"a fish, a barrel, and a smoking gun"
for 20 September 1995. Updated every WEEKDAY.

Pathological Self-Improvement and the Organizational Man

[Majoring In Success Dust Jacket]

Patrick Combs is an accident that

was waiting to happen. Like a

fetid Reese's Peanut Butter Cup,

he represents the marriage of

two malignant (but often

amusing) 90's trends: prankster

ideology and the

self-affirmation industry. His

goal, to establish himself as

the GenX answer to Anthony

Robbins, is less than

cataclysmic. It's his method

that bears investigation...


[$95,000 check]

Combs, amidst shady promotional

tours and conference speaking

engagements, stumbled onto

something worthy of RE:Search

Pranks. Having been sent a bogus

"non-negotiable" $95,000 check

as a part of a promotional

mailer, he decided to deposit

it, on a "whim". Through a

series of bank blunders, the

deposit went through (not

surprising considering the

institutional ineptitude we've

come to expect from our friends

in banking).


[Monopoly Money]

Combs's subsequent legal and

institutional hi-jinx were

assiduously chronicled on TV and

in print, and his Web site - the

Web being the perfect home for

self-promoters - has an

extensive journal dedicated

exclusively to the fiasco. One

gets the feeling that Combs

quickly realized how thoroughly

he might be able to milk the

debacle from the moment of its

inception - the passages in which

he describes his efforts to get

the story written up in the NY

Times impart an air of

unequivocal tension.


Check it out for yourself - it's

worth a look. But by the time

you (fail to) finish the tale,

you may have become as

distracted as we were by Combs's

relentless pitching of his promo

material. It's hard not to laugh

as you track Comb leaping

through intellectual hurdles,

trying to spin his story into

yet another example of the

indomitable power of "the man

without fear." His attempts to

frame his efforts as a crusade

against junk mail are especially

ironic, considering his own

rather dodgy career choice.


[How To Swindle]

As a service to the more gullible

of our readership (and don't be

too sure we're not referring to

you; you bought into this whole

Internet thing, after all) Suck

advises steering clear of

Combs's literary hustle, Major

In Success - unless you're

thinking of setting up shop as a

huckster yourself, in which case

we recommend not only Combs's

tome, but any other affirmation

encyclopedia you can get your

hands on - in particular, Dale

Carnegie's "How To Win Friends

and Influence People," which is

a favorite of Combs, Suck, and

wannabe power-swindlers



[Roberto's Face]

But remember, pathological self-

improvement is passé, anyway - in

an age in which email has replaced

the handshake and mouse-clicks are

tantamount to heavy petting, the

value of a bright smile and an

eager disposition rapidly

approaches jack shit. If you're

at all like us - content to

fester at a terminal in the

dimly-lit sty you call home,

only venturing outside to score

cola and terrify children -

we'll still like you. As a

matter of fact, we suggest you

consider Roberto's page a special

celebration of your sorry excuse

for a lifestyle. Cheers!


For those as yet unconvinced of

the general uselessness of

Combs's shtick, we still advise

caution: a Patrick Combs

infomercial is sure to be

looming on the horizon, and as

we all know, nothing beats a

vicarious multimedia thrill.

courtesy of the Duke of URL