"All the news that gives fits"
e16fig1   'By the Time I Get to Phoenix ...'
Phoenix Dispatches
  No. 16 
Summer 1999
An alien world? Or a typical Arizona lawn in the summertime? Only the Old Phoenicians know for sure.
Greetings from the Valley of the Sun.

A land of overpriced turquoise jewelry, bail bond offices, strip clubs and palm trees.

A land that looks like Mars, colonized by architects and interior designers from Los Angeles and Miami.1

A desert filled with golf courses and conspicuous water consumption.2

A frontier filled with transplanted northeasterners, their ambivalence, and their restaurants.

Here, where little pre-dates the Ford administration, I'm a contract employee at the headquarters of Avnet, a leading global distributor of electronic and computer parts. I translate procedural documents into English, write ad copy for the intranet,and process Avnet customer requests for Year 2000 compliance documents.3

In this, the sixth- or seven-largest U.S. metropolis, depending on who's counting, the excitment from the opening of a Krispy Kreme doughnut franchise eclipses the dismal "Phantom Menace."  Some things live up to the hype, but getting excited about doughnut chains won't help Phoenicians overcome their self-consciousness about being behind the trend curve.4

Some curves, though, always stay in fashion. After a long, gray period out of circulation, I started going out. For real. And by Memorial Day, my legwork reached Bustin' Out of L Seven status.5 It's been a whirlwind of flirting with Mariah Carey lookalikes and, even better, dating some real barnburners.6 They've put more strut in my step than Shaft — at least until Samuel L. Jackson stars in the remake.7

One of the barnburners — the barnburner of barnburners — even got to meet my sister, out here on a business trip. "I was melting from the minute I landed at the airport," Sis told us over steaks the size of Stephen King novels at Morton's of Chicago, nestled along tony Camelback Avenue in north Phoenix.8

"But it's a dry heat" I said in unison with the barnburner, a longtime resident.

"I've been hearing that ever since I got here. Is it the state motto?" Sis asked.

More recently, Kevin Jenkins, my friend and former Nevada Appeal colleague, visited on a vacation layover. We caught up on our exploits and talked shop, which was often the same thing. He's doing what he can to preserve his viability in a declining newspaper industry.

Newspapers are hemorrhaging money from their own Internet efforts. First, the labor pool of rookie journalists is drying up for newspapers.9 Hence, newspaper Web editions can't get beyond a certain level because the talent won't work for chump change. And even if they were, they don't have the background to do the newspaper stuff needs doing the right way, according to a similar piece in a recent Utne Reader.10 Meanwhile, online advertising is a huge loss so far, which means a paper's Web classifieds cost it money while more people are forsaking smudgy print subscriptions to read online for free. Looks like I got out in time.11

The media just sustained another causualty: Original episodes of "Mystery Science Theater 3000" ceased transmitting the first weekend of this month.12

The Sci-Fi Channel declined to renew MST3K's contract this year for reasons not fully fathomed in official explanations.13

In earlier years, I'd've decried this as a cultural travesty. However, MST3K hasn't been at its peak since Trace Beaulieu, a.k.a. "Dr. Clayton Forrester," and the voice of Crow T. Robot, left the show.14 His departure coincided with the show's move from Comedy Central to Sci-Fi, when the show narrowed its selection of bad, bad movies to lampoon strictly to the science fiction/fantasy genre.15 Too bad. Some of MST's finest moments happened trashing '40s oaters, '50s juvie16 dramas, '60s biker celluloid and '70s cops shows, particularly with Beaulieu and Frank Conniff ("TV's Frank") on the writing staff. (They now write for prime time broadcast network fare. Oh, how the mighty have fallen.)17

But like Jerry Seinfeld, MST3K's fountainheads apparently know when to quit.18


1 Notaro, Laurie. "Concrete Evidence that Sentimentality Doesn't Pay." The Rep. 13 May 1999: 3+.
2 Coldwell Banker Success Realty, Valley of the Sun. Phoenix: MPG Publishing Group Inc., 1998: passim.; Dougherty, John. "A Fortune Runs Through It." PNT 20 May 1999: 26-28+.
3 “2000: Too Grand!!” DMN 1 Jan. 2000: 1A+; Eisler, Dan. "Congratulations on Your New House." E-mail to Linda Weber 1 Feb. 2000; Fuchs, Dale. "Cubical Culture." Cox News Service. Waco Tribune-Herald 31 Aug. 1997: E1+; Gunn, Angela. "Apocalyptus Interruptus." LAW 21 Jan. 2000: 59; Knipfel, Jim. "The World of Tomorrow." NYPR 26 Jan. 2000, online ed.; Kobler, 177; Office Space. Dir. Mike Judge. 20th Century Fox Film Corp., 1999; Profitt, David. "Tiki Tacky: South Pacific Kitsch Stands the Test of Time at Bikini Lounge." The Rep 24 June 1999: 52; Reagor, Catherine. "Avnet to Buy Marshall." AZR 29 June 1999 final ed.: E1; John Roberts II. "Whose Problem is 2000?" TAS Aug. 1998: 28-33+.
4 Episode I: The Phantom Menace (Get Out special section), 13 May 1999: passim.; Gaslin, Glenn. "The Hype and the Mighty." PNT 20 May 1999: 73-74; Goodykoontz, Bill. "Doughnut Lovers' Deliverance." AZR 2 June 1999: D1; Kelly, Linda. "Krispy Kreme Scores Dunk With New Store." AZR 2 June 1999: E1+; McKinnon, Shaun, and Kathleen Ingley. "Phoenix is Growing Fastest." AZR 30 June 1999: A1+; "Mr. P-body." "Axis Powers." PNT 24 June 1999: 105; Mr. P-body. "Devil's Triangle." PNT 6 May 1999: 110; The Rep, 13 May 1999: passim.; Rose, Jaimee. "Crazy for Krispy Kreme: Doughnut Fans Delirious." AZR 2 June 1999: D1-2; Sherrill, Martha. "The Doughnut that Saved Las Vegas." Esquire. Sep. 1998: 94+; Seftel, Howard. "San Francisco Trite." PNT 1 April 1999: 75.
5 "Rick James." NRSE:  493-494.
6 "Mariah Carey." NRSE: 151; Nickson, Chris. Mariah Carey Revisited: Her Story. New York City: St. Martin's Griffin, 1998; Taraborrelli, J. Randy. Sinatra: Behind the Legend. Secaucus, N.J.: Birch Lane Press, 1997: 229.
7 Frye, Cory. "In the City, 'Shaft' was the Baddest." Mid-Valley Entertainer 26 Feb. 1999: 26; James, Darius. That's Blaxploitation! Roots of the Baadasssss 'Tude (Rated X by an All-Whyte Jury). New York City: St. Martin's Press, 1995: 12-18; Outhier, Craig. "Action Jackson." Episode I: The Phantom Menace (Get Out special section) 13 May 1999: 4-5.
Kanfer, Stefan, and Cathy Booth. "King of Horror." Time 6 Oct. 1986: 74-78+; Richman, Alan. "The Great Steak-House Wars." GQ. Mar. 1999: 157-158+; Seftel. "Second Helpings." PNT 11 Feb. 1998: 91.
9 Marks, Alexandra. "Hyperlinked To the Future of Journalism." CSM 3 Aug. 1999: 3; Rosenberg, Scott. "Should Journalists and IPOs Mix?" Salon 27 July 1999. <http://www.salon.com/tech/col/rose/1999/07/27/ipo_journalists/index.html>.
10 Larson, Elizabeth. "Online and Under Pressure." Utne Reader Jan/Feb. 1999: 93-95.
11 Duetschman, Alan. “The Last Best Hope for Web Zines.” GQ Sep. 1998: 225-226+; Kawasaki, Guy. "Why Newspapers Are in Trouble." Forbes 9 Feb. 1998: 102; Kroll, Luisa, Julie Pitta and Daniel Lyons. "World Weary Web." Ibid. 28 Dec. 1998: 98; Lyons. "Desperate.com." Ibid. 22 March 1999: 50.
12 Nelson, Mike. “Mystie Memories.” TV Guide 7 Aug. 1999: 2-3.
13 Rosenbaum, Ron. “Barry Diller's Defining Moment: Will He Save ‘MST3K’?” NYO 15 March 1999: 39.
14  Rohan, Virginia. “ 'MST3K' Is Dropping Off Our Radar Screen.” Bergen (N.J.) Record 6 Aug. 1999: Y1.
15 Susman, Gary. “Found in Space.” BP 13 March 1997, online ed.
16 Green, Jonathon. The Dictionary of Contemporary Slang. Briarcliff Manor, N.Y.: Stein & Day, 1985: 157.
17 Hilty, Wyn. “’MST3K’s Legacy Will Live On.” OCW 6 Aug. 1999, online ed.
18 Tracy, Kathleen. Jerry Seinfeld: The Entire Domain. Secaucus, N.J.: Birch Lane Press, 1998: 192-201, 224-236.