S U C K

"a fish, a barrel, and a smoking gun"
for 6 April 2000. Updated every WEEKDAY.
 
 
 
Hit & Run CCXXII

 

[]

As every child knows, when

you're craving attention it's

just as effective to hold your

breath until your eyes bug out

as it is to endure an actual

brush with death. Mom and Dad

may have seen the trick a

thousand times, but when your

face starts turning blue, who's

going to deny you anything?

After all, it could be asthma.

 

We try to keep this

Wittgensteinian riddle in mind

when we're confronted with

similar behavior in public life.

Is Tom Green just pulling our

legs, so to speak, with this

testicular cancer story? Was

Andy Kaufman doing the same

thing when he died? Most

recently, we've been moved by

the befuddlement of various Ted

Kramers who are bickering over

whether the merger/bailout deal

between McSweeneys.net and the

Massachusetts McSweeney

family — a deal that ostensibly

rescued the celebrated

zine from a very dubious-sounding

financial cliffhanger — was just

another case of a faker looking for an

excuse to see the cute school nurse.

No sooner had poor Janelle Brown

weighed in with a dutifully

loving write-up of the event

than she was hectored and

humiliated in a fairly brutal

manner. "A staggering claim

of incredible bullshit," clipped

the always game Jim Romenesko,

quoting a rude passage from a

reader email: "I'm no Janelle

Brown fan, but even she couldn't

be that stupid." Letter writers

at the .net site have been equally

caddish.

 

You can hardly blame these

cynics for loudly doubting the

official story. Art in general

and performance art stunts in

particular merely feed that vast

conspiracy to make poor people

feel stupid; and in 2000, nobody

wants to admit to being poor.

Suck, we're happy to say, rests

at a comfortable distance from

the poorhouse, but the stupidity

charge is one we've never

ducked. We're the first to admit

(and, in fact, we may actually

be the first to admit) that the

jokes at McSweeney's tend to go

way over our heads. If anything,

we're inclined to sympathize

with Janelle's failure to parse

a caper that retains its hoax

quotient even if it turns out to

be true.

 

The forensic evidence — ranging

from a handsome JPEG of

free-spending paterfamilias Gerry

McSweeney to a very fishy letter to

.net readers from same — continues

to pile up, and as with all of David

Eggers's stunts, the preen factor,

the media attention factor and the

who-gives-a-shit factor all

approach a state of infinite

intersection that in scientific

terms is called the Triple Point.

Our only concern is that others

are copying our fabled strategy

of publicity by suicide attempt.

We dispatched one of our

correspondents to speak with the

man who identifies himself as Gerry

McSweeney. Whether he's the real

deal or not is of no moment to us. At

the end of the day, all we really want

is to find nice people to talk with

on the phone:

 

When did you first become interested in the site?

We've been fans of McSweeneys.net for almost as long as it's been up. We became aware of it pretty early on. The merging was a real sudden thing; we just started talking with these guys in February. This was the last thing on my radarscope, I'll tell ya that — but these are nice young guns. But they needed a hand. So we decided to help out.

A lot of people think this is a hoax.

I'm getting that impression. (Laughs.) I guess we'll have to kind of work through that. We've been getting a lot of email about that. A lot of it's negative — "You hijacked our site" — that kind of stuff, and ... hang on a sec, will you, I got another call coming in. [Son Brendan is heard picking up the other line.]

So what kind of email are you getting?

"Bring back the old McSweeneys." A lot of them have actually expressed understanding and patience, and I'm sure we'll make it interesting and keep [working on it.]

Right now, most of the old links point to the main page with pictures of your children.

We're working on that. It's hard to bring everything up on one site at once. I've got our webmaster here right now, yapping in my ear....

The other complaint is that you've asked that profanity be removed from the site.

Well, you know, we're uh, I think, we're somewhat flexible on that, but at the same time, I really think good writing doesn't need that.... That's kind of a stunt, you know, when you're writing.

How much did you have to pay?

We haven't really talked about that. We didn't get into this to uh, you know, to get a lot of publicity. We just, you know, happened to bump into these guys, who are kind of on a mission, and we wanted to help.

Come on: $50,000 — higher or lower?

I really don't want to get into the numbers game. As much as anything else, it's Brendan's expertise in Web sites that did it.

But he's just a 12-year-old kid!

He's a precocious 12-year-old. If he weren't precocious, those guys would own McSweeneys.com.

You mentioned earlier that you're a Suck.com fan.

I'm really, I'm one of your fans. Honestly, I haven't read it in a while, but I saw it somewhere in a magazine or somewhere a few years ago, and it was pretty funny.

What do you like about Suck?

The things I like are No. 1, that you update every day, so there's always something fresh. And it's really polished, so I assume whoever's behind it is in the advertising business. It's like a more polished version of McSweeneys.


With this last observation, the Suck

Investigative Committee decided

to conclude its inquiry. We continue

to wish Brown, Eggers, Romenesko,

McSweeney and all other concerned

parties the very best of luck in all

their endeavors.

 

[]

Other bastions of literary

culture have also been busted recently

in garden-variety hoaxes.

Esquire's evergreen pranksters ran

an article about a Web site

offering free cars — a

phreak which would've been more

credible if the site hadn't been

registered to the author of the

article. It's stranger when

alternative media horn in on the

pranking action, dropping

longstanding complaints about

loosening journalistic standards

when there's a chance for cheap

laughs. The latest round began

last spring when New Times Inc.'s SF

Weekly orchestrated a rally for

the nonexistent Yuppie

Eradication Project. The paper

later gloated that it had

simultaneously pranked the AP,

the local media, and "a couple

of hundred people who take

neighborhood politics much too

seriously." That stunt prompted

first solemn coverage and then

angry editorials — and finally, predictable

excoriations. Not to be outdone, last week,

the rival Bay Guardian dedicated

an entire issue to fake news stories,

with jokes as dauntingly obscure

as the rabid articles that appear

during the rest of the year. But

karma caught Guardian freelancer

Mat Honan — also humor

editor at OneDemocracy.com

who crafted a hoax about a group

of vigilantes moving cars into

illegal spots so city tow trucks

would create more parking

spaces. In a fitting irony,

Honan discovered his picture had

become the centerpiece of a hoax

by former employer Mother Jones,

when the watchdog magazine

announced that it was going

public.

 

[]

Even artificial intelligence

cyborgs are developing a sense

of humor. When you ask Jeeves if

he's gay, Ask.com actually spits

back a special error file that

reads, "429 File None of Your

Business. (You have a lot of

nerve even clicking on this

link.)" Jeeves has already been

accused of having too much sex

on his mind. The company

recently began contemplating a

new character to handle queries

about adult sites — perhaps

Jeeves' identical twin sister,

Mimi the pervert. In January,

the company went so far as to

register the domain AskMimi.com

along with MimiSucks.com,

MimiBlows.com, MimiScrews.com,

and — well, you know the

joke by now. But behind the

ribaldry, another band of

Silicon Valley barons is

ruthlessly leveraging a brand

name to bolster a useless search

engine — despite all other

interpretations ("Ask Jeeves

about P. G. Wodehouse," one

Ziff-Davis headline suggested).

Countless entertainment hacks

have seized on the theme of

computers thinking for

themselves, but the hard truth

is that Jeeves is just a

figurehead. When plotting how

best to conquer the Japanese

market, Ask.com considered

replacing the butler with a

monk. There's already a certain

Zen in watching the program

grapple with the demands of

ordinary humans. All those funny

interviews in which the Ask.com

engine churns out non-sequitur

answers to humorous questions

make such great advertising that

you tend to ignore how bad they

reveal the product to be. The

sad truth is that the next time

Bertie Wooster accidentally gets

engaged to Honoria Glossop,

Jeeves is the last source he'll

want to ask for advice.

 

[]

We know many of you out there in

Suckland would like to have us

publish your musings. And while

your happiness means a lot to

us, our lips get tired when we

read these really long

submissions. At Suck we've

always been partial to the

concept of a pitch, a

one-paragraph synopsis that

briefly and succinctly describes

the article you're planning to

write. As an example of proper

pitch form, here is a

précis of a full article

that came over the Suck transom

just yesterday:

 

The author, a school counselor,
is sick of this Pokémon
shit. Pokémon is compared
to crack. The author wishes he
were pushing black-market
Pokémon on kids and
complains that his actual job
pays only $14 per hour. The
author claims that kids act like
animals, suggests cafeteria food
or PCP may be to blame, declares
that the kids' fathers and
uncles are gun-toting goons, and
speculates that the kids' high
school track-running experience
has made them fleet enough to
avoid being shot in the groin. A
Swiftian proposal to turn
schools into prisons is made.
Several Ritalin references
ensue, along with a futuristic
vision of students locked into
isolation chambers while
listening to Beethoven's 5th
(sic). The self-absorption of
the kids' parents is decried.
The author concedes that there
are some good kids out there and
suggests breeding a master race
of these good kids, using both
traditional eugenics and more
recent technologies such as
cloning.

 

This article was submitted to us

by one David Collier, but this

Collier alias is fooling nobody.

We know who you are, Mr. Katz,

and we're still not publishing

your stuff.

 
courtesy of theSucksters