Baseline Receives Accolades
Back in November 1991, a small engraved envelope appeared in the
mail from MacUser magazine addressed to Baseline Publishing. Inside
was a pleasantly illustrated invitation for us to attend the 1991
MacUser Editor's Choice Awards ceremony. We were pleased to be
invited and didn't think much else about it.
Days later our janitor, Nirvanen Bucketslosher, noticed a small
letter that was left in the envelope from MacUser. When he read it
he jumped for joy and quickly rushed to the executive suite. Inside,
the corporate fathers were having another daily staff meeting.
Nirvanen tried to enter, but was repelled by the yelling,
screaming, and dangerous gymnastics that accompany these meetings.
He persisted in his attempts to enter and was only noticed because
he was the only person in the room with short hair and a tie. He
quickly handed the letter to me, Matthew Lewis Carroll Smith, the
larger-than-life President, and scuttled out of the room.
I read the letter with a surprised face and
informed the unruly management thong, "The Talking Moose has been
nominated in the Best Desktop Diversion category for the 1991
MacUser Editor's Choice Awards!"
We all took the day off from our Lambada lessons after that
stupendous announcement and after much rejoicing we woke up the next
day in another state.
After the initial glow of the nomination had worn off, we took a
look at the competition. Berkeley System's More After Dark and
Thought I Could's Wallpaper were our rivals in this contest. Our
hopes of winning immediately sank; both products were fantastic,
popular programs. How could we, a small southern software publisher,
hope to prevail?
So January arrived and we saddled our buffaloes and headed to San
Francisco. Actually, we were riding Beefalos because they would be
much tastier if we got trapped in the Rockies like we were last
We arrived at the MacWorld convention center and set up our
booth, then quickly checked into our hotel and put on our tuxedos...
our specially prepared Tennessee Tuxedos.
The awards ceremony was held at
Moscone Convention Center next to the San Francisco bay. It was a
veritable who's who of Macintosh developers, reviewers,
distributors, and celebrities. Gold encrusted limos arrived every
few seconds to disgorge crowds of sycophants from the big software
companies. ("So that's why their software costs so much," one
attendee was heard to say.) Of course, we didn't look half as
glorious sitting on our buffaloes, but then, we don't charge a lot
for our software either.
I caught the eye of the infamous Bob LeVitus (aka Dr. Mac) and he
sauntered over to us.
"Bob," I said in a conspiratory tone, "are we going to win? I'll
make it worth your time." I gestured towards my flask of fermented
Bob grinned and practiced a bit of his Texas drawl, "Do you
really want to know, Matthew?"
Dark visions of things-man-was-not-meant-to-know, black cats, and
long-forgotten actor's superstitions briefly clouded my eyes.
"Well... I guess I can wait," I replied.
Bob just ginned at me with a elfin twinkle in his eye and
sauntered away. That twinkle should have told me something, but I
was too preoccupied to notice.
The hall interior seems to stretch for miles. There was a
prominent ice sculpture at the entrance way, but we couldn't tell
what it was supposed to be because desperate ad reps had chipped
away at it in an attempt to cool their 200 proof drinks. Tables
nearby laden with food were under siege by corporate technical
.types. As we watched a fight nearly broke out; a programmer was
holding three waiters at bay with the sharpened edge of a plastic
pocket protector because they had interrupted his attempts to
abscond with the last shrimp from a nearly empty serving tray.
We plowed though crowds of dapper computer yuppies talking
techno-trash to their compatriots. We heard numerous disgusting and
"...and Sculley took the broadsword and pointed it right at
"...then I saw Gasse pull off his shoes and squash the offending
"...but no one told me it was Phillipe Kahn, so naturally I was
horrified when I saw him bite the head off of the man's baby..."
Finally we found a table in the section of the hall devoted to
"Paranoids, Schitzos, and Small Publishing Companies." We gratefully
took our seats.
While we waited for the ceremony to commence we were briefly
entertained by a number of members of the Ziff-Davis Publishing
staff. At one point we saw Henry Norr, editor of MacWeek do a
hilarious Groucho Marx impression, but they made him sit down.
Apparently Henry wasn't supposed to be part of the planned
Just as the band was about to play it's first set, the lights
dimmed and the ceremony was going to begin. To bad, we never did get
to see Mitch Kapor and the Killer Klowns from Kansas perform. I
always did have a soft spot for those old time "Program Along with
With a tinny blare of trumpets and other obnoxious noises that
were obviously beep sounds from somebody's Mac, the event officially
began. First we heard truly riveting speeches from the Chief Editor,
Editor, Sub-Editor, Assistant Editor, Editor's Assistant, Minister
of Editing, and a Pressman. Each speech harped on similar themes
like how wonderful we were for giving MacUser something to write
about and how MacUser was an innovative publication because they
printed on both sides of the page and numbered the pages in
Then the real award giving and accepting began. It was really
rather enjoyable watching ill prepared executives stumble on stage
and try to croak out a decent acceptance speech. Some were so
dazzled by the lights they just stood there, mouths open, profusely
sweating. They reminded me of dear caught by a car's headlights
before their brains were scattered to kingdom come.
There was a brief pause while special Eddys were awarded to some
key industry people. They received the MacUser equivalent to the
Irving Thalberg award for just being great guys and possibly because
their companies spent enough money on ads in MacUser to make all the
ad reps insanely rich.
With another disgusting musical flourish the awards were doled
out again and the moment of truth for Baseline was rapidly
approaching. Suddenly a strange and terrifying thought crossed my
mind. What if we were going to win? I certainly didn't want to look
like a real boob because I didn't have a speech prepared and I ended
up saying something idiotic like, "Gribble oook zorbid mxbidle." I
quickly began scribbling an acceptance speech.
Inexorably, the time of reckoning arrived. For some reason the
music segued into the theme from Jeopardy as Bob LeVitus took
command of the stage to present the Eddy for Best Desktop Diversion.
My mouth was dry. My legs trembled. I felt hot and cold. The
Reader's Digest Condensed version of my life flashed before my eyes.
It didn't last long so I let it flash by twice. As Bob read the list
of nominees my stomach did somersaults. In fact, the performance my
stomach gave was rated a 8.9 by some nearby Olympic judges.
I was snapped out of my revere upon
hearing Bob say the those fateful words, "And the Eddy goes to..." A
torrent of adrenaline poured into my system, washing away the last
vestiges of the Malt Duck Brut I had been served. Bob opened the
envelope and removed the card. Time slowed to a crawl as I heard the
spirit of the Moose say, "Use the Farce, Matt, use the Farce." Bob
LeVitus joyously yelled, "Talking
Moose and his Cartoon Carnival 4.0!"
I was stunned. I was electrified. I was very proud. I was also
extremely well dressed and wanted to get on stage as soon as
possible to show off. My assistant and I leaped over 40 feet onto
the stage. There was a brief embarrassing moment as we both grabbed
at the Eddy and wrestled for it. We just pretended we act like this
all the time, which we do come to think of it, so I don't think
anyone noticed. My assistant graciously thanked all the parties
responsible while I bit on Eddy's head to see if it was really made
of gold; it wasn't.
Then my turn came to say my piece. I pulled out the set of 85 cue
cards I had quickly prepared and made Bob LeVitus lay on the floor
and hold them for me. I took my position on center stage and looked
the audience in the collective eye. My resolve and authority
whooshed out of me like methane from a cow. I was looking straight
at over a thousand people, and their cameras, and MacUser's cameras,
and the hired help. I felt my grip weakening. I knew I had to belt
out my speech before the crowd became restless. "Beware restless
crowds," my mother used to say, "they are subtle and quick to
anger." I croaked out my well crafted words and quickly left the
As I approached our table there was
much hand shaking and back slapping. I turned to my assistant, "how
was I?" I asked. "Great, just great, they loved you," he replied.
Then in a more conspiratory tone he asked, "by the way, what does
'Gribble oook zorbid mxbidle' mean?" I was too choked up to explain.
The choking continued until I let my staff see the Eddy. For some
reason I was having trouble letting go of it and they were choking
me to get my attention.
So they ceremony was over and the general partying began. There
were some unpleasant moments when rivaling companies began taunting
each other. "Nyah, nyah, nyah, we won and you didn't!" "Oh yeah, you
byte heads, wait 'till next year." I informed my staff that under no
circumstances were they to act that way unless I started it. But
there was no need for that kind of behavior now... it could wait for
our fall ad campaign.
It was great having our very own Eddy. Numerous people approached
me just to be able to touch the Eddy. "Oooh, it's so big," and, "he
looks like Captain Picard," were the most popular comments. Several
desperate Product Managers offered to buy the Eddy, but we turned
them down. I understood their plight all too well; they were
directed by the heartless Venture Capitalists they worked for to
either come back with an Eddy or commit professional-ritual
The night was waning and we made our way to the
exit. Outside Bob LeVitus, wearing a ten gallon hat and chartreuse
chaps, hailed us from his mighty steed Elmer. We saddled up a
shuffled over to him.
"Well, stranger," he asked, "what are you up to next?"
"Shucks, Bob," I grinned, "a publisher's gotta do what a
publisher's gotta do."
Bob tilted his hat back and scratched his head, "and just' what
may that be?"
I shifted around in my saddle, "Well I recon makin' the world
safe for humor would be a good start."
Bob laughed, "and I suppose you are gonna do all that with a
I wheeled my trusty mount Cuthbert around and stared him in the
eye, "Smile when you say that, partner."
We made good time riding out of town into the sunrise. I was glad
it wasn't sunset because buffaloes can't swim.