Elanor: I'm using the default apache2 config as distributed by Ubuntu 
9.10. Is there a particular Apache directive I could use to make it 
behave the way I expect?

Robert: Closing STDIN and STDOUT seemed to do the trick! Thanks. Just so 
I grok this: Apache, by default, will wait until all subprocesses close 
their IO streams before it sends a CGI program's output to the browser? 
Is that correct? Is there a better way to kick off such processes? Or is 
manually closing STDIN and STDOUT every time I fork the ideal solution?
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