More Cyber Butt-kicking

"Just a happy coincidence." That's the summation from CyberFlix president Bill Appleton about the renewed success of his multimedia company's 1996 CD-ROM game, Titanic: Adventure Out of Time. "We had no idea when we started production on this title in 1994 that 'Titanic-mania' was about to take off." But as James Cameron's Titanic has officially taken the title of "most successful movie ever made," so has CyberFlix's Titanic entered PC Data's Top Ten list of best-selling computer games, hitting the number three position and beating out popular titles like Riven and Quake II. Before the movie was released, the game (which allows you to explore an amazing recreation of the doomed ship) had sold 150,000 units—now it's at nearly 250,000 and still cranking. Meanwhile, it also won the top award for "Best Animation Produced for CD-ROM/Games" at the World Animation Competition, sponsored by Animation magazine, DreamWorks, Walt Disney Co., and Pixar, among others. Next up for the company is RedJack: Revenge of the Brethren, which promises to breathe new life into the pirate adventure genre. Somebody tell Cameron.

Damage Control

TVA is getting stonewalled in its quest to get any more money from Congress for flood control, navigation and other river basin management functions that are federally funded on every other major river in the country. Despite the entreaties of Tennessee Valley legislators, the House Appropriations subcommittee that controls the flow is turning a deaf ear to the Clinton Administration's request for $76 million in TVA funding for the fiscal year ahead. The subcommittee's ears appear attuned instead to the contentions of private power companies that TVA should look to its rate payers for its, uh, water supply as recompense for alleged federal subsidies of its electric business.

In the Senate, Bill Frist and Fred Thompson are leading a back-door rescue effort that would appropriate the money to the Army Corps of Engineers, which would then contract with TVA to perform the functions. In the House, Reps. Jimmy Duncan and Zach Wamp, among others, are pushing for legislative action that would allow TVA to refinance borrowings from the Federal Financing Bank at an interest savings of more than $100 million a year. But their chances of succeeding are problematic at best.

The biggest single casualty of the funding cut-off is the $308 million needed for replacement of the failing lock at Chickamauga Dam. River traffic to Knoxville would become a thing of the past unless lock replacement money is forthcoming within the next few years. But the Corps of Engineers has provided a bit of a reprieve from this death sentence with a recent assessment that the present lock can remain open until 2010 - five years longer than previously estimated.

Who Needs Wall Street?

The hits just keep on coming for Knoxville's Gay Street-based Investment Planning Services, the company founded by rollerblade aficionado-cum-Darwinian investment theorist Robert Loest and partner Greg D'Amico. Their IPS Millenium Fund, the first mutual fund based in East Tennessee, earned its latest kudo on April 3 from USA Today. In a chart of "Top-performing general stock funds," IPS Millenium ranked third nationally for growth and income, with first-quarter returns of 17.2 percent.

Overheard at City Council

Councilman Danny Mayfield to Councilwoman Carlene Malone: Who's that?"

Malone to Mayfield: "It's Gloria Ray."

Mayfield to Malone: "I thought she'd be bigger."

Mayfield evidently was experiencing some cognitive dissonance between Ray's 800-lb. gorilla image and her sawed-off stature.