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Tucson Weekly Media Mix

By Mari Wadsworth

JANUARY 20, 1998:  HOLY SHIT: In the cutthroat world of television cartoons, nothing is sacred. As if Comedy Central's animated South Park sit-com hasn't garnered enough notoriety in recent months with run-of-the-mill profanity, the regular death and dismemberment of at least one of its grade-school characters, and the charming game of "kick the baby," now it's aroused one viewer's anger for the most grievous transgression yet: poo theft.

John Kricfalusi, creator of The Ren & Stimpy Show now owned by Nickelodeon, claims South Park's holiday show violated his intellectual property rights, such as they are. In an interview with Variety reporter Ray Richmond, Kricfalusi elaborated on his theory that "Mr. Hankey the Christmas Poo," South Park's singing, dancing special guest, was directly inspired by his own creation "Nutty the Friendly Dump," who starred in his own cartoon short on the John K. webpage, www.spumco.com, last October.

"I didn't invent dumps or farts, but in the context that I use them, I did invent them. The talking, singing dump was invented by me. And now these guys are gonna get rich off it," Kricfalusi lamented. A Comedy Central spokesman called the charge "ludicrous."

Kricfalusi's case may be a crap shoot, but he has a right to raise a stink: The contentious South Park Christmas episode earned a 5.4 rating, making it the highest-rated program in the network's history, with an estimated audience of 4.5 million people.

For more information on this stirring debate, check out www.mania.com, which has loads of trivial information on television, movies, science fiction and comic books.

And local fans can look forward to seeing their obnoxious little South Park pals on the big screen next week, when Spike and Mike's Sick and Twisted Festival of Animation rolls into town. Special premiers include the "The Spirit of Christmas," by South Park creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker; "Sea Slugs!" by Adam Lane; and "Little Rude Riding Hood," by Mike Grimshaw. Show opens Friday, January 23, at The Loft cinema. Tickets are available through Ticketmaster. Call 321-1000 for ticket information; or 795-7777 for screening information.


COMMON WEALTH: For those who plan on winning the Lotto or launching their own Fortune 500 company this year, get a load of this: "The World in 1998," The Economist's annual issue of prognostications, says being a member of the economic super-elite isn't what it used to be. Asked whether the rich would become more or less important in the coming years, "grand old man of management science" Peter Drucker replied that "economically, the super-rich no longer matter." Even the estimated $36-billion fortune of Bill Gates, the world's richest person, adds up to only two weeks' worth of America's domestic investment needs.

Clearly, billionaires wield considerable power; but not, Drucker says, because of their money. "They are important and influential because of their businesses...(When) they stop working, they rapidly fade from sight. That's why the overwhelming majority of the world's super-rich will be working full-time in 1998--many well beyond retirement age--and many, apparently, working harder than they did before they had quite so much money."

Pension funds and mutual funds have taken the place of the super-rich in the economy, Drucker says. These two "institutional investors" rake in twice as much new money each quarter as all the world's super-rich own combined. And where does that money come from? People like us, putting away modest pension, 401(k) and IRA dollars.

In a rather odd critique of capitalism, he concludes that "the 'leisure class' of today are American welfare mothers or perennial German students on government stipends. Today's super-rich are workaholics. Their individual wealth no longer counts."

Yeah, and we're sure they feel really disempowered by that, too.

("The World in 1998" is $6, available at newsstands and book stores.)


WRITE ON: Congratulations to Pima Community College writing student Nancy Turner, whose first novel These Is My Words should be in book stores by mid-February. Turner's first effort is an historical novel set in Tucson circa the 1880s, and is based on the real-life story of her pioneering ancestors' horse-ranching business near Cienega Creek.

The HarperCollins release will be a book-of-the-month selection, and is scheduled for condensation in a national monthly magazine. Not too shabby for a beginning writer, who claims she "didn't know how to punctuate a sentence" before she started at Pima.

After her own children graduated from college, Turner enrolled herself for the first time, without any particular academic or career goals in mind. "I'd never been to college, but I always wanted to write," she says. After two freshmen classes, she took a sabbatical to write her book. She conducted much of her research at the PCC West Campus library.

Turner credits her Pima instructors as being vital to her success: "The skills and confidence I gained at Pima started me on an odyssey. My instructors there continue to support me." Guess that's the difference between community college and an M.F.A. program.


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