"a fish, a barrel, and a smoking gun"
for 26 May 1997. Updated every WEEKDAY.

Where there's a memorial, there's
a memory, right? What a great excuse
to use a paid holiday to push out
content that you probably forgot
existed. Certainly, we did.

A recent New York Times report
about soccer moms trading in their
minivans for sport utility vehicles made
us thing of something, though - E. L.
Skinner's driving diatribe, "Four-Wheel
Drivel." Gotta love the think of these
women, don't you? Trading in one
cultural cliché for another. Reminds
us of someone we know - but at least
we're getting extra mileage out of this one.

Four-Wheel Drivel



"You are what you eat" may be

fine and good for kiddies in

knee-pants, but once most

red-blooded kids turn 16, they

quickly learn to repeat the true

American gospel: You are what

you drive. High-minded cultural

critics and hopeless urban

do-gooders may not like it, but

it's true. We love cars, and we

tend to mark important events in

our lives in relation to them,

whether it's losing our

virginity or getting a job.


And just like sex and taxable

income, anything is better than

nothing when you've just crossed

the threshold of legality. But,

as we age and our wages

inevitably balloon in inverse

proportion to how hard we work,

we begin to look around and see

what other folks are driving. We

catch ourselves actually

watching those ridiculous car

commercials, lulled into a

vegetative state by the

farm-league studio rock and

sleek sport-utility vehicles

snaking down a leafy



There may be one less

sport-utility on the market when

you emerge from your stupor this

week. Suffering the worst

condemnation a commercial

enterprise can undergo, Isuzu

recently announced that sales of

their flagship SUV, the Trooper,

have plummeted 83 percent since

last month's Consumer Reports

article. Seems research shows

that recent models have an

unpleasant tendency to roll

over. The last dog to do this

trick and gain the attention of

Reports - the Suzuki Samurai -

subsequently did a pretty

convincing job of playing dead,




In fairness it should be pointed

out, as Isuzu has been trying to

do, that very few people would

drive a Trooper the way you'd

need to drive one to make it

fall down and go boom. After

all, everyone knows that less

than 10 percent of all SUV

owners ever take their vehicles

off the stretch of pavement that

connects their executive stalls

to their heated garages. Strange

fact, given that an SUV is

typically defined by its

four-wheel-drive and exaggerated

ground clearance - presumably to

accommodate whatever form of

sporty, utilitarian off-roading

you're susceptible to.


The fact of the matter - and, no

doubt, cause for some real pride

in American ingenuity - is that

cars are built to break the law.

Why, for example, any vehicle

needs to drive at speeds in

excess of 70 or 80 miles per

hour seems a no-brainer, given

near-universal speed limits of

55 or 65. Yet most American

automobiles have speedometers

that don't stop short of 100.

And an automobile that can

literally go anywhere - say,

skipping across the Canyonlands

of Utah.... Well, all we can do

is urge you to go ahead and buy

that gun rack. And why not throw

in a couple of those

sodium-filament poaching lights?


Still, few people take advantage

of SUVs' best features. So why

are SUVs the hottest model

going? Well, that's a little

like asking why labor unions are

doing so poorly, given the

fashionableness of steel-toed

shoes and flannel shirts.


Automobiles have always been

about freedom - or the

appearance of it. Never mind the

hooey about this country being

too large to support mass

transit on a national scale. If

the sordid histories of Amtrak

and Greyhound have taught us

anything, it's that we're simply

too selfish and impatient - and,

perhaps, too self-important -

for trains and buses. Americans

wanna be able to go wherever

they desire, whenever they

desire, preferably without

having to sit next to a drooling

stranger spouting Continental

philosophy with a chicken on her

lap. While that may be possible

in anything that'll burn gas and

hold air, there comes a time

when an overly comfortable

society can pick and choose its

battles - as trivial and

excessive as they might be.

After all, what would this

country be without trivia and




In a time where one geography

increasingly looks like the

next, where workspace is

interchangeable with homespace

and playspace, we want to have

the freedom to literally go

anywhere we want, including the

western, roadless, and more or

less extinct frontier. Isn't it

strange that SUVs represent the

triumph of such abstractions?

That we are able to look like we

travel to a place that doesn't

really exist anymore?


But don't worry: We won't

actually try to go there. We'll

be too busy logging miles

between home and the office,

putting in overtime to pay for

the damn thing.

courtesy of E.L. SKinner

Fish Image
The Fish

[Netscape Inbox Direct]

Barrel Image

The Barrel
[Predictions by Suck]

Gun Image
The Gun

net.moguls Link
Other Work By
E.L. SKinner
Fresh Fish