Paulie want a computer?

Culture | Windows 98 preview and other cultural buzz

Issue: "The gay getaway," May 2, 1998

Making your computer obsolete again
This summer's biggest blockbuster isn't a movie. It's Windows 98, which hits stores June 25. It's Year 2000 compliant, adds a host of new features, and includes the Internet Explorer browser. Just don't rush to grab it when it hits shelves. The look and feel of Windows 95 and 98 are much the same. Microsoft's new operating system just adds more bells and whistles. The big difference, which caught Janet Reno's ire, is that the user surfs his hard drive the same way he surfs the Web. This kills off the market for additional browsers (read: Netscape) but gives Microsoft its sought-after convergence between desktop and Internet. On-board help, for example, is integrated with the Microsoft Web site. Whether this amounts to an illegal monopoly or the next phase of computer development will be decided by the federal government. Other features will become more important over time. Win98 has extended support for something called the Universal Serial Bus, which means everything plugged into a computer uses the same kind of plug. Installation becomes far easier for the average user. Also, with a tuner card, users can watch TV shows on their computers and download Web pages off TV signals. Win98 is also friendlier, with better audio, video, big hard drives, and DVDs. It lets users run multiple monitors with one desktop. Two programs can run on different screens off the same computer. A feature called ACPI (Advanced Configuration and Power Interface) will let computers power up faster without long bootups; ACPI-compatible computers will start appearing later this year. Windows 98 is intrinsically ahead of its time. Tomorrow's standard computer will need all of the new operating system's options. But many of today's PCs run fine under Windows 95 or even 3.1. My advice: Buying the new operating system might not be necessary until you upgrade your computer-or buy a new one. The market of new hardware and software for Win98 won't hit full stride until after Thanksgiving. Why not wait? Coast-to-coast conures
Everybody knows the story of the family pet who crosses the country trying to get home. This time around it isn't a dog named Lassie; it's a bird named Paulie. The movie named Paulie (directed by John Roberts, Dreamworks; rated PG for brief mild language) is a charming story aimed at both adults and children. The green parrot and title character of this movie (played by a flock of Blue Crown Conures and the voice of Jay Mohr) is a gift to a lonely little girl (Hallie Eisenberg) who stutters. He can talk and she can't. Paulie learns English as she learns to speak. Then the parents get rid of him and he spends years on a epic quest to find her. Paulie is the sort of movie Disney should be making today. The pretty bird passes from person to person on his coast-to-coast trek. Some are nice. Others are not so nice. Since Paulie can't speak parrot-talk and other birds don't speak English, his companions are usually humans. Paulie meets a petty crook (also played by Jay Mohr), a taco stand owner (Cheech Marin), an adventuresome widow (Gena Rowlands), a pawnbroker (Buddy Hackett), and a Russian literature professor turned American janitor (Tony Shalhoub). He becomes a lab rat, a seeing-eye guide, and a mariachi singer on his journeys. The cast goes beyond the call of duty to give Paulie a subdued, thoughtful texture not usually seen in such movies. One almost gets the impression that Paulie is a better movie than intended. The filmmakers at the new studio Dreamworks SKG mix fairy tale and good characterizations. They avoid endless clichés from cartoons and Home Alone, even though Paulie's plot is familiar territory. Better than The Borrowers, this is a film to crow about. A giant gets religion
Every subculture needs some cornerstone ideas to keep itself going. Hollywood has the myth of the noble shark. This is the financial mercenary who decides to do a good turn for his neighbor and discovers he has a heart of gold. The biggest recent example of this is the title character in Jerry Maguire. Now Billy Crystal puts on the suit in My Giant (Columbia Pictures; rated PG for language, mild violence, and brief crude humor). He's Sammy, a slick Hollywood agent on location in Romania who discovers a 7'7" man named Max, played by real-life basketball player Gheorghe Muresan. Naturally, Sammy tries to make a movie star out of him. He just got dumped by his latest discovery, an adolescent Leonardo DiCaprio clone, so now he sees the giant as an elevator to success (in a compassionate manner, of course). There's a goofy religious twist to all this. Max saves Sammy from a car accident, but Sammy imagines he died. He wakes up thinking, "I must be in heaven." Then he looks and sees a large crucifix. "Uh, oh," he says. "Wrong heaven." Meanwhile, Max is hiding in a monastery from angry locals who call him names. So he escapes into religion, Shakespeare, and sending unrequited love letters to a girl who once paid attention to him decades before. This movie starts out lively, but after Mr. Crystal's character brings the giant to America, the movie gets sappier and becomes downright depressing. My Giant tries so hard to warm hearts that it becomes overcooked.

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