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Cyber Digest

The top internet news stories from the week of December 15, 2000

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Some folks lost money in their dotcom dead pool last week. Icebox.com, the fledgling Web channel with enough TV talent to enthrall a dozen Nielsen households, announced that — surprise! — Fox has picked up a live-action pilot of its Animal House of the Living Dead-like series, Zombie College. The half-hour show, from Futurama writer Eric Kaplan, could premiere as soon as next fall, and 10 new episodes will appear on the website starting in January. Another Icebox.com show, Starship Regulars, is being turned into a half-hour live-action series for Showtime. While the financial details remain sketchy, CEO Steve Stanford claims these deals will help Icebox.com reach profitability sometime next year — laying off about half his staff didn’t hurt the bottom line either.

Sam Raimi’s new film, The Gift, is about a psychic (Cate Blanchett) who divines scary details about a small-town murder from her neighbors. The movie isn’t getting the online spin of Raimi’s other project, Spider-Man, but the website (thegift movie.com/site.html) is striking nevertheless. Each of the stars–Hilary Swank, Keanu Reeves, Katie Holmes, Greg Kinnear, and Giovanni Ribisi — is profiled through an interactive version of Blanchett’s head. The flashy artwork makes for a slow download, but good things don’t always come in small packages.

The Internet age has mellowed Peter Bagge a bit, but the author of the Seattle-scene-defining comic Hate, and former editor of Robert Crumb’s famed comic collection Weirdo, isn’t irrelevant just yet. He’s illustrating his very post-punk journey into the heart of pixelated darkness in an online comic called Shut-ins (www.adobe.com/motion/features/shutins/main.html). Partnering with corporate benefactor Adobe, the creator of Photoshop, gives the whole project a Silicon veneer. But underneath the hype are all the grungy rants and raves that made Bagge so irresistible to begin with. Some things never change.

Before America achieved world domination through econo-globalization, the good guys and bad guys waged a pitched cold war that lent itself to a really good board game called Risk. Now that the greatest nuclear standoff of all time, the Cuban missile crisis of 1962, is being dramatized in Thirteen Days, a Kevin Costner movie, Risk has been re-created — this time as an online ”Strategic Military Exercise” that’s part of the film’s website (www.thirteen-days. com). When the Russians invade Canada, you’ll momentarily forget that the Berlin wall came down in 1989 — and how cheesy this movie looks.

Another website’s gone best-seller: The Darwin Awards (darwinawards.com), published by E.P. Dutton, reached No. 8 on the New York Times best-seller list Dec. 3. The book’s entries are culled from the site, which commemorates people who ”improved our gene pool by removing themselves from it.” This year’s winner was thrown to his death from a forklift while filming a safety video.

IFILM and AtomFilms are compiling short film reels full of their Oscar contenders for this year, and for once you’ll get to see the films before the big awards ceremony. Atom’s lineup includes a goofy old Western called Last Real Cowboys, starring Billy Bob Thornton (Slingblade). No, Thornton isn’t hard up for acting gigs, he’s just an old acting-class buddy of director Jeff Lester’s. The two had been out of touch until Thornton’s ex, Laura Dern, reconnected them. The 12-minute tale, which was shot by This Is Spinal Tap cinematographer Peter Smokler, is about two cowpokes unleashing their inner children — and should not be confused with Thornton’s other upcoming cowboy tearjerker, All the Pretty Horses.