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Culture

Did Excite spend Hanukkah with Lewinsky Monica?

Ah, the thrill of the chase!

Ah, the thrill of the chase! Weeks such as this last one give those of us in the rumor business, if not a good name, then at least a reason to go to work every evening. From the Valley to the Alley, all the world's abuzz with every gust and splatter of the testosterstorm buffeting la Maison Blanche. What a thrill to live in a nation with such a randy chief executive at its helm, especially if you are a journalist or have very big hair.

I, too, have Skinned in my heart--but it was envy, not lust, that pulsated through my pulmonary organ last week. Astute observers knew first about l'affair L'ewinsky neither from Newsweek, the Washington Post, nor even from M. LeDrudge, but from those ubiquitous bright-yellow Excite ads adorning billboards and the sides of city buses.

Je vous explique: Graced with Clinton's John, uh, Hancock, the ads, which have been running for several weeks, tout Excite's personalization capabilities by reminding our chief sexecutive to buy lingerie for "that special someone" (as well as book tickets for a Whitewater rafting trip). Gosh, how did Excite know? Maybe the company's ad agency didn't know specifically about Mademoiselle Monica, given that the Oval Office is reportedly as crowded with competing adulteresses as the Internet is with search engines. But isn't it Excite-ing to imagine how this lurid drama will ultimately pan out? I predict the outcome will be positively Gorey.

Meanwhile, the current occupant is evidently trying to play Net Nanny to his staff, as the following exchange between the White House spokesman and the press suggests:

Sam Donaldson: Someone said that you or someone here has put out the word that staffers should not be allowed to log onto the Drudge Report. Is that true?

Mike McCurry: I--I don't discuss that subject.

Donaldson: What? Whether you have put out the word that you can't log on?

McCurry: I've heard calling it a "report" is too generous.

Donaldson: Well, whatever you want to call it is fine with me, but have you forbidden people to actually--

McCurry: No. People--it's a free country, and people can do what they want to on the Internet...

In that parting shot, McCurry sounds like he's been practicing for a job, once his current gig is up, writing PR for Netscape and its new open source-code policy for the upcoming Communicator 5.0. However, before we can do what we want with Communicator, wagging tongues tell me the company needs to do some spring cleaning on said code, which is supposedly peppered with words and phrases as colorful and unprintable as 18 and a half minutes of stand-up comedy with Richard M. Nixon.

The current misfortunes of the Mozillas of the Midway have once again set jaws a-flapping--including the mandibles of well-known industry analysts--that Club Barksdale is ripe for buyout. Such whispers have been heard before, so don't rearrange your portfolio just yet. Remember that the same tune is sung whenever a high-profile stock price dips precipitously. As for the names of prospective buyers being bandied about, there are plenty of large firms that could easily absorb the Nutscrapers, so we'll wait for a bit more evidence before cranking the Mill any faster.

As David tries to right his flagging fortunes with free software, the Redmondian Goliath has sent forth in the mail of snail a nifty little brochure--excusez-moi, a white paper--explaining that, in its words, "in order to compete, Microsoft, not the federal government, should decide what features go into Microsoft's products."

The most poignant part of the manifesto is the infographics. Bar graphs show how the software behemoth trails its hardware cousins in revenue and pie charts demonstrate how Redmond is being crushed by the Oracle jackboot in database software and devastated by IBM/Lotus in email software, while AOL/CompuServe nails Gates's tuchus to the grill in online service revenues. If this doesn't move our stoic attorney general to tears, I don't know what will. Rumor-gathering is real drudge work unless you testify to something on the QT. Send an email today, and you'll be granted full immunity and transferred to a plum job at the Rumor Mill Fashion Outlet.