"a fish, a barrel, and a smoking gun"
for 2 February 2001. Updated every WEEKDAY.


From retsin to the electoral college, the American People have been subjected to some pretty sophisticated scams over the years; but no hoax is more shameful than the myth of the publishing meritocracy. If there's anything more discouraging than reading the latest lighter-side columnist or laff-free yukmeister anointed by Condé Nast or your local paper, it's imagining the matrix of mutual friends, career hustling, and shadowy connections that got that person his or her job. Could it be any more obvious that any blind submission you send in to the same publication - no matter how ingenious - will make its way from slush pile to landfill unseen by human eyes?

Sure, editors will tell you that the universally maligned unsolicited manuscript is an item best treated like a handful of Charmin; but in their moments of darkest honesty, they'll admit that that Charmin is two-ply, lemon-scented, and soft as a baby's bottom. The slush pile provides some of the publishing life's most piquant moments of comedy, adventure, and moral torment: The brilliant, Rabelaisian ramble by a crazed fan. The blind shot by somebody who's clearly never read your publication. The almost-there article that seems to get worse the more you try to fix it. The obscure screed shot through with the brilliance of the truly mad.

Why shouldn't you share in the excitement? Unsolicited magazine doesn't promise to bring you the best work we've received, or even the worst. Just the most unsolicited. The pieces below are brought to you just as they came to us. The judgment, as Rupert Pupkin says, is in your hands. As a favor to our readers, we left out all submissions that began, "Watching Jerry Springer with my roommates has taught me something important about America..." or "I was looking at those idiotic tabloid headlines at the checkout counter when it occured to me what the problem with capitalism is..." - a process which reduced the editorial headcount by about 90 percent. We also failed to follow up on the pitch for the essay "The New Ebola," a "tongue-in-cheek look at Pokémon's 'real' purpose." Other than that, we've opened the gates. Every Suck reader has exclaimed, "I could write better than these deadbeats," at least once. This is the first time that theory has ever been tested.


High on the list of things I find no less annoying than the eyesore presence of the Universal Product Code on magazine cover art and colorized TV prints of classic films noir is the untitled painting. My response to untitled paintings is well-phrased in the title of Woody Allen's piece on the art [sic] of mime, namely, A Little Louder, Please. Does an artist who doesn't title a painting think, I always wonder, that a picture is worth a thousand words and therefore a title would be the analogical equivalent of the proverbial hick from the sticks showing up in the big city? As a writer, I like words and their amazing capacity for clarity and precision as well as floridity and figurativeness. It seems to me that a painter who forgoes their use as part of his creative act is missing out on a good bet, the collaborative effect of language and visual imagery used in tandem. But perhaps the simple truth is that I feel snubbed in the presence of an untitled painting, like someone who wasn't invited to the party.

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The other day, I received a very special invitation in the mail. It was addressed Dear Friend. It said I was among a very select group of people. I always find it rather interesting when people I don't actually know from places I've never actually visited come into this knowledge.

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All About Mamet

David Mamet's wit hides behind the caricatures of State And Main, a prequel-to-itself film born of the life-sized cardboard cutouts he accurately casts in the supporting roles. Contemporary audiences look to Mamet for his cutting satire, yet in this film Mamet fails to drive home anything more than, "well, on the one hand filmmaking is good, and on the other it's bad, depends on how you look at it." If nothing else, Mamet presents his observations in style, with a handful of quirky characters and just enough ironical context to keep us interested.

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Casting Call

As we enter the dawning of a new administration (Sesame Street) and say good-bye to the one leaving (Hollywood Boulevard), we must acknowledge that much work remains before us as a nation.

No, I am not talking about healing a split nation or deciding whether we continue with the Electoral College, silly; I'm talking important stuff here. Namely, in an ever-increasing audiovisual age, where movies and not books define eras, who the hell is going to play our President, the Man from Arkansas, and the other principals in the inevitable movie writer's cramp suffering Hollywood will not be able to resist making.

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Religion: New and Improved

A recent article in the Wall Street Journal noted that aging churchgoers are increasingly complaining about the unforgiving wooden pews commonplace in today's houses of worship. In response to baby boomers' concerns, church suppliers and renovators say there 's been a dramatic increase in orders of cushioned seating designed to make the Sunday service a little easier on the backside. Given American 's Puritanical belief that suffering can be a good thing for the reverent, it's no surprise that this trend has introduced a bit of controversy into the holy order.

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The Reason for the Season

And it came to pass in those days that a joint decree went out from the World Trade Organization and Alan Greenspan that the nations of the world should increase their economies' respective GDPs by the mass consumption of goods and services. All went to their local department stores to purchase breadmakers, Playstations, DVDs and other assorted consumer items.

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How I snuck into the Super Bowl

On the Wednesday before last year's Super Bowl, I was sitting at my desk in the office of a trucking magazine in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, slogging through another trucker story — maybe the one about the lung transplant or the guy who's driven 4 million safe miles or the trucker who used to play guitar for the Drifters — when I yawned and looked out the window at the horse pasture across Rice Mine Road. There was a beautiful black Tennessee Walker and the gentle incline of green and a row of leafless trees tickling the blue sky, but my eyes fell on the pasture, the field, and I could only think about sprinting across it, and I find it hard to think about running through a field without thinking about chasing something, and because I was born thousands of years after my hunting and gathering ancestors my prey is not an animal but an inflated pigskin, and my dreaming mind always sends my dreaming body long, and I'm galloping over clumps of grass and gliding up and down hills, bobbling a ball, tapping it, diving, catching, falling, rising, cutting, sprinting into the blissful freedom of open field...and then I had an idea.

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Everybody's a winner at Plastic!

collected by The Sucksters


pictures Terry Colon