com

Mr. Showbiz

www.mrshowbiz.com

          While tech-talk about the merger between TV and the Net is still just that, E! Online and Mr. Showbiz offer a Web-surfing alternative to channel surfing--and also cater to those needing a fix of Hollywood and Vine gossip. E! Online is the savvier of the two, posting plenty of chatty & catty commentary on Hollywood stars of both the shooting and falling varieties. "Tales From the Womb" gives an account of Madonna's life from her baby's perspective (it's a girl, folks), dishing about the Material Girl's new digs, impending home delivery, and scathing indictments on the "things and people she buys." Fans of TV's Talk Soup will be thrilled to find an online version here that takes print to task, along with highlights from The Gossip Show and the opportunity to "chat" with various celebs (via email, of course). There's a 'Toon test for the nostalgic, and for those who can't get enough Pamela Lee, a puzzle that's lets you, um, put the bombshell together. With areas dedicated to Melrose Place, Ted Casablanca's "Awful Truth" column, and topics such as celebrity stalkers, E! Online is an especially juicy corner of the Web.

          Mr. Showbiz takes a more serious tack than E! Online; its staid design looks and reads more like a snazzy print mag. With less tongue-in-cheek 'tude than its entertainment counterpart, Mr. Showbiz sticks primarily to valuable straight information: best-seller book lists, box office receipts, a Sound Scan chart of the top 250 albums. There's also an option to create your own index so that when you log on,the information you've selected is readily accessed without plowing through its homepage's more extensive index. With an extensive archived review section, a "word of the day" vocabulary-building feature, and "The Water Cooler" (which allows users to vote on such crucial issues as whether or not Van Halen owes David Lee Roth an apology), Mr. Showbiz is for those who see themselves as a cut above the supermarket tabloids.

          Unfortunately, neither site contains much in the way of video or audio clips, yet both are loaded with text that downloads at a snail's pace. Then again, these sites give you your dose of gossip when and how you want it, and there are no annoying hosts, cheesy puns, or drippy sentimentality of the type that colors TV's Entertainment Tonight. Until the Web and TV become one, you've got two choices: When you want the schtick, grab the remote, but if you like your gossip straight with no chaser--log on. (Vickie Gilmer)

MOVING PICTURES

Kids in the Hall: Brain Candy

Paramount Home Video

          The Kids in the Hall, alas, have scattered to the four winds. Dave Foley now plays the lead on NBC's News Radio; he's going to be around for a while. Mark McKinney is having his last hurrah on Saturday Night Live. As for the other three guys, we've almost certainly seen the last of them. I wouldn't bet on any reunions, either--the Kids were never hugely popular, and their break-up was not exactly a orgy of hugging and weeping. (There has been, in fact, some talk about the hating of guts.) We're left with this final movie project and two questions: What made the Kids the finest sketch comedians since Monty Python? and, Why is Brain Candy such a disaster? Deep questions, basically unanswerable; but here's the answer anyway, abridged from my 20-page pamphlet on the subject.

          For at least four decades comedians have been haunted by the notion that satire--the most politically responsible form of comedy--is their highest calling. But writing good satire is surpassingly difficult; it's much easier just to run around pissing on everything, as SNL and its epigones have always done. The Kids never fell into the satire trap. They didn't rely on parodies and celebrity impersonations; they specialized in character work and dramatic structure. So what happens when they get a shot at the big screen? They attempt a satire on big business, and they drag themselves through it like zombies, and it never comes to life, not even for a moment, because it isn't what they do. [Sigh...] Don't see Brain Candy. This is not the way you want to remember the Kids in the Hall. (Steve Schroer)

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